Fred Karger knows he probably won't be on the ballot in November, but that isn't stopping the first openly gay candidate from running for President and trying to make a little history on the way. Or at least get into a debate.
As Karger told the Daily Dot last week: “I'm not going anywhere.”
For Karger, the last “long shot” candidate in the GOP race (Buddy Roemer and Gary Johnson have since decided to chase third party slots), social media remains his primary messaging tool, one he said has made his unlikely run possible. Now he's focusing his efforts on Michigan, where he's on the ballot for Tuesday's primary.
Last year, Karger was one of the first people to officially launch their campaign for the Republican nomination. Although he's never held elected office, Karger has worked for numerous Republican politicians, including Ronald Regan and George H. W. Bush—and even headed up his own political consulting firm.
Recently he has worked as a gay rights activist, taking on Proposition 8 in California and helping launch an investigation against the National Organization for Marriage for not properly reporting the names of donors in Maine.
In hopes of bringing more attention to his causes, Karger launched a campaign for the Republican nomination. The campaign was more about making a statement, than winning.
“His campaign is fueled by the desire to show not only young gays but anyone, that you can do anything you want—even run for president of the United States,” said spokesperson Rina Shah, in a past interview with the Daily Dot.
Unlike the other candidates in the race, who have had big money and bigger stages, Karger has almost entirely relied on social media and hand shake politics to get his message out. Shut out of all of the television debates, Karger has worked with a shoe string budget – spending about $25,000 a month and utilizing six full time staff members. A big part of that job is running Karger's YouTube, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Although he's never gotten widespread attention, he has made splashes on YouTube, most notably for an ad in response to Rick Perry's disliked campaign spot about gays in the military. With more than 25,000 views, it's Karger's most popular video. He credits videos like that with keeping his campaign afloat and getting his message out.
“I owe my life and my success to social media,” he said. “It was there for me since the beginning and it's still there for me.”
Karger is now focusing his YouTube videos on the Michigan primary. In recent weeks he has launched two new videos that promote Karger as a moderate Republican who can help lower unemployment, an important issue in Michigan. The videos also target independent or Democratic voters who can vote in Tuesday’s primary, with the hope of “making history,” by casting their ballot for an openly gay candidate.
Although it's highly unlikely he'll win many delegates Karger plans on staying in the race until there is a candidate and for him that means until the Republican National Convention in August. Between now and then, his biggest goal remains getting into one of the television debates, which so far, he has been shut out of, even in instances when he qualified.
“I've been on the sidelines for all of the debates, but I'm still hopeful to get into one,” he said.
Karger said he's “delighted” to be one of the final five candidates left in the primary race and that last long shot still standing in the GOP. He also said that he still believes there's a chance that he'll earn more attention, noting that he hasn't yet been the GOP's “flavor of the week.”
As for Michigan, where he has spent much of his time criss-crossing the state, shaking hands and updating his Twitter, Karger thinks he has a shot.
“We'll see what happens on Tuesday,” he said. “I hope to make a stand.”
Photo by Gage Skidmore