Retired California political consultant Fred Karger will be in DC today to file his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission officially declaring his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. It will make him the first openly gay Republican ever to run for president as well as the first GOP candidate to declare officially that he is running for the 2012 race. Karger has already made many swings through Iowa and New Hampshire, laying the groundwork for his campaign in those key primary states. He’s run TV ads and met with dozens of young Republican activists to rally the troops. Today’s FEC filing simply makes his candidacy official. It also, no doubt, will make it harder for Republicans to keep him out of candidate forums and debates during the campaign, which some have been trying to do
While Karger met this week with officials at the RNC, including chairman Reince Priebus, in what he called a warm meeting, other members of the GOP establishment have not been so welcoming of his historic candidacy. As we reported earlier this month, RNC members in Iowa and a key organizer with Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition have not only threatened to keep Karger out of the race but also intentionally shut him out of a March 7 presidential forum in Des Moines organized by Reed’s group. Karger responded by filing a complaint against RNC member and Iowa Faith and Freedom organizer Steve Scheffler as well as his organization for violating federal election laws by discriminating against Karger because he’s gay. Karger’s official candidate status now will only help his complaint.
Still, it’s likely that he faces an uphill battle getting into future debates, even with the friendly reception at the RNC in DC this week. That’s because the RNC has appointed Indiana campaign finance lawyer and right-wing stalwart James Bopp to oversee the 18 debates expected to take place during the campaign. Bopp represents many anti-gay marriage organizations that have been battling in court to protect their donors and supporters from state disclosure laws. Many of those lawsuits have been inspired by Karger himself, who was instrumental in organizing boycotts of the major donors to California’s Prop. 8, which banned gay marriage in the state. Bopp has argued in court that the Prop. 8 donors were harassed and subjected to potential violence because of their outing and is fighting to eliminate many of the laws that made Karger’s boycott possible. Bopp has actually subpoenaed Karger in one of those cases in California, and has been defending the group Protect Marriage from a state ethics complaint Karger filed against the group in Maine.
Karger has said he plans to ask the RNC to remove Bopp because of the obvious conflict, but the odds are slim that the RNC will jettison one of their own just to placate a gay candidate when the party’s platform basically demonizes him as an abomination to God. Still, the fight will definitely make for some good political theater and help highlight the party’s hypocrisy on gay rights. After all, the RNC itself was run for a couple of years during the Bush administration by Ken Mehlman, who finally confirmed the not very well kept secret that he is gay. Perhaps Karger should recruit him to run his campaign.