Wearing a pin combining an American flag and a rainbow flag, the first candidate to register for running in the 2012 presidential primary started his campaign at Keene State College open and excited.
Fred Karger, who identifies himself as an independent Republican, spoke to KSC students about why he is running for president. As the first openly gay citizen to run for president, he also talked about what it was like filing to run.
Most candidates fill out the paperwork and mail it in, but Karger said he went to the Federal Commission Office in Washington D.C. to apply in person.
“It was a historic day for my community [LGBTQ],” Karger said.
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As far as being an independent Republican goes, Karger said he uses this term because he gets along with both sides.
“Living in southern California and being gay, most of my friends are democrats. As a political consultant with government affairs, I’ve worked with a lot of democrats; so I have the ability to get along with different people,” Karger said.
Since he was very young, he helped his father hand out republican candidate flyers to the train commuters in his home state of Illinois. After college, he said he worked with a republican senator on his campaign for six months and it was then that he got hooked on politics. “We refer to ourselves as political junkies. We need that fix of a political campaign or we can’t go on,” Karger added.
After his political work, Karger said he moved to California where he did work as an actor. This work turned into acting in television shows, a movie, some commercials, and plays.
But it didn’t take long for him to be beckoned by politics when he realized acting just wasn’t for him. “I worked for a U.S. senate race out there, for a moderate republican named Bob Finch, who had worked for Richard Nixon as a cabinet secretary. They hired me and I did the youth coordination there,” Karger said.
Karger talked in length on his experience in politics which spans 35 years. He also has become involved in LGBTQ politics when Proposition 8 came up and he started “Californians Against Hate.”
He spoke about his transformation that happened a year ago when he was 53 and he came out of the closet publicly. “This was a very difficult thing for me. I’ve always been gay, but I was very secret about it,” Karger said.
Some of his reasons for being so secretive were because he was involved in republican politics in the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, when it wasn’t “as cool” to be gay. “But I was tired of living a double life,” he added.
Following his speech, almost an hour was devoted to student questions. One student asked what Karger thought about cutbacks from teacher wages and benefits as well as school funding cutbacks. Karger said education is one of his top priorities so he is not in favor of taking money away from schools. He also mentioned how he thinks more public charter schools could help since less money is needed to fund them and statistics show students enjoy it and stick with it.
One student brought up the current issue of how government is trying to take away funding from Planned Parenthood, and Karger said it is a woman’s reproductive right, not the government’s right, so they can’t choose what someone should do.
He was also asked about his lack of experience in holding a political office, to which he responded by sharing other presidents who also lacked the same background.
“Our current president did not have a lot of experience. Dwight Eisenhower, he never held an elected office,” he added.
According to Karger, by getting involved with debates with other candidates, speaking to lots of people, and surrounding himself with experts, he can show the country why he should be president.
Student feelings toward Karger were mixed. KSC junior and President of the KSC Democrats, Jordan Posner, helped bring Karger to KSC and saw both positives and negatives about Karger.
“I liked a lot of what he had to say about the social policies; I believe he has a lot of holes in his economic policies,” Posner said. “He’s a great advocate in my mind and he can really galvanize the gay rights movement, but his policies need a lot of work.”
Junior James Taddeo said Karger may not be exactly what he wants in a candidate. “He’s a nice guy but his policies are way too conservative for me, on economic issues, which is what I really care about. I feel that he’s too much of a pro-business type of person, and I’m looking for more of a socialist.”
KSC senior Pat Stanton is a member of the Political Science Club. He worked with Posner and others to bring Karger to Keene. Stanton said he liked what he heard from Karger.
“He’s the most moderate that I’ve heard, and he seems like a decent guy. I think he has some good ideas, and I think he would work well [as president],” Stanton added.
Lindsey Arceci can be contacted at email@example.com