Being a political reporter means getting a lot of strange calls, letters and emails, so I wasn't surprised yesterday when a friend forwarded me a press release from the Jewish gay guy who's running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination on a pro-gay rights, pro-choice platform.
What, you never heard of Fred Karger? He's a California political consultant and gay rights activist who's running against slightly better known folks like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
According to his Web site, Karger “worked on nine presidential campaigns and served as a senior consultant on campaigns for Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Gerald Ford.”
Problem is, he is a little out of step with his party. He supports abortion rights, the legalization and taxation of marijuana and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). He also wants to “make gay marriage the law of the land.”
That could be a bit of a problem in the GOP primaries, dontcha think?
I caught up with Karger today while he was finishing up a whirlwind tour of Israel that included meetings with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and countless media interviews.
How does he reconcile his progressive domestic views with the fact he's running in a party currently heavily influenced by the Tea Parties and the Christian Right, especially on issues like gay rights and abortion?
“It's a very different Republican Party than I grew up with,” he said. “I started in Republican politics with my dad in the 1950s, when Rockefeller and Javits were major leaders. I want to return it to being a centrist party.”
He denies his candidacy is just meant to make a point about gay rights.
“I got into this about 15 months ago, and my initial goal was to get into one or more of the Republican debates,” he said. “I've been to New Hampshire 14 times, Iowa 7 times, and I think I'm starting to get on the radar.”
If he does manage to get into a Republican debate “ I could break out, and this could be a serious candidacy,” he told me.
I don't think I'm going to bet the rent on him winning anything, but he does have a cute kind of optimism that will be fun to watch in what is shaping up as an incredibly grim political year.
A gay Jewish Republican? Why not?
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