Gay Republican Is First to Challenge Obama

Fred Karger is the first openly-gay, major-party presidential candidate.

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After months of high-profile hemming and hawing by potential 2012 Republican hopefuls, one man is taking action. Fred Karger, a Republican and the nation's first openly-gay, major-party presidential candidate, is now the first to officially throw his hat in the ring for the chance to run against President Obama. [Read more about the 2012 presidential election.]

Karger, who has worked on Republican political campaigns for more than three decades, including Reagan-Bush in '84, plans to drop off his filing papers in person to the Federal Election Commission today. He believes this move is a good sign for equality in America. "I compare it to a wedding. I've sat through dozens and dozens of weddings knowing I could never be the groom I always wanted to be," Karger says. "Now that has changed. And now with the change in public opinion and acceptance, I can run for president."

Karger doubts he'll do well in conservative Republican circles, but he is quick to point out that early-primary and caucus states Iowa and New Hampshire have growing numbers of independent voters, which are his target. But he says he's heard surprising enthusiasm from some Republicans at town hall meetings who appreciate his moderate social views, "statements like, 'Finally, a Republican I can support.'"

A critic of the high price tag often associated with political campaigns, Karger is excited to run on a shoe-string budget and is spending a lot of time with students on university campuses. His says his main issue is education reform, and he hopes his candidacy sends a message to young people, particularly in light of a disturbing rash of recent gay teen suicides. "This is an important time to tell these kinds of people that it's OK to be gay," Karger says. "You can do anything you want to do; you can even run for president of the United States."

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