GAY IN THE GOP: NEW TRIER ALUM EYES RUN FOR PRESIDENT
September 14, 2010
By KATIE OKON firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sixty-year-old Fred Karger was back in Glencoe last weekend for Central School’s 1964 class reunion. Considering the whirlwind that is now his life, it was a welcomed break.
On April 10 at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Karger announced his consideration for the 2012 Presidential Bid.
Fred Karger, who is considering a run for President, sits in front of his old school, Central School, on Monday. Karger was back in his hometown of Glencoe for a school reunion.
(Ruthie Hauge/Staff Photographer)
If he seeks out a nomination on the GOP ticket, he will become the first openly gay candidate to run for President in a major political party. That groundbreaking moment does not faze Karger, who has spent the majority of his life enmeshed in politics.
Karger’s father was a precinct chairman in Glencoe. Karger remembers his first brush with politics as a child, when he would go with his father to the Glencoe train station and greet commuters as they came home at dinnertime.
“We would hand out brochures of whatever Republican candidate was running at the time,” Karger said.
At the age of 14, Karger rode the train into Chicago, where he volunteered at a phone bank for New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who later on became the vice president of the United States. At that same time, Karger also volunteered at campaign headquarters on Sheridan Road in Kenilworth for Charles Percy when he ran for Governor of Illinois.
Karger graduated from New Trier High School in 1968 and went on to earn a degree from the University of Denver in speech communications and a minor in political science.
After college, Karger was fully expected to join the family business — a brokerage firm where his brother, Dick, of Northfield currently works. But instead, at the age of 23, he moved to California and dabbled in the acting life — landing gigs in commercials and guest spots on television shows.
“I have always been a ham,” Karger said. “I was in high school plays and went to a couple of acting schools (in Los Angeles).”
Karger said he was good friends with fellow acting school student Lynda Carter, who would later gain fame as Wonder Woman. Another classmate was Suzanne Somers.
Fred’s big break would have been his role in a “Welcome Back, Kotter” spinoff, but the pilot never took (a “huge letdown,” he said) and he segwayed back into politics, eventually working on nine Presidential campaigns, including George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
Campaigning is what Karger knows best. While stepping out in front of the curtain will be a change for him, Karger is using his behind-the-scenes skills to help guide the newcomers to his presidential exploratory committee, which includes a researcher and website administrator.
He is currently funding everything himself, and plans to continue until the end of the year. Karger also recently hired a professional fundraiser to begin the process of soliciting donations.
“If I run, I am looking for an approximate $5 to $6 million budget to get through the next year-and-a-half,” Karger said.
Using his own skills as campaign manager to start out will help keep the costs down, as will his campaign techniques, which he likens to that of President Obama’s.
Rather than costly direct mailings, the Internet will be a huge tool in getting information out to the public. He has flying discs, T-shirts and stickers with a “Fred Who?” slogan and his website (www.fredkarger.com) emblazoned on them.
“I am going door-to-door with Frisbees,” Karger said. “I want to hand one out to every household in New Hampshire.”
While Karger has received mostly positive feedback with his intent to run as an openly gay Republican, not all are enthused with the idea.
“When I go around and meet the Republicans, I am the first openly gay person (some of them) have knowingly met with,” Karger said.
Despite not in agreement with all of the Republican stances — he supports gay marriage and wants “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” gone — he stands firm with his devotion to the Party.
“I have never waivered, never left the Republican Party,” Karger said. He describes himself as a “socially liberal, fiscally conservative Republican” and coined a new term for his party affiliation: Independent Republican.
“I am one of those dissatisfied Republicans,” Karger said. “The Republican Party has gone so far to the right. I want to reinvent the Republican Party.”
Karger is still on the fence about running, but if he chooses to seek out the GOP nomination, he will make a formal announcement next year. The biggest obstacle Karger will face if he runs for President is to be taken seriously as a candidate, he explained.
“As a first-time candidate and an unknown individual, it is a tough one,” Karger said. “That is why I started early. I have been meeting with people and traveling and getting ideas.”
While Karger does not have a lot of experience with international relations, that is an issue he has been studying. “I am primarily concentrating on domestic issues,” Karger said. “Education reform is my number one platform.” He is currently researching the federal No Child Left Behind Act. “The education experts I have met with don’t think that (the Act) is necessarily the solution,” Karger said. “I am still formulating my opinion.”
Karger understands the difficult job that a President of this nation faces. He also understands that talk means nothing if you do not back it up with action.
While President Obama took the helms of a bad situation, Karger said he is disappointed with what Obama has done with the economy. “Obama said he was going to spend the first two years on the economy,” Karger said, “He passed the stimulus bill and then went off to other issues.”
As a gay rights activist, Karger takes issue with how Obama has handled matters important to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. “Obama has not really lit that torch that we were expecting,” Karger said. “Despite promising us everything, he has delivered us practically nothing.”
Karger himself is a big name in gay rights activism. “The gay civil rights movement has not been aggressive until me,” He said. He started Californians Against Hate to bring attention to the major donors of the $36 million YES campaign for Proposition 8. Prop 8 passed in November 2008, and ended gay marriage in California.
Karger filed a sworn complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission against the Mormon Church for possible illegal campaign activities surrounding its involvement in Prop 8, he said. The church was eventually fined. With this victory behind him, Karger is now concentrating on becoming recognized as a possible 2012 Presidential candidate, with much time spent in Iowa and New Hampshire.
As for his chances of securing the GOP nomination for President of the United States, Karger knows he is a “long shot.” “I am going to be in this to make my stand,” Karger said. “As we see in many elections, anything can happen.”