Over the past few months, major Republican presidential candidates have strode
the halls of the Knesset in hopes of boosting their foreign-relations
Jerusalem has hosted Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee (no longer
running), Mitt Romney and Fred Karger. Fred who? That’s actually Karger’s
campaign slogan.RELATED:Republican Gingrich to announce 2012 US presidential runWashington Watch: Send in the clownsThe Israel Factor: Obama keeps climbing
Kargar, a 30-year veteran of political campaigns who has
never run for office before, wants to be the first openly gay candidate for
president for a major party in the US.
He also happens to be the first
Jewish presidential candidate for the Republican party.
61-year-old Californian, spent 27 years working for the Republican Party, and 58
years hiding his sexual identity.
Three years ago, when he “came bursting
out of the closet,” as he put it, he wanted to make sure the lesbian, gay and
transgender youth of today would not face the same difficulties he
“I want to send a message to the LGBT youth that there are no
restrictions like I thought I had for so many years that made my life
difficult,” Karger said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post
on Tuesday near
the end of his five-day trip to Israel.
While he would love to win the
presidency (“I’d swear-in on a Torah, or at least an Old Testament”), Karger
said he has his sights set on a more realistic goal: participating in one of the
15 or so televised presidential candidate debates before the primary.
said the exposure from one of the debates, which are broadcast nationally, would
be the tipping point to have fewer people asking “Fred Who?” and more people
asking “Why not?” In addition to advocating for gay rights, part of Karger’s
mission is to save the Republican Party.
“I’m concerned about the
Republican Party, concerned it has moved too far to the right,” he
Though Karger identifies himself as centrist, and has supported
Democratic candidates, such as Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and the
democratic governor of New Hampshire, he never considered joining the Democratic
“It would have been very easy for me to switch, but I’m a stubborn
guy, and very aggressive,” he said. “I want to have this effect... Clark Cooper
of the Log Cabin Republicans [a group that supports gay rights] once said, ‘When
someone’s in the room, it’s harder to attack them,’” Karger said.
why I want to be in the debates... I want to remove [anti-gay rhetoric] as a
discussion point. There is no room in the Republican party for
Karger does not shy away from the “gay republican” label,
but he does not love it, either.
“I knew that’s what makes me viable
because it makes me historic,” he said.
His flagship issues are also
education reform, Medicare reform and pulling soldiers out of Afghanistan and
Over his years in politics, Karger worked on nine presidential
campaigns, and was a senior consultant on the campaigns of George H.W. Bush,
Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.
After coming out of the closet, Karger led
the charge against supporters of Proposition 8, which aimed to make same-sex
marriage illegal in California.
He accused the Mormon Church of financing
75 percent of the pro-Proposition 8 campaign, and he organized successful
boycotts against companies that made significant donations.
It was during
the campaign against Proposition 8 that Karger hatched a new idea: run for
He announced his intention to run in April 2010. Since then,
he has visited New Hampshire 14 times in the past year, more than any other
presidential candidate. His strategy for New Hampshire: give every voter a “Fred
On Monday, he also handed out these Frisbees to security
guards at the Knesset.
This is Karger’s fourth visit to Israel, though
his first as a presidential candidate. In the past week, he met with MK Nitzan
Horowitz (Meretz), the Knesset’s second-ever openly gay member, and Deputy
Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel Beiteinu), and had dinner with openly gay
Israeli singer Ivri Lider, in addition to meeting with leaders of Tel Aviv’s
Karger, who has been on the campaign trail for
over a year, has financed the campaign with $350,000 of his own money, and
$30,000 in donations.
An admitted “terrible fundraiser,” Karger hopes an
appearance on a national debate will shift this trend.
“This is not easy
– I knew that even going in – but my whole life I haven’t worn this,” said
Karger, as he touched his lapel adorned with a pin with an American flag and a
rainbow gay-rights flag.
“I can tell people are uncomfortable, but I know
I’m doing the right thing because I’ll make it easier on others, and reflect
some of the hate.”