If you’ve turned on the television in the past two weeks, you know the names already. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. And odds are you’ve also heard the facts and fictions of the campaign’s advertisements. If you’re particularly intrepid, you might have even tried to separate fact from fiction through sites like Plitifact or the more local Michigan Truth Squad reports. But on the ballot on Tuesday there will be a name you might not have seen featured in attack advertisements or news stories. You might not know the name Fred Karger at all.
There are a couple good reasons for this. First and foremost, Karger hasn’t been in any of the near-infinite Republican debates. This is due in large part to Karger’s other big path to obscurity; in a contest of who can court the hardcore right-wing voters that feel disaffected with the available candidate pool, a contest where Rick Santorum’s hard and fast social conservatism has done him many favors in recent primaries, Fred Karger is the first openly-gay Republican to run for President.
While you may not have heard of the retired Californian businessman, students at Michigan State sure have. Michigan offers its primary votes by congressional district, so rather than try to compete in the entire state, Karger is competing one district at a time, trying to secure at least some delegates in the GOP Convention in Tampa this summer.
Karger is the first to admit that his center-right stance is far out of the Republican mainstream, especially on social issues where he stands to the left of Obama, but his strategy is shaped around this reality. Primarily, Karger hopes to appeal to young, moderate Republicans like WMU student AJ Wagner.
With Santorum and Romney leading in Michigan, Wagner worries for the fall, when either of those candidates would try to run against Obama. Santorum, Wagner feels, alienated too much of the electorate by taking a firm and vigorous anti-gay stance; a move Wagner worries would make moderates stay home, or worse, vote for Obama. As for Romney, Wagner said, “I think too many people are afraid of the word ‘flip-flop’,” but he adds that he personally admires anyone who can admit to learning and evolving as a person. Then again, Wagner points out, Romney couldn’t win in 2008.
“We had a very easy election,” Wagner told HerCampus, “but we, for lack of a better term, farted around.” And for this reason, he said, he believes Obama will win in November. This is the kind of sentiment Karger is hoping will earn him more support.
Karger, being a socially liberal and fiscally conservative alternative to these candidates, is looking to fill the void Wagner sees in the Republican primary. But Karger’s tactics are far more interesting than that.
Karger is looking for people who aren’t Republicans to vote in Tuesday’s primary.
“[It’s] a little unethical, a little unprecedented strategy for a Republican,” Karger admits if his recruitment of Democrats to support him, “My message is this: Obama is unopposed, literally unopposed – vote Fred Karger, grab a Republican ballot. Make some history.”
And that’s entirely possible, thanks to another Michigan primary rule: a voter does not need to belong to a party to vote in its primary.
Samantha Wilson, a Democrat and student at Michigan State University, said that after talking with Karger and doing a bit of research on him, a vote in the Primaries is a definite possibility.
Karger realizes his campaign is a long shot, but by reaching out to moderate Republicans and social Democrats, Karger has hope that he might walk out of Michigan with a handful of delegates, and that might be enough to get him into future debates.
“You know, had I gotten into an earlier debate, things might’ve been different,” Karger said in an interview with National Public Radio, adding that as the field narrows and the party still lacks cohesion around a candidate, if he could get in to a debate things might change dramatically.
WMU's College Republicans declined to comment on the upcoming Primary.
Whether you’re voting for Karger or one of the more conventional candidates, you can look up polling places here, and vote in the Michigan Primary February 28. HerCampus will keep you updated through election season, and on the hopes of the most unconventional candidate in recent memory.
Editor: Gena Reist