Riviera: Look Who’s Talking: Fred Karger

Jan 3, 2011

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Look Who’s Talking: Fred Karger

By Kedric Francis | Photography by Greg Powers | Riviera magazine | January 3, 2011

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MR. KARGER GOES TO WASHINGTON: At the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background, O.C.’s own Fred Karger passes the “looking presidential” test.

Laguna Beach Republican political consultant and gay activist Fred Karger’s presidential run is for real

Fred who? That’s exactly what Republicans may ask after they get a load of Fred Karger, who (when he formally announces) will be the party’s—and the nation’s—first openly gay presidential candidate. “I want to bring back the civility, optimism and humor that Reagan had,” Karger says. The Laguna Beach resident is busy blanketing the early battleground states of New Hampshire and Iowa, among some 20 states he’s visited since embarking on his seemingly quixotic quest last spring.

Karger, 60, spent his career as a high-level political campaign consultant, advising the likes of Bob Dole and former California Governor George Deukmejian before retiring to his home in Laguna. But the contentious closing of the Boom Boom Room, O.C.’s historic gay bar, riled Karger’s activist anger; he spearheaded a failed campaign to save the local landmark. He also founded Californians Against Hate as part of the battle over Prop. 8, the 2008 ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriage, initiating crippling boycotts (“we showed the power of the gay dollar”) and watchdogging the LDS Church over pro-Prop. 8 contributions.

So is the GOP ready for a gay presidential candidate? “There are plenty of progressive Republicans who have been discouraged by the anti-gay vitriol out there these days,” he says. Karger’s initial goal is to get in the debates, starting at the Reagan Library in May. “If I can do that I will have accomplished a great deal.”

“I had a tough time growing up gay,” he says. “I want to make it easier on others, to send a strong message that it’s OK. This is America. You can do anything you dream of doing.”

Karger’s Hots

Victoria Beach; the Boom Boom Room; itgetsbetter.org; Montage Resort; O.C. political pioneer Bob Gentry; sunset at the Rooftop; Laguna’s Garden of Peace and Love; my Vespa

Karger’s Nots

Hate going unopposed; a big wave when I’m launching my kayak at the beach; litter; the sad shell of a building formerly known as the Boom Boom Room; loud Harleys on PCH


The Daily Caller: Gay Republican and Possible 2012 Presidential Candidate Fred Karger Talks to The DC

Jan 3, 2011

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Gay Republican and possible 2012 presidential candidate Fred Karger talks to the DC

By Amanda Carey – The Daily Caller | Published: 12:42 AM 12/31/2010 | Updated: 9:31 AM 12/31/2010

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“I don’t know about the next election, but I think in the near future,” said former President Jimmy Carter recently when asked about the possibility of America electing a gay president. Carter argued that because the country voted for an African-American president two years ago before coming close to nominating the first woman candidate, the country could be open to a gay one.

Carter may be on to something because in 2012, America might just have its first serious openly-gay candidate for president. And he’s a Republican.

Meet Fred Karger, a California-based political consultant and activist who lists Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford among his clients.

Now for the first time, Karger is the candidate. “I’ve never run for office before,” he told The Daily Caller. “Not for student council or anything.” Still, Karger seems to know what he’s doing. Last April he announced plans for a presidential exploratory committee, and in recent months, he’s been traveling tirelessly all across the country, with extended stays in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Born and raised in a suburb of Chicago, Ill., called Glencoe (a town made famous by Tom Cruise and the movie “Risky Business”), Karger described his childhood as being a “carbon copy” of the television show “Leave it to Beaver.”

“That was me,” he told TheDC. “All the way down to the identical refrigerator, the two-story house, the stay-at-home mom, the dad who worked and the cool older brother.” Unlike the show’s namesake, however, Karger’s interest in politics began at the young age of 14 when he volunteered to work on statewide campaigns.

That is where, according to Karger, he thrived. After “figuring out the gay thing pretty young,” Karger had a hard time fitting in anywhere else besides a campaign’s headquarters. A career in politics followed, interrupted only by a brief career as an actor in Hollywood in the mid-1970s.

More recently, Karger stepped into California’s Prop 8 battle over the legalization of gay marriage. He led a charge against the Mormon Church’s involvement, uncovering the extent to which the church financially supported the Prop 8 campaign. As a result, the church had to pay a$5,000 fine.

Now that the 2012 presidential election season is within sights, Karger is doing everything any candidate would. There are only two problems, one of which is summed up best by his campaign slogan of “Fred Who?”; the other being that he is running on an issue most Republicans either shy away from or openly oppose.

Karger swears by his solid Republican credentials, telling TheDC that his “DNA is Republican,” although just a “little more moderate.” The moderate part probably explains why, in 2008, he maxed out his legal campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and why he voted for Ralph Nader in the general election.

“I just thought she [Clinton] would be good — a good fit. And, the Republican Party had just gone so far right that I wasn’t happy with the candidates then,” said Karger.

Aside from his gay rights’ platform, that is is likely what Karger hopes will set him apart from his likely challengers in 2012. In a year when most Republicans will be running to the right and denouncing big government, big taxes and the Obama agenda, Karger plans to plant himself firmly in the middle, supporting the legalization of medical marijuana and sensible gun control regulations. He’s even taken up the label “Independent Republican.”

“I am an independent individual,” Karger said. “I’ve supported Republicans and Democrats. My positions are more independent from the party, but I want to get a message to those voters in New Hampshire and Iowa who are independent — registered independent — that I think we’re similar.”

“This is a new term,” he added. “Scott Brown did it a little bit in Massachusetts this year, but I want to take that title because I think it fits me perfectly.”

Karger told TheDC that he considers it a badge of honor and “a good thing” that some of the members of the Republican National Committee in Iowa attacked him during a recent visit.

“The public is so unhappy with all of this partisanship — bickering is too mild of a word for it — and they’re looking for a Ronald Reagan type who can bring people together. He used to have Tip O’Neil over to the White House …Obama didn’t invite Mitch McConnell over for one-on-one until 18 months into his presidency,” said Karger.

It’s clear the self-identified “frustrated issue candidate” thinks he can follow in Reagan’s footsteps, but it’s also clear he knows he has a lot of convincing to do in order to win Republican and Independent support.

So when will he officially announce a presidential bid? Karger wouldn’t give an exact date, but if he is planning to participate in any of the presidential debates it will have to be within the next few months. The first debate is scheduled for early May at the Reagan Library.

The American people may or may not be ready for a gay president, but they may not have a choice when it comes to having a gay candidate. That said, Karger’s mere presence in the 2012 Republican arena means the issue of gay rights isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.


Sunshine State News: Presidential Derby

Dec 30, 2010

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Presidential Derby

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: December 30, 2010 4:05 AM

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While his name has generated a good deal of buzz, especially since the November elections, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said before Christmas he is more focused on running the Lone Star State and the Republican Governors Association rather than launching a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Perry insisted that, with Republicans taking control of the U.S. House, states would play a more important role as opposed to the federal government … With some conservative groups backing out of the CPAC conference due to the American Conservative Union’s financial scandal and including GOPround, a gay rights Republican group, in their events, look for pressure to mount on leading Republican presidential hopefuls to skip out on the CPAC straw poll come February. Conservative groups like the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for American have already pulled out of the event … While a number of polls show that former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska is starting to lose support from her fellow Republicans, U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina praised her this week, claiming that she has done more for the GOP than any political leader since Ronald Reagan …

David Axelrod, one of President Barack Obama’s chief political strategists, expressed his confidence last week that his candidate would easily survive a challenge in the Democratic primary. A CNN/Opinion Research Poll found that 78 percent of Democrats wanted Obama as their party‘s standard bearer in 2012 … The Obama team has expressed interest in running their re-election efforts out of Chicago instead of out of the Beltway … While no Democratic candidate has officially declared an interest in trying to knock Obama off in 2012, former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, who ran for the Democratic and Libertarian nominations in 2008, said he was open to the possibility. Gravel started focusing on international issues at the end of December, calling for an end to sanctions against Iran … Democratic U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio sent an e-mail to supporters on Wednesday expressing concern that, with his state losing two U.S. House seats, he may lose his seat in redistricting. While there was speculation that Kucinich, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and 2008, would make a third shot at the White House, he downplayed his prospects in 2012 …

In an interview this week, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels admitted that his height may be a problem if he decides to launch a bid at the Republican presidential nomination. Three presidents from the 19th century were shorter than Daniels, who is 5 feet 7 inches, including his fellow Hoosier Republican Benjamin Harrison. Daniels is also shorter than other recent presidential candidates, including Thomas Dewey, Michael Dukakis and John McCain … Political activist Fred Karger, who is seriously considering launching a bid for the Republican nomination, has taken aim at Obama, blasting the president from retreating from backing same-sex marriage earlier in his career. Karger has a busy January coming up, hitting the campaign trail in Washington, New York and New Hampshire … Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who is also thinking of running for the Republican nod in 2012, continues to hammer the Obama administration for backing the START treaty. Bolton argued on an appearance Monday on Fox News that the administration is not serious on missile defense …

Wayne Allyn Root, who was Bob Barr’s running mate on the Libertarian ticket in 2008 and is expected to try for the party’s nomination in 2012, received a good deal of national attention this week when he filled in as guest host for Gordon Liddy’s radio show. Root interviewed another potential White House hopeful — Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas … Lee Wrights, a writer and activist who also has his eye on the Libertarian nod in 2012, is focusing on international issues, pledging, if elected, to bring American servicemen home as quickly as possible … Alan Keyes, who ran for the Republican nomination three times and was the America’s Independent Party candidate in 2008, slammed Paul for backing the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals. Keyes, who was the Republican nominee in the U.S. Senate race in Illinois against Obama back in 2004, continues to hammer the president, demanding proof that he was born in the United States and is constitutionally eligible to serve in the White House.

Newsy: “Openly Gay GOPer Probing 2012 Presidential Run”

Nov 26, 2010

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Politics News

Openly Gay GOPer Probing 2012 Presidential Run

November 26, 2010


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Fred Karger would be the first gay candidate to run for president from a major political party.

(Image source: Windy City Media Group)

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A little more than a month after midterm election campaign ads went off the air — Iowa voters are getting a taste of 2012 with the first TV spot from a 2012 presidential hopeful.

KARGER: “I’m concerned that the partisan rancor is only going to continue and get in the way of our country’s progress. I learned from my mentor Ronald Reagan the importance of getting along. … I’m Fred Karger. I’m an independent Republican.” (Fred Karger Presidential Exploratory Committee)

Fred Karger is an openly gay Republican who says he’s seriously considering a 2012 presidential run. If he does — he’d be the first openly gay candidate to run for president from a major political party.

It may sound a little early to be kicking off a potential campaign — but for a dark horse candidate with almost no name recognition — Sunshine State News says he needs a running start.

“…Karger tapped Nathan Treloar to serve as his director in Iowa. [Treloar] …has more than a decade of experience … working as communications director of the Republican Party of Iowa.”

Karger says he’s looking to raise $5 million and has worked on the campaigns of presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford. Still – The Iowa Independent calls him a long-shot candidate.

“He has never served in elected office… He is also openly gay, and has worked as an activist to support efforts for same-sex marriage in California, and opposed that state’s Proposition 8 measure.”

KARGER: “I spent a lifetime working with a supporting Republicans and Democrats, a value that has only been reinforced in my fight for civil rights.” (Karger campaign ad)

Karger has been a vocal supporter of gay rights — calling out the Mormon Church for its support of a 2008 ballot measure in California to ban same-sex marriage. And a writer for Care2 says — running with an “R” behind his name is likely to be a challenge.

“With a party who just filibustered Don’t As Don’t Tell legislation and consistently campaigns against same sex marriage, ‘redefining the Republican Party’ would likely be an understatement.”

If Karger runs — he’ll likely face a growing crowd of high-profile contenders with better name recognition. But Charleston City Paper’s Greg Hambrick says — Karger’s run would force his opponents to clarify their positions on an issue he cares a lot about.

“A debate would not only challenge the anti-gay positions of likely candidates like former Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Mike Pence, and former Gov. Mike Huckabee, but it would put frontrunners like former Govs. Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin on the record regarding equal rights.”

Karger says he knows he faces an uphill battle — but he told Radio Iowa he’s a “fighter.”

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