The Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC) apparently reveled in the presence of Sarah Palin during their convention in New Orleans over the weekend – expected GOP presidential contenders Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney skipped the event.
Also putting in an appearance at the Riverside Hilton was Californians Against Hate activist Fred Karger, a longtime gay Republican who announced that he is “strongly considering” becoming a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.
Karger ran into besieged Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele. Karger told me about the encounter:
“Charming guy. I just went up to him in the lounge at the Hilton on Friday night. I introduced myself, Kevin and Danielle and told him that I had worked for Presidents Ford, Reagan and George H W Bush. I gave him a press release – same one I sent out Friday that’s headlined “Gay Republican to Announce…..”. He looked at it and said, “You’re sure going to shake things up!”
John Keitel who did the documentary Saving the Boom, is documenting my run, too. He got the whole Steele exchange on film. I think it may be up on my CNN iReports later this week. I hope to meet with Michael Steele as the campaign progresses.
Very exciting moment!”
Karger said he held the press conference Saturday at 11 am and threw a party Saturday night in a suite in the conference headquarters hotel – the Hilton Riverside – “which was a mix of Republican attendees to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference and some friends of friends - the LGBTers.”
Karger said he was:
“surprisingly well received at SRLC. It’s the 14 Southern states and it was funny when all these people came up to my party last night. They would ask about me – so told them my background and then tell them that I would be the 1st ‘openly gay candidate.’ That’s when it would get a little sticky. All were polite, but some would take their drinks and leave soon thereafter.
Chris Morrow was here for CNN iReports and she interviewed lots of convention goers on the 1st gay candidate. All were very supportive on camera. As I would tell people, many opened up to me about gay uncles, lesbian sisters, etc.
I did ‘radio row.’ [CNN’s] Candy Crowley did not make the press conference but I had met her the day before. I gave her one of my pins Saturday afternoon and she was so sweet and asked ‘How’d it go?’ I gave her the thumbs up.
It was an absolutely crazy non-stop 3 days here. I am exhausted. I was in Iowa for 5 days on my way here and that was amazing, too. I met with the state GOP EX DIR, spoke to the GSA’s at Drake and Iowa State. I went to One Iowa’s 1st anniversary dinner last Saturday and had lunch with a former Republican Lt. Gov. Joy Coning, who is very moderate and was on the board of Planned Parenthood – and I had lots of other meetings.”
At the news conference, Karger issued this statement:
“I am strongly considering becoming a candidate for President of the United States in 2012.
I would be an unconventional candidate, and if I run, I will wage an unconventional campaign.
I want to help determine the direction of this country, and in the process, work to redefine the Republican Party.
My thirty-five years of experience as a fighter in politics places me in a unique position to run. I have worked on nine Presidential campaigns; this would be my tenth. I have managed dozens of other campaigns all over the country, and would bring that wealth of experience to my own candidacy.
I would build a credible campaign, and would strive to engage and register new and younger voters. My campaign would be highly strategic and utilize the latest digital media technology to attract volunteers and raise the necessary funds. I would likely be the only true outsider running in either party.
I would be the first openly gay candidate to seek the nomination of a major political party as its Presidential candidate. I would discuss issues important to the gay and lesbian community such as: ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, pass the federal Employment Anti-Discrimination law, eliminate the federal Defense of Marriage Act, make Gay Marriage the law of the land and make finding a cure for HIV / AIDS and a vaccine to prevent HIV a new national priority.
Shirley Chisholm captivated the nation when she ran for President as this country’s first serious black and female candidate in 1972. Her campaign paved the way for Jesse Jackson’s Presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988, and the election of Barack Obama as our 44th President in 2008.
Our nation is facing tremendous challenges right now. I pledge to put new effective leadership in place to end our nation’s economic crisis. I will work tirelessly to bring back the spirit in every man, woman and child to help remake America the land of opportunity and equality for all.”
Photos courtesy Fred Karger: