Dark Horse Candidate Stays in the Race

GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger, center, with New Hampshire couple Bob Garon and Bob Lemire.

Laguna Beach resident Fred Karger, the first Republican contender to officially enter the 2012 presidential race, pulled in 485 votes in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary. That’s 138 more than received by Minnesota’s Rep. Michele Bachmann, according to final results posted by New Hampshire’s Secretary of State.

Winner Mitt Romney pulled in 97,295 votes.

“Any votes I get are historic,” said a very upbeat Karger, who admitted Tuesday that his candidacy “is a stretch because I’m a progressive Republican, and I’m a gay Republican.”

But Karger is taking his slogan “Fred Who?” further down the campaign trail.

Unless Romney clears the playing field, Karger plans to stay in the race for as long as he can. He figures that as long as Romney has one or two serious contenders, there’s room for a dark horse, especially as other lesser candidates run out of money and drop out.

He hopes to get on six or seven state primary ballots, focusing on states where he thinks he can do well.  Next up is Michigan on Feb. 28. He passed on South Carolina, calculating an unfavorable demographic. In Florida, the state party chairman chooses the candidates and left him off the ballot. North Carolina, however, invited him to join their race, Karger said. Puerto Rico looks good, and he’s keeping California and Utah in his sights.

While Karger’s New Hampshire campaign drew little national attention, besides scoring a few appearances on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show, his candidacy received coverage in local newspapers and television station WMUR, which treated Karger “as an absolute equal.”

And Karger’s grass roots campaign, meeting with community groups and students and handing out Frisbees carrying his slogan, earned him a headline in the Boston Globe as the GOP candidate who logged the most time, 74 days at that point, in New Hampshire.

The day before the primary, the Keene Sentinel posted a story about Karger’s final push, greeting clients at Lindy’s Diner, a spot where three other Republican candidates and several of their relatives also stopped, according to its co-owner. Karger next canvassed at the Toadstool Bookshop where he met a group of high school students, who said they had chosen him as their candidate for a mock classroom election because they liked his views and appreciated his stand against discrimination.

“It’s an interesting experience,” said Karger, who relishes meeting potential supporters, at least one of whom was turned off by Romney. Karger met with Bob Garon at Chez Vachon restaurant in Manchester on Monday, the same spot where Garon encountered Romney last month in an exchange that briefly made national news.

A rugged looking Vietnam veteran who happens to be gay, Garon was breakfasting with his spouse Bob Lemire when an unsuspecting Romney asked to join them. Garon asked him about his stance on gay marriage. “I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman,” replied Romney, an exchange reported by National Public Radio’s New Hampshire affiliate.

Garon, a registered independent, joined Karger for his election celebration Tuesday night. He had discovered a Republican candidate he can support.



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