November 24, 2010, 6:10 pm
Gay ‘Progressive’ Republican on Air in Iowa
By JANIE LORBER
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It’s never too early to test the waters – especially for an openly gay “progressive” Republican trying to snag the party’s 2012 presidential nomination.
Fred Karger, a long-time political operative who was a campaign aide to Ronald Reagan, has already started broadcasting campaign advertisements in Iowa and New Hampshire.
In a 90-second spot that will run twice daily on Fox News throughout Iowa for a week, Mr. Karger calls himself an “independent Republican” and says he is “testing the waters in Iowa to see if I can raise some funds from my friends.”
Mr. Karger, 60, has never held elected office and acknowledges that he does not have much of a shot at winning his party’s nod. Instead, his goal is to make history as the first openly gay presidential candidate for a major party.
“My overriding goal is to be a participant in those Republican debates,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “I need to start early.”
But Mr. Karger is hardly a political neophyte. He worked alongside the famed Republican strategist, Lee Atwater, to derail Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush. He was an outspoken critic of the Mormon Church for backing the 2008 ballot measure outlawing same-sex marriage in California. The liberal magazine Mother Jones described Mr. Karger as one of the G.O.P’s “top dark-arts operators” in a profile last spring.
Mr. Karger has already run a one-minute television ad in New Hampshire for a week in September. The two ad buys cost him about $1,000 each – pocket change by most campaign’s standards; in return, Mr. Karger gets some face time in the two states that play key roles early in the primary season.
Mr. Karger has been busy for a long-shot single-issue candidate. He announced his interest in running for president in April and established an exploratory committee three months later. Since then he has made 14 trips to New Hampshire or Iowa and now employs two full-time campaign aides.
Between divisions within the Republican Party and President Obama’s failure to deliver on promises to the gay community, Mr. Karger said “the time is right.”