Longtime GOP strategist and Laguna Beach gay activist Fred Karger made it official today, filing paperwork at the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C., becoming the first openly gay candidate to run for president in history, his campaign spokeswoman announced.
Karger, 61, is also the first candidate to seek the Republican nomination for the nation’s highest office, a front-running move by a long-shot candidate sure to be joined by other equally ambitious GOP prospects. Among those believed to be jockeying for their party’s nomination to go head to head with President Obama in 2012 are a more recognized field that includes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and Mississippi’s Gov. Haley Barbour.
Even so, Karger’s 30-year career working for the party’s cause brings considerable political and campaign experience. He has managed dozens of campaigns, worked on nine presidential campaigns including as senior consultant with President’s Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford.
Since his retirement at age 53 in 2004, however, Karger’s career expertise and lifestyle finally consolidated and he has since wielded his prowess at opposition research for gay causes. The first was an ultimately losing battle to halt closure of The Boom Boom Room, a historic gay bar in his hometown of Laguna Beach. In 2008, he organized Californians Against Hate, which spawned boycotts of individuals that supported the state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Last June, Karger’s complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission found its mark and resulted in a fine of $5,539 against the Mormon Church for failing to disclose in a timely manner making late non-monetary contributions totaling $36,928 in support of California’s Prop. 8, the gay marriage ban approved by voters in the Nov. 4, 2008, general election.
His quixotic quest has earned national media attention, including February profiles in The Washington Post and England’s Guardian. The Post story described a glimpse of Karger’s campaign, which included giving his stump speech to 25 college students in a basement at the University of New Hampshire and to a dozen Dartmouth College Republicans.