Fred Karger is a gay, Jewish Republican, and he’s running for president. His plan is to embarrass the Mormon GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney, and get the church to drop its support for gay-marriage bans.
Fred Karger, a handsome 61-year-old who looks like a Semitic John Slattery, does not actually think that he is going to be the first gay Jewish Republican nominee for president. That does not mean, though, that his campaign is not serious. Karger, who filed with the Federal Election Committee on March 23, has a staff of seven, including an Iowa state director, Nathan Treloar, who was previously the Iowa GOP’s communications director. Karger has visited Iowa half a dozen times in the last year, and he’s made 13 trips to New Hampshire, where he recently won the St. Anselm College Republican Straw Poll. He’s already spent around $300,000 of his own savings on his nascent campaign, and he anticipates raising enough to spend $5 million. A once-powerful GOP operative with a background in attack ads and opposition research, he plans to get himself into the Republican presidential debates, where he’ll be able to call out the anti-gay politics of his fellow nominees. Homophobia blighted much of his life. Now he thinks he can use homophobia against his bête noir, Mitt Romney.
When I met Karger in New York for breakfast recently, he’d seen the Broadway hit The Book of Mormon the previous night. Like almost everyone else, he raved about the joyously blasphemous musical, but in his case it had a special resonance, because his presidential campaign is actually all about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Karger argues, convincingly, that the Mormon church has played a major role in anti-gay marriage initiatives all around the country, and he believes that he can embarrass Romney into getting it to back off. “I want to get the Mormon church out of its opposition to gay marriage,” he says. “And if I can succeed in that, the battle’s over.”
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