Who is Fred Karger and why are you a relevant candidate among the other GOP presidential nominees?
Well, I am a very different candidate than the other four. An outsider to politics and to the road to the elective office. And someone who has the ability to get along with both Democrats and Republicans. Also, I see myself as having the ability to be bi-partisan and a new term such as “transpartisan”—someone clearly in the middle.
Tell me a little about yourself. When did you come out of the closet? How supportive were your friends and family?
Well, it was a very long process for me. There are so many different levels in my life to coming out. And of course the first one was coming out to myself at the age of 18. And secondly was being comfortable and accepting the fact that I was gay. I fought and struggled for many years and even went to a psychiatrist to try to become straight and was unfortunately told by him that it wasn’t possible to change my sexuality. I then started to get asked by friends, there were rumors going around of course. One of my best friends, Gary Wolfson, asked me if I was gay and I said yes. I term it the “talk” with all of my friends who were very accepting. But, I did not come out to my family until many years later. I told my parents when I was 41 years old. I moved out and moved to LA to keep the secret. When I finally told my parents, they were extremely accepting, just like my friends that I came out to in college.
What was your childhood like? Were you shy? Were you a jock? Were you involved in your school’s student government? Were you bullied at all?
Well, I was the “Beav” type. I had an older brother who was the jock type and I was the little dorky/awkward kid. Not your athletic type.
What do you think about this national conversation that we are finally having about the safety of youth and the bully/victim dichotomy?
Well it’s long overdue. I have met so many victims of bullying and hate.
What are your favorite movies?
Harold and Maude. And also, the Lost in Translation movie with Bill Murray.
What is one of your favorite gay-themed movies?
I would have to say Philadelphia with Tom Hanks and I love the Queer as Folk series.
What do you like to do when you have free time? Are you a person that has a hard time relaxing or no?
[Laughing] Yes I am, now. I never used to be. I could relax like a tired puppy. Now, it’s hard for me to stay sitting.
Why should Baltimore Republican gays come out on primary day and vote for you?
Well, they can be a part of an historic candidacy. I am the first openly gay candidate running for the President of the United States. There’s never been an openly gay candidate ever who’s run for either party. I’m also the only candidate running with a 100 percent equality score. That includes transgender rights and the executive order I would sign to have an all inclusive ENDA policy. And I support that.
Are you single? If you had a partner, how would that have changed your running for the presidential nomination and your campaign altogether?
I am single. First of all, I would have to have complete support from my partner to undertake something like this because he would be involved as well. And it presents a new set of challenges for the campaign of this nature. I have thought about this a lot. Because I’m under a microscope and so would my partner (or husband).
One news magazine stated that you “topped” Ron Paul in the Puerto Rico primary. How did you do that and how did you feel when you learned that you did beat Ron Paul?
We were having a celebration at a small gay bar in San Juan; I was there for a week. I worked very, very hard…we [even] had Spanish commercials! I was endorsed by the biggest radio talk show host in all of Puerto Rico. I got a tremendous amount of media, with every media outlet—I had a press conference the morning I arrived with every TV and radio station and newspaper from San Juan.
I went to this little bar the night before the election, and I met the owner, Anna Maria. She went out to the patio [which had] about 40 customers and made an announcement in Spanish. I walked out and—I had never experienced this—but everyone stood up and was screaming and cheering for me. I was 250 votes ahead of Ron Paul and we were very close to Newt Gingrich.
And what about in New Hampshire: even though she had pulled out, how did you feel when you got more votes than Michelle Bachman?
Well I had printed out cards to hand out to the LGBT community and I printed it and handed those postcards to everyone. It stated, “Help me beat Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachman.” It was my goal in New Hampshire. We were all very close in the polls and she pulled out days before…It was a wonderful surprise that I set that as a goal, saying it in interviews that I wanted to beat them both.
What do you see happening at the convention? Will you still have a presence? Do you think there will be any write-in candidates?
Well, if I’m able to get any delegates I will definitely be a factor at the Republican convention. And, by virtue of the amount of attention I’ve gotten, I may be sought out at the convention.
Assuming Obama wins the 2012 election, do you see yourself running again in 2016?
I do not. This has been a long, exhausting road. I started in February, 2010. It’s been 25 months. This is my opportunity. And it’s hard to determine who else may run, because so much determines on the outcome of this election.
Let’s say Romney ultimately takes the nomination, do you see Romney picking his VP as Santorum?
Highly unlikely. I think he would go somewhat more out of the box and pick someone who is not as controversial. It’s hard to speculate, I can never figure Romney out. Maybe Marc Rubio. Possibly Chris Christie… he’s such a thug, and has such a big personality… you don’t want anyone to upstage you and that’s what Chris Christie might do.
You have been in Baltimore and in the DC area since Tuesday of this past week. Can you give us five words that you would use to describe Baltimore?
John Waters Good Morning Baltimore. Kevin, my political director, played the music from his iphone, the music from Hairspray, as we made our way to the Equality Maryland offices.
You did a lot of campaigning in the area: you visited schools, you visited LGBT groups. Did you enjoy your visits to University of Maryland and Towson University? How were you received?
I was incredibly well received. I spoke to a class for an hour and a half at Towson, “Presidential Politics.” Most were highly receptive. The professor, a Republican African American, was very welcoming and afterwards wanted a big group picture with me and the whole class. Tomorrow we will be at University of Maryland. We were in Annapolis today, went to the naval academy and gave out Frisbees.
What’s next for Fred Karger? Where do you see yourself in the next five years and where do you think the LGBT community as a whole will be?
Win or lose, I will be involved with our civil rights movement. And the movement is on a roll. We are having far more victories than defeats. I’m honored to be a part of history, making lives better and to achieve full equality. As we work for full equality in this country and around the world.