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Fred Karger: A man with a mission

With the California primary behind him, the GOP hopeful packs it up to Utah, where he is also on the ballot.

June 07, 2012|By Joanna Clay
  • Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger arrives to the Agate Street fire station polling place Tuesday.
Republican presidential candidate Fred Karger arrives… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

For decades, a fear of discrimination kept Fred Karger from seeking office and coming out as openly gay.

When the Laguna Beach resident, a Republican and partner in a top political consulting firm, publicly came out in 2006 after campaigning against the closure of Laguna's iconic Boom Boom Room, he ignited an activist streak that led to a race to Pennsylvania Avenue.

Lesser-known candidates usually fight to get on ballots; Karger has made it on five, including California's. As of Wednesday, he was packing up for Utah, where he'll be on the ballot June 26.

In March, he beat Ron Paul in the Puerto Rico primary, garnering about 1,700 votes, or 1.4% of the electorate.

He has spent about $530,000 on his campaign, with $75,000 of that coming from fundraising efforts.

Some, though, may question why he continues.

"It's a historic candidacy in the first place," he said Monday, a day before the California primary. "I felt an obligation to fulfill that honor."

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Karger said he wanted to run for office since he was in his 20s, but felt it was too risky while he was still hiding his sexuality. Behind the scenes, as a political consultant he worked for Gerald Ford, Bob Dole and George Deukmejian.

"I almost ran when I was 27 for Assembly. I knew I couldn't after that," he said. "I wasn't in secret. I managed living a double life."

He points to Robert F. Gentry, a Laguna mayor and the first gay mayor in the country, as an inspiration.

"I think we both have taken a substantial risk," Gentry said last week about Karger's campaign. "We both operated from a very strong sense of commitment and a strong resolve: that bigotry and discrimination must end everywhere in America, no matter what your political, ethnic or religious affiliation might be. For me personally, that risk was well worth it."

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Not your typical Republican

In interviews Karger, 62, is clean shaven, dressed in a sharp suit or sports jacket. His silver coif shines, and he maintains an upbeat demeanor when talking about civil rights and the economy.

Ronald Reagan is one of his mentors, whom he worked for as a political consultant with the Dolphin Group in the 1980s. He even applauds the father of his competition, George Romney, for his work as a governor and on Capitol Hill.

However, the gay Jewish candidate from Laguna Beach is far from the Republican mainstream.

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