Fred Karger would like you to know: Pete Buttigieg is not the first openly gay candidate to run for a major party presidential nomination — he is.
Karger has spent the better part of the past two months tweeting at reporters to remind them about his long-shot campaign in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, which he hopes helped create an opening for Buttigieg, the openly gay South Bend mayor now running for the Democratic nomination. Karger’s been pushing to get newspapers not to erase his historic campaign.
“The LGBT press recognizes me and is well aware of what I did,” Karger told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. “But many of the articles coming from the mainstream press haven’t. The first one that really got to me was the one in the Des Moines Register — they covered me pretty heavily! I spent a lot of time out in Iowa.”
Karger said he’d reached out to the reporter — whom he says was in high school when he launched his historic campaign — to get the record corrected.
“Bam! Within minutes the story was corrected,” Karger recalled. “I’m about 10 or 11 out of 12 for getting stories corrected now.”
Karger, who still identifies as a Republican, said that he fully supports and has donated to Buttigieg’s campaign after emailing briefly and seeing him speak at the Brooklyn Library during his book tour where he met Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten. He’s now calling on all LGBT political organizations to support Buttigieg’s campaign.
“I talked to Chasten and I offered my help and I got to meet Pete briefly before he went onstage and thanked me for making the path easier,” Karger recalled about meeting Buttigieg. “I was flabbergasted with the size of the audience. I’m very impressed with how Pete’s coming off.”
Karger said no one from Buttigieg’s campaign has reached out to him, but he’s happy to see what he’s done and that it’s refreshing to see the media focusing on Buttigieg’s policy plans over his sexuality.
“He’s handling it beautifully,” Karger said. “When I ran, I really liked bringing it [his sexuality] up at first and I enjoyed bringing it up at Republican gatherings. But it’s nice to see media moving past that to talk about other things: what are our ideas, what are we looking to do, sticking to the facts.”
Karger, who struggled to get attention throughout his campaign, recalled that he’d had difficulty being taken seriously on the trail and was denied entry to any of the debates. He said he’d received death threats for campaigning as an openly gay man, but he’d focused on giving his community hope that someone could run for office while being openly gay.
“I thought a lot about Shirley Chisholm running as the first African American opening doors for candidates like Jesse Jackson to run,” Karger said. “When I ran, I did it to make it easier for the next person. I was thinking it would be in four years but it took eight. That’s fine! I’m proud of that.”