The Dartmouth: Whither the Reasonable Republican?

Oct 26, 2010




by Jonathan Pedde, Contributing Columnist

Published on Monday, October 25, 2010

For link to article, Click Here

Reading the op-ed pages of America’s left-of-center newspapers, it would seem that the Republican Party is being overrun by angry, homophobic, anti-immigrant crackpots. For centrists like me who believe in the importance of having two sane national parties, this would be a terribly depressing prospect. But, just when one could be forgiven for thinking that all hope is lost, Fred Karger comes to the rescue.

Who is Fred Karger? That’s exactly what I asked when I first heard of him. He is a former political consultant who is considering running for president as an independent Republican in 2012. He got his start in politics in 1964 working for Nelson Rockefeller. Most recently, Karger founded the watchdog group Californians Against Hate and was active in the campaign to stop California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage. If he decides to run in the 2012 Republican primaries, he will be the first openly gay person to run for president.

While there are many adjectives that could describe Karger’s outlook on life, angry is not one of them. Karger spoke at Dartmouth on Oct. 14. Including myself, about 40 people attended. During his speech, Karger emphasized how he wants to bring a sense of optimism back to America. He particularly admires Ronald Reagan’s ability to remain optimistic, even during the depths of the nasty recession of the early 1980s. For pragmatists like myself who are looking for more than mere sentimentality in a politician, there is also a very important practical side to Karger’s optimism: When the economy is deeply depressed and interest rates are stuck at zero, consumer and business expectations of future prosperity (or lack thereof) can become self-fulfilling. Perhaps a president who irrationally maintains a sense of optimism in the worst of times wouldn’t be such a bad thing right now.

More importantly, I think that Karger may actually be a politician who will be able to reach across the increasingly polarized partisan divide. For starters, unlike some of our current elected officials who sold themselves as “post-partisan” candidates, Karger is willing to criticize members of his own party. In fact, during his speech at Dartmouth, Karger had more bad things to say about Mike Huckabee alone than all of the Democrats combined. I agree with some of Karger’s criticisms of Huckabee (especially on Huckabee’s comparison of homosexuality to drug abuse and polygamy) and disagree with others (that we need to be tougher on crime than Huckabee was a governor). But the fact that Karger is actually willing to look at his own party with just as critical an eye as he does for his opponents is an important quality nonetheless.

Furthermore, Karger is actually willing to break with his party’s orthodoxies when his conscience dictates. Not only does he support immediate repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as well as the legalization of gay marriage, he also supports immigration reform. He wants a path to citizenship for immigrants already living in the country as well as improved border security to discourage future law-breaking. When asked how he would go about “improving” border security, Karger replied that he wasn’t sure, but had an open mind on the issue. As the grandson of German refugees, I especially appreciate Karger’s statement that immigrants are not here for a hand-out, but for the opportunity to succeed by working hard. Likewise, Karger is excited about wind and solar energy as well as energy conservation. To him, the possibilities seem obvious: “Why do people wear sweaters in their air-conditioned homes during the summer?” he queried during the speech.

Actually, Karger’s ability to reach across the partisan divide isn’t just hypothetical. During the 2008 California elections, Karger and Californians Against Hate sided with organized labor — not exactly the kind of organizations with whom you would expect a Republican to be working — in the campaign against Proposition 8.

Karger is exactly the kind of Republican that I would like to see succeed: Optimistic, willing to engage in serious self-examination and able to work for the good of the country even if that means working with the Democrats. It is very telling that, during the 2008 presidential elections, he supported Hillary Clinton, but no Republican candidates. He knows that he “probably won’t win” the primaries, but a Rockefeller Republican like Karger is exactly what the country needs right now.

News Alert: Fred’s off to Iowa, Again

Oct 25, 2010

Fred’s off to Iowa, Again

DES MOINES, IOWA – Fred Karger left California today for his fourth trip to Iowa since April.  He will be heading straight to Iowa City for three speaking engagements at the University of Iowa on Tuesday, October 26th.  Karger will speak to a Family Law Class at the Law School, address a meeting of “Outlaws,” the LGBTQ student organization at Iowa’s Law School and speak to the weekly meeting of the Iowa College Republicans Tuesday evening.

Fred will then head to Ames for a speech the next day to the Iowa State College Republicans on Wednesday evening, October 27th.  Fred’s detailed schedule is up on the web site:

While in Iowa, Fred will be handing out his latest product, the brand new Fred Who? Iowa license plate T-shirts (see below).

Here’s Fred on his way out the door, all packed up and ready to head to the Hawkeye State.

The Iowa license plate version is the second in a series of Fred Who? state plate T-shirts.  The T-shirts and all other products will be available soon at the online store at:

Karger joins several other possible 2012 Presidential candidates who will be visiting Iowa this week, just ahead of the November 2nd election, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.  Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich also stopped in western Iowa last Friday, and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty plans events in the state Oct. 31.

In the News

Here are two great stories that just came out.  One is from The Daily Iowan – University of Iowa, and the other is from The Dartmouth – Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH.


Daily Iowan  by Natalie Ginty

The Dartmouth  by Jonathan Pedde

Then to Points East

Immediately following his four day Iowa visit, Fred will head to Connecticut and New York for meetings and a fund-raiser, then to Washington, DC for election night and back to New Hampshire on November 3rd for the rest of the week.  It looks like there might even be a couple more commercials in the works.


Report From the Road: October 20, 2010

Oct 20, 2010
Report from the Road

New Hampshire’s starting to feel like a second home.  I’ve just wrapped up my 8th trip to the Granite State, and it was a whirlwind.

The trip began last Tuesday with a visit to the University of New Hampshire in Durham to see my friend, actor, activist and former Air Force Captain Reichen Lehmkuhl speak in honor of National Coming Out Week. I was definitely impressed with Reichen’s remarks, including his discussion about how difficult it was leading a double life under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  He was as fed up with President Obama as I am.  Lots of promises to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but zero action.

My time at University of New Hampshire continued again on Thursday, when I spoke at the UNH College Republicans meeting over the lunch hour in the Memorial Union Building – the MUB.  About 30 College Republicans got to see my new commercial, “Good Morning New Hampshire”CLICK HERE , and the excellent support video made by Real World DC star Mike ManningCLICK HERE TO SEE MIKE and me.  This event was set up by our brand new and extraordinary UNH Campus Coordinator, Patrick Stephens.

All in all, I received an enthusiastic welcome from this very bright group of CR’s.


The UNH CR’s at their meeting in the MUB.  I am the guy in the tie.


Later that day, I travelled to Hanover for a speech sponsored by the hallowed Dartmouth Political Union.  I talked about my three decades of campaign experience, and why I have been spending so much time in New Hampshire the past 8 months.  Dartmouth’s Political Union meets in Rockefeller Hall, and has hosted some of the giants in politics when they have been to campus.


Posing on The Green at Dartmouth and giving away some blue frisbees.  The Ultimate Frisbee team (on right) can’t wait for their first game with Fred Frisbees!

I was honored to be speaking in Rockefeller Hall, named for Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller, whose 1964 presidential campaign was my first foray into politics.

Friday brought an early morning radio interview on the Dan Mitchell Show, “Open Mic” on WKBK, the number one talk radio show in Keene, NH.  Then later in the day, I was the first guest on host Susan MacNeil’s television show, “Speak Up” on Cheshire TV.  The amazing Susan MacNeil is the Executive Director of the AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region.  Keene is the home of my 1st Town Hall meeting back in April.  Good luck with your new show, Susan!


Here I am with Susan on her 1st show!

Next was the famous Keene Pumpkin Festival (the world’s largest?), a visit that made clear Fall — and change — are in the air in New Hampshire.


Nothing quite like the Keene, New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival on Community Night.  Tens of thousands of jack-o-lanterns; possible new world record!


My fourth season in New Hampshire this year.  Here I am back at the famous Peterboro Diner – this time it’s Fall.

I am in Washington DC this week.  Yesterday I was at the Republican Jewish Coalition Leadership Meeting all day, and lots more planned.

MTV Star Mike Manning Supports Fred

Oct 14, 2010

MTV Star Mike Manning Supports Fred

While he was flying to Arizona Sunday evening, Mike Manning’s extraordinary short video tribute was playing in Washington, DC at Fred’s Inaugural Reception there.  TAKE A LOOK:


Mike Manning, starred in “Real World: Washington DC” last season, and has been a real advocate for LGBT equality ever since.  The video by filmmaker John Keitel received a huge ovation after it was screened Sunday, and is now up on YouTube.  CLICK HERE 

Washington, DC Reception

The 10-10-10 Reception was a great event.  100 people attended the Meet “n” Greet at the Duplex Diner, a DC restaurant and bar, and was the first held outside of Iowa and New Hampshire.  Guests learned about Fred and his Presidential Exploratory Committee.  He spoke to the group, and even raised some money.  A good time was had by all!



Fred and friends Lorena, Michael and Wesley from GW University



Reception revelers at the Duplex Diner



Kerry Eleveld of the Advocate interviewing Fred



Fred introducing himself at the reception



Kraig, Dave and friend



Everyone got into the Fred Who spirit



Fred, Nick and Sophia



Kevin, Scott and Cy at the bar



Fred and Kevin with our host, Eric



Eric Hirshfield, owner of the Duplex Diner, passing out some of the great food that was devoured

Fred Arrives in New Hampshire for a Week


Fred and company arrived in New Hampshire for his 8th visit yesterday.  He will be traveling all across the state, speaking before a wide variety of groups and holding lots of meetings.

Last night Fred attended the Rainbow Network meeting and happy hour at the Breezeway in Manchester.

Wednesday, October 13th he will be attending Gay Pride Week festivities at the University of New Hampshire.

Thursday, October 14th from 12:45 to 2:00 pm, Fred will be speaking to the UNH College Republicans in Durham in the Municipal Union Building (MUB).

Thursday night, it’s back to Dartmouth to talk to and meet with the student run Political Union.

Friday, October 15th Fred heads to the famous Keene Pumpkin Festival to witness over 70,000 carved pumpkins, an event that attracts thousands.

For up to the minute calendar details, they are always posted on:

Meanwhile, Fred continues house-hunting and car shopping while he’s in the Granite State.

Washington Blade: Gay Republican Weighs Run for President in 2012

Oct 8, 2010

wash post logo


For link to article, Click Here



By Lou Chibbaro Jr

Meet Fred Karger


5 to 8 p.m.

Duplex Diner

18th and U streets, N.W.

A longtime GOP political operative who is credited with helping to develop the political attack ads that sunk the 1988 presidential campaign of Democrat Michael Dukakis says he’s seriously considering running for president in 2012 as an openly gay Republican.

Laguna Beach, Calif., resident Fred Karger, 60, has formed a presidential campaign exploratory committee and is “testing the waters” by campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to hold a presidential nominating caucus or primary.

“My thirty-five years of experience as a fighter in politics places me in a unique position to run,” Karger said in an April news conference when he announced his interest in running for president.

“I have worked on nine presidential campaigns. This would be my tenth,” he said. “I have managed dozens of other campaigns all over the country, and would bring that wealth of experience to my own candidacy.”

Should Karger officially declare his candidacy, his status as an out gay presidential contender is likely to pose a dilemma for many gay activists aligned with both the Republican and Democratic parties.

In his campaign literature he makes it clear he would be a strong and vocal advocate for the entire LGBT movement’s agenda. Among other things, he favors same-sex marriage equality, passage of a congressional non-discrimination bill for LGBT people, and repeal of both the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ law and the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

But for years, before coming out as gay, Karger helped Republicans – some who opposed LGBT-related legislation — win elections as a behind-the-scenes operative with the Dolphin Group, a California-based GOP campaign consulting firm. The firm specialized in creating negative TV ads targeting Democrats.

In 1986, Karger played a key role in a media campaign targeting three liberal California judges by lining up grieving parents whose children were murdered by death row inmates, according to a report by the Sacramento Bee. The three judges, who had a record of overturning death sentences, lost their re-election bids under California’s system of electing judges, with the campaign orchestrated by Karger and his firm being credited for their defeat.

Two years later, in the midst of the 1988 presidential election, Karger worked with the campaign of then Vice President George H.W. Bush to develop the now famous “Willie Horton” campaign against Democratic challenger Michael Dukakis, the then governor of Massachusetts.

Sacramento Bee senior editor Dan Morain reported in a profile of Karger earlier this year that Karger lined up family members of victims of Horton, a convicted murderer who committed a rape while released on furlough from the Massachusetts prison system during Dukakis’s tenure as governor.

“Karger used the Horton story to help to thwart Dukakis’ presidential bid and elect George H.W. Bush,” Morain wrote in his profile.

Karger says he remained deep in the closet during those years. Although he considers himself a moderate Rockefeller-style Republican, he acknowledges his work helped elect conservative Republicans across the country, including President Ronald Reagan.

Now he says he’s poised to become an outspoken advocate for LGBT causes through the national platform of a presidential campaign.

Karger became involved in gay rights causes in 2006 following his retirement from the political consulting business. And when anti-gay leaders launched their campaign to kill California’s same-sex marriage law in 2008 through Proposition 8, Karger jumped head first into the fray — this time on the side of LGBT advocacy groups that opposed the marriage ballot measure.

Using his skills as a campaign organizer, Karger pored over campaign finance records for the committee leading the campaign in favor of Prop 8 and discovered huge amounts of campaign funds for the committee came from people with links to the Mormon Church.

He quickly founded Californians Against Hate, an independent group that waged a media campaign disclosing what Karger called a clandestine effort by the Mormon Church to bankroll Prop 8 and other campaigns across the country opposing same-sex marriage and LGBT rights legislation.

Among Karger’s targets was the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, which he described as a Mormon front group aimed at killing same-sex marriage through ballot measures in California, Maine and other states.

Although voters approved Prop 8 and the Maine ballot measure, Karger has been credited with forcing NOM to spend large sums of money to fight off campaign finance investigations and complaints initiated by Californians Against Hate before governmental bodies that monitor campaign financing.

NOM leaders denied Karger’s allegations during the Prop 8 campaign and later subpoenaed him to testify in proceedings called to determine whether NOM was required to disclose the names of its contributors. Karger called the subpoenas an attempt to intimidate him.

Like all of the well-known prospective GOP presidential candidates, such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Karger has yet to officially declare his candidacy. Due to Federal Election Commission rules, he – like the others – must walk a fine line between expressing interest in running and saying openly that he will run.

However, Karger has appeared many times this year in Iowa and New Hampshire. Last month, he ran a TV commercial on New Hampshire’s largest television station introducing himself as a possible GOP candidate.

His immediate strategy, he says, is to build up enough name recognition to gain access to the GOP presidential debates and forums in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he would be observed by a nationwide TV audience alongside the better-known candidates.

An official with the New Hampshire Republican Party said TV stations and civic groups in the state historically have used their sole discretion in choosing which candidates to invite to appear in debates during the presidential primaries. An independent bipartisan commission determines which candidates to invite for presidential debates in the general election, but no such body exists for the primaries and caucuses.

Karger compares his possible run for the presidency to the 1972 presidential candidacy of Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.), who became the first serious black and female candidate for president.

“Her campaign paved the way for Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988, and the election of Barack Obama as our 44th president in 2008,” Karger said.

“Our movement, I think, needs new blood and I think it needs somebody at that level, someone to be in those debates who is openly gay, not just a fierce advocate, someone who has walked the walk,” he said.

“And I will be in those debates. I’m a fighter and I have a strategy and it’s being implemented.”

Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the national LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans, said the group welcomes Karger’s candidacy but could not comment on whether the group would consider endorsing him. Berle noted that Karger is a Log Cabin member.

“His presence in the race will raise the level of discourse on equality issues in the Republican primary,” Berle said. “When Fred joins the Republican debates in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will represent the core conservative principles of individual liberty and freedom for all Americans on which our party was founded.”