Jan 3, 2011

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Look Who’s Talking: Fred Karger

By Kedric Francis | Photography by Greg Powers | Riviera magazine | January 3, 2011

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MR. KARGER GOES TO WASHINGTON: At the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument in the background, O.C.’s own Fred Karger passes the “looking presidential” test.

Laguna Beach Republican political consultant and gay activist Fred Karger’s presidential run is for real

Fred who? That’s exactly what Republicans may ask after they get a load of Fred Karger, who (when he formally announces) will be the party’s—and the nation’s—first openly gay presidential candidate. “I want to bring back the civility, optimism and humor that Reagan had,” Karger says. The Laguna Beach resident is busy blanketing the early battleground states of New Hampshire and Iowa, among some 20 states he’s visited since embarking on his seemingly quixotic quest last spring.

Karger, 60, spent his career as a high-level political campaign consultant, advising the likes of Bob Dole and former California Governor George Deukmejian before retiring to his home in Laguna. But the contentious closing of the Boom Boom Room, O.C.’s historic gay bar, riled Karger’s activist anger; he spearheaded a failed campaign to save the local landmark. He also founded Californians Against Hate as part of the battle over Prop. 8, the 2008 ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriage, initiating crippling boycotts (“we showed the power of the gay dollar”) and watchdogging the LDS Church over pro-Prop. 8 contributions.

So is the GOP ready for a gay presidential candidate? “There are plenty of progressive Republicans who have been discouraged by the anti-gay vitriol out there these days,” he says. Karger’s initial goal is to get in the debates, starting at the Reagan Library in May. “If I can do that I will have accomplished a great deal.”

“I had a tough time growing up gay,” he says. “I want to make it easier on others, to send a strong message that it’s OK. This is America. You can do anything you dream of doing.”

Karger’s Hots

Victoria Beach; the Boom Boom Room; itgetsbetter.org; Montage Resort; O.C. political pioneer Bob Gentry; sunset at the Rooftop; Laguna’s Garden of Peace and Love; my Vespa

Karger’s Nots

Hate going unopposed; a big wave when I’m launching my kayak at the beach; litter; the sad shell of a building formerly known as the Boom Boom Room; loud Harleys on PCH