The Republic: Fred Karger, in presidential bid, seeks moderate GOP

Nov 9, 2011

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By BEN LEUBSDORF

First Posted: November 8, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. – Fred Karger says he relates more to Occupy Wall Street than to the Tea Party. He supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights. He voted in the last two presidential elections for Ralph Nader.

All in all, he isn’t much like most Republicans running for president.

“I’m not one of these Republicans who say, ‘Oh, you’re too conservative, you should leave the party.’ I believe everyone should stay in the Republican Party. But I think it needs to reflect this moderate view more than it does,” he told the Monitor’s editorial board last week.

Karger, 61, a longtime political consultant and California resident who has never held elected office, is billing himself as the first openly gay candidate for president as he seeks next year’s Republican nomination. With little money and a half-dozen full- and part-time staffers, he says he’ll be happy if he can make it into a single televised debate.

In any case, he said, he’s not going away. He’s on the ballot for New Hampshire’s Jan. 10 primary. He said he has resources to make it to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., if necessary. And the self-described Rockefeller Republican says he wants to move his party back toward the moderate middle.

If he were elected president, Karger said he’d reach out to everyone and be willing to compromise to achieve his goals.

“If you can get a personal relationship going, nine times out of 10 you can get things done,” he said. “We all have a lot in common.”

On health care, Karger said he would look to the states to enact plans, with the federal government using financial incentives to promote standards like covering patients with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance.

On the federal budget, Karger said he’d want to see spending cut to reduce the deficit, but he wouldn’t reject raising taxes.

“Everything needs to be on the table,” Karger said. “We have a Congress now that … are complete cowards. All they will do is raise spending, increase spending and cut taxes because that goes over well at home. And we’ve been doing that for too long, and we have to bite the bullet here.”

Karger said he’s working on a tax plan, and would try to help the unemployed get back to work by creating an online clearinghouse for jobs, assist with moving expenses and training and create tax incentives for businesses to hire.

Karger said the 2009 federal stimulus spending championed by President Barack Obama and the Troubled Asset Relief Program pushed by then-president George W. Bush in 2008 were necessary. But he said Obama then focused on health care reform at the expense of the economy.

On health care, Karger said he would look to the states to enact plans, with the federal government using financial incentives to promote standards like covering patients with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance.

And on foreign policy, Karger said “too much was left to chance” as the Arab Spring protests gathered steam early this year, but he supports the U.S.-coalition intervention in the Libyan civil war. He also said he supports pulling troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Karger disagrees with many Republicans on many issues.

“It’s difficult, I’ll say that. And it would be easy for me to just part company and go off to independent or Democrat,” Karger said. “But I believe in the basic foundation of the Republican Party.”

(Contact Ben Leubsdorf at bleubsdorf(at)cmonitor.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com)