Is America Ready for its First Gay President?
Fred Karger officially kicked off his campaign for President of the United States when he filed to run for the nation’s highest office last week. It makes him the first-ever openly gay presidential candidate from a major political party in U.S. history.
The 61-year-old Republican candidate (originally from the Chicago area – but he’s lived in Los Angeles for much of his adult life) has been involved with politics for more than three decades – serving as an advisor for Presidents Ford, Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
“After spending 35 years in politics behind the scenes, I want to be a participant and help shape the debate in the Republican Party and our nation,” Karger said when he formally filed his paperwork last week. “While I intend to talk about many important issues, I dedicate today to the six teenagers who took their lives this past fall because they were bullied for who they are. There is no place for hatred and bigotry in this country. We must all learn to respect each other and our differences.”
Calling himself an “outsider” with “political experience,” Karger has supported LGBT rights while also working for several conservative campaigns over the years. During an interview with CBS recently, the candidate called himself “progressive,” and has compared his political ideology to Teddy Roosevelt, someone he calls the last truly progressive Republican the U.S. has seen.
“Being a gay Republican is kind of an oxymoron,” Karger admitted to CBS. “I have been a fighter in my party, I have always been on the more moderate side, but I’m also a protege of Lee Atwater. We need to open up this party and that’s one of my reasons for running. The party should not be dominated by one faction or another. It should be open to all.”
He’s already taken aim at several other expected GOP candidates, including Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Last year he urged Romney to help stop the Mormon Church from funding anti-gay rights initiatives on the West Coast, and went so far as to take out ads in newspapers where the former Massachusetts governor was appearing during his book tour.
Some facts about Fred Karger:
-He’s a former partner with the Dolphin Group where he served as executive vice president and CFO before retiring in 2004.
-In 2006, he founded Save the Boom!, a grassroots campaign to save the Boom Boom Room, one of the oldest gay bars in the country.
-He started Californians Against Hate, which spotlighted donors who funded Proposition 8, the state’s opposition to gay marriage. He published a “Dishonor Roll,” a list of people who donated $5,000 or more against marriage equality. Karger also filed a complaint against the Mormon Church for illegal activities surrounding involvement in Prop 8 resulting in 13 guilty counts against the Salt Lake City-headquartered church.
-He’s led four other boycotts against companies who supported Prop 8 and filed formal ethics violations against opponents of gay marriage in the U.S – both in California and Maine.
-He’s the former co-director of Republican Unity Coalition, a gay-straight alliance for George W. Bush.
-He’s served on the Los Angeles Host Committee for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund Reception for Young Professionals. He’s also on the Host Committee for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in L.A.
-He’s a committee member, event chair and volunteer at the Los Angeles HIV/AIDS service center in Hollywood.
-He’s raised funds and organized events for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Youth Authority, a group that provides school programs for at-risk youth.
-He led one of the first efforts in the country to create a leash-free dog park in California’s Laurel Canyon Park.
-He’s on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles County Young Republicans.
-Each holiday season, he sponsors field trips for homeless youth from the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.
-He’s worked with the tobacco industry against smoking bans in California in the 1990s.
-Issues he has said are important in his campaign include the passage of the Employment Anti-Discrimination Act (ENDA); making gay marriage legal; finding a cure or vaccine for HIV and AIDS; and introducing an amendment that would allow 16 year olds to vote.
-He attended high school in Winnetka, Ill., and college at the University of Denver for Speech Communications and Political Science.
-He also studied acting with Second City and Lee Straberg and has appeared in several television shows (including “McMillan & Wife” and “Welcome Back Kotter”) and movies (Airport 1975). People might also recognize Karger from the famous Edge Shave Cream commercial directed by the late John Hughes.