Fred Karger, former GOP presidential candidate, poses for a portrait. (Bret Hartman / For The Times )
Fred Karger, the openly gay Republican who ran for president without ever expecting to win, ended his quixotic campaign Friday.
"It's been one hell of a ride, and I want to thank the thousands of people across this country who volunteered, contributed, opened their homes, came to our events and cheered me on. Special thanks to the thousands more who shared their stories with me in person, via email, facebook, twitter, etc. Every one of you kept me going," he said in an email to supporters.
Karger spent three decades in Republican politics, working for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and California Gov. George Deukmejian, as well as major firms such as Philip Morris. He came out publicly as a gay man in 2006, after his parents died and he retired.
After retiring, Karger traveled the world, got involved in a fight to keep a historic Laguna Beach gay bar open and then worked against Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that banned gay marriage, before throwing his hat into the presidential contest.
Karger's announcement that he was ending his bid for the White House featured a picture of a cartoon opera singer with the caption: "She’s singing. The Karger for President Campaign is officially over today." The irreverence was a hallmark of Karger's candidacy.
He told The Times in a 2011 profile that he never believed he could win, but hoped to take part in one presidential debate, to offer an example to gay young people that they do not need to hide and can reach for their ambitions, including running for the highest office in the land.
In the end, he spent nearly $500,000 of his own money and traveled across the country but never made it on a debate stage or won a single delegate.
"It's been the experience of a lifetime," Karger wrote, adding that after he took some time off to rest, he would be back at work, fighting for equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.