Openly gay candidate Fred Karger will not be on the stage next Monday night when CNN broadcasts the first major debate of the 2012 presidential campaign. But enough major candidates will take part in this event to ensure a significant audience.
On stage at a college auditorium in New Hampshire June 13 will be Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann. This will be their first presidential debate and they will be joined by Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain, all of who participated in the first official debate—last month in South Carolina.
Of the seven candidates who have filed a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Elections Commission, Karger is the only one not invited to Monday’s debate. Bachmann has not yet filed any papers. And, of the three candidates –Karger, Romney, and Pawlenty—who have filed financial reporters with the FEC, Karger has raised more money ($179,771) than former Minnesota Governor Pawlenty ($160,066).
But Karger is not the only candidate being excluded from the June 13 debate. Also being left out is former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. And, ironically, GOProud, a gay conservative group, has being speaking out in support of allowing Johnson into the debate while saying nothing about Karger, who served as an adviser to President Reagan.
“Governor Johnson has courageously stood up for liberty and for limited government,” said GOProud Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia, in a statement released Monday, June 6. “Like Barry Goldwater, Governor Johnson strongly supported repeal of the failed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. He joins with strong conservatives like former Vice President Dick Cheney in opposing a federal constitutional amendment on marriage that would federalize marriage and family laws. He has also put forward a robust and serious plan for cutting spending, reducing the size of government and restoring fiscal sanity in Washington.”
Asked why GOProud was not advocate for Karger’s inclusion, LaSalvia said, “We are for including credible candidates in next Monday’s debate in New Hampshire. Governor Johnson is a former 2-term governor with a solid record of governing, Fred Karger is not. Karger is not a credible candidate for President of the United States. He should just go away – not be included in a national debate on CNN.”
According to the Manchester Union Leader newspaper, which is co-hosting the debate with CNN and a local television station, the criteria for inclusion was two-fold: The candidate had to average at least 2 percent in various recent national or New Hampshire polls, and he or she must have taken substantive steps towards a presidential run.
Karger filed papers to declare his candidacy in March, but most national polls have not included his name when surveying Republican voters on potential presidential nominees. For instance, the ABC-Washington Post poll conducted June 2-5, asked about 21 different Republican figures –including Donald Trump, who recently announced he would not be running—but Karger was not on the list. The poll included former Governor Johnson, but zero percent of 1,002 Republicans or Republican-leaning voters surveyed chose him as a preferred candidate.
A CNN poll conducted last month did include Karger, but zero percent of 473 Republicans or Republican-leaning voters surveyed chose him. Fox News included Karger in April, but only one percent of 322 Republican registered voters supported him.
Karger sent a letter to CNN officials May 30, after he first heard that he was not being invited. He noted that he was the first Republican candidate to announce that he was considering a run for the nomination and the first to establish a Presidential Exploratory Committee.
“My campaign has received tremendous worldwide coverage on major news outlets in over 25 countries,” said Karger, in his letter to CNN. “My candidacy is unique, as I run for President of the United States as the first openly gay candidate in history.”
CNN reported that the debate hosts invited 13 candidates in all. Three of the six who are not participating are no longer candidates—Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee, and Mitch Danels. Two—Rudy Giuliani and Jon Huntsman—declined the invitation. And Sarah Palin told the hosts, “I don’t think I’m going to be there. Thank you for asking though.”
The two-hour debates airs live on CNN at 8 p.m. EDT.