And they’re off!

The horse race for the Republican presidential nomination is officially under way with the Iowa caucuses. Who will pull up lame, and who will win it down the home stretch?

Mitt.Romney.color.2

Republican hopeful Mitt Romney

Watching the press coverage of the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucus was like watching a horse race: Announcers breathlessly telling viewers the latest results; charts and graphics that looked more like the screens of a sports-book in Las Vegas than political coverage.

In reality, Iowa chooses only about 1 percent of the total delegates to the national conventions. So focusing so much attention on this process is more about the hoopla than the impact.

What Iowa does do is weed out the also-rans and focus attention of a few frontrunners. And unlike a horse race, the winners in Iowa are less important than the losers.

Already Michelle Bachmann has dropped from the field and I expect John Huntsman to soon do the same. Texas Gov. Rick Perry probably should have dropped out, but he insists on plugging on despite his dismal showing in Iowa.

That leaves four contenders for the Republican nomination in the field — and none of them are even remotely LGBT friendly. In fact, Rick Santorum’s strong finish in Iowa will almost guarantee a tougher line of anti-LGBT rhetoric from the remaining candidates. Each one will be trying to out-conservative the other and the “family values” canard will rank high in their strategy.

Santorum, pushing his socially conservative views, managed to bubble up through other candidates like Gingrich, Bachmann and Perry and strike a note with evangelical voters. According to some polls it is because of his “strong moral character,” code for being anti-LGBT and anti-choice. But the truth is, those two issues are not enough to carry him to the White House. And I suspect the GOP knows that.

A lot of Santorum’s success was due to his very effective ground campaign in Iowa. He spent a lot of time in the state and focused on his key constituency — and that falls outside the mainstream GOP profile.

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Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

Meanwhile, Texas Congressman Ron Paul surprised everyone with his third place finish in Iowa. Personally, I hope he decides to run on a third party ticket. He might split so many votes away from the Republicans that President Obama will have a clear path to re-election.

And then there is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The biggest problem for the GOP is that Romney is just so, well, Mitt Romney. It seems that everyone wants someone with more charisma and momentum than Mitt, but they just can’t figure out who that might be.

For now, it looks like Romney will be strong in New Hampshire and South Carolina. His organization is well funded and has a great infrastructure in the remaining states, whereas Santorum will have to scramble to keep up.

I suspect Romney’s biggest challenge will be Newt Gingrich, the man who came in fourth in Iowa. While he most likely doesn’t have the staying power to win the nomination, Gingrich does have a grudge — and that can go a long way.

The Romney campaign and Ron Paul heaped negative ads on former House Speaker Gingrich, and it really showed at the caucuses. Now the question is whether Newt and his super-PAC money will fire back with equal vehemence.

Of course, we all know the Super-PACs do not coordinate with the campaigns (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), so that remains a mystery.

So, what does all this mean for LGBT Americans? Well in my opinion, it’s probably a good thing.

As the GOP candidates try to “out-socially-conservative” each other, their real feelings about LGBT rights will become clear. There are no friends among this group of candidates, and considering how much LGBT Americans have gained in the past few years, I seriously doubt much of our votes or money will go to anyone as far to the right as this field of contenders looks.

As this horse race comes down to the wire in November, the real question is: Can the Obama campaign do enough to remind LGBT citizens why they should support his re-election? Will President Obama’s opinions finally evolve to the point where he can actively support issues like marriage equality? Will LGBT voters be willing to risk losing the gains of the past four years, like the repeal of DADT?
Personally, I think the smart money will bet on President Obama in the home stretch.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a board member of the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Perry included in NH debate even though he does not qualify

Fred Karger

Fred Karger, the first Republican to declare his run for the White House this year, has been shut out of all of the debates but has been a good watchdog on the other Republican candidates. He found that Texas Gov. Rick Perry does not qualify to be in Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate.

Over the weekend Karger sent a complaint to New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg who also owns Bloomberg News. That organization is the sponsor of a debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire along with Washington Post and WBIN TV.

According to Karger’s research, candidates had to meet all four of the following criteria to participate:

A. Received measurable popular support in a range of national polls.

B. Campaign reported at least half a million dollars raised in its FEC filing through the 2011 second quarter reporting period.

C. Is a legally qualified candidate for the Republican nomination for President.

D. Participated in at least three nationally televised Republican Presidential debates during the 2012 election cycle.

Karger, who is gay, has been kept out of the debates because of the first criteria. The original standard was a candidate had to poll 1 percent in five national polls. Once Karger met that baseline, sponsoring news organizations raised the percent and have continued keeping him out.

His campaign checked the eight candidates who were invited to the Dartmouth debate and found that Rick Perry does not qualify, even though he will be included.

“Rick Perry was not a candidate by the end of 2nd quarter and has not filed any FEC fundraising reports,” Karger wrote in an email to Dallas Voice and other news organizations so he does not qualify under criteria B.

Perry entered the race on Aug. 12 and will not have to file a report with the Federal Election Commission until the end of this quarter.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Gates may certify DADT repeal this month; GOP debate touches on LGBT issues

Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Associated Press he may certify the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” before stepping down at the end of this month, which could allow the ban on open service to end sometime in September. Gates said he will certify DADT repeal this month only if all of the service chiefs recommend it. If not, it will be left to his successor, Leon Panetta.

2. Republican presidential candidates responded to questions about both same-sex marriage and DADT repeal during their debate Monday night in New Hampshire. Watch their responses below, but here’s our takeaway: If Texas Gov. Rick Perry decides to seek the GOP nomination, he’ll have a hard time setting himself apart from other major candidates based on his anti-gay views.

3. What’s with the straight men posing as lesbians in the blogosphere?

—  John Wright

The Economist predicts Rick Perry will soften his stance on gay marriage if he runs for president

Rick Perry

According to The Economist, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is about to pull a reverse Tom Leppert and get all lovey-dovey with the gays. Well, maybe not quite. But Perry is going to “think about” running for president, and if he does, conventional wisdom holds that he’ll have to appeal to “independents” — or at least the more moderate wing of the tea party. In other words, you can get elected and re-elected and re-elected governor of Texas as a radical gun-toting secessionist, but seriously, this is the presidency, so you might want to tone it down a notch. With that in mind, we’re pretty sure that if he runs, there are all sorts of issues on which Perry will backtrack. But is same-sex marriage really one of them? The Economist thinks so:

I’ll be watching to see if Mr Perry offers any further thoughts on foreign policy, and whether he weighs in on national controversies that have thus far passed over Texas. One to watch: gay marriage. Mr Perry is against it, but there hasn’t been much of a debate over it in Texas, which has seen no serious effort to legalise same-sex marriage or civil unions. And it’s an issue where the Republican primary voters differ from the emerging national majority in favour. If Mr Perry is happy being the governor, or just a national opposition figure, he’ll stick to his guns on the subject. If he’s looking to be president, I would expect a slightly hedged view: he might say that there’s already a federal law on the subject, for example, but that as a supporter of states’ rights he recognises their right to differ.

For one thing, it’s a little misleading to say that same-sex marriage has “passed over” Texas or that “there hasn’t been much debate over it.” Perry was governor in 2005, when he not only supported but championed the state’s constitutional amendment banning both same-sex marriage and civil unions. As Religion Dispatches noted recently, Perry even staged a ceremonial and totally unnecessary bill-signing ceremony for the amendment, with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association in attendance.

Does this really sound like a man who believes same-sex marriage should be left up to the states? Moreover, what would Perry have to gain in a GOP primary — or even in the general election – by softening his stance on same-sex marriage? Maybe the Economist should stick to reporting on British politics.

—  John Wright

Dark horse Karger serious about presidential bid

Fred Karger speaks during the Log Cabin Republicans National Convention at the Hilton Anatole on April 29. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Openly gay candidate has Republican political experience that dates back to Gerald Ford and Reagan’s ’84 campaign

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Fred Karger made history when he became not only the first gay candidate to register a run for the White House with the Federal Elections Commission, but also the first Jewish person ever to pursue the Republican nomination.

While he’s proud to be both, during a recent visit to Dallas Karger said he wants to “put the gay thing behind me.”

He said he looks forward to an article about his run for president that identified him as simply a presidential candidate rather than the gay presidential candidate.

Karger was in Dallas for the national Log Cabin Republicans convention held at the Anatole Hotel last weekend. He addressed the group at the opening meeting on Friday, April 29.

Karger was in Dallas looking for Log Cabin support, saying he wants them “to go out on a limb for me.”

While Karger understands his chances of receiving the Republican nomination are slim, he said he is running a serious campaign, and he hopes to be the first presidential candidate to receive an endorsement from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Karger said he plans to participate in the debates, hoping to use his time to temper the anti-gay rhetoric of his party’s other presidential hopefuls.

And in a way, his campaign is a grand “It Gets Better” video. He said his visits to gay straight alliances and meetings with college groups around the country encouraged him to run so he could show LGBT youth that they can achieve anything. In his press release announcing his candidacy, Karger dedicated the day to the six gay teens who took their lives last fall.

Since forming his campaign committee a few weeks ago, Karger said he has made headway in the polls. In a Fox News poll out last week, Karger got 1 percent. That’s ahead of Buddy Roemer, Rudy Giuliani and Haley Barbour, all considered serious possibilities.

The poll was important to Karger, who wanted to be included in the first Republican, debate, sponsored by Fox News and held in South Carolina on Thursday night. To be included, he needed to be at 1 percent in five polls, to have a presidential committee or exploratory committee and pay a $25,000 entrance fee.

At this point, Karger is the only Republican with a campaign committee who is registered with the FEC. Several other candidates are in the exploratory stage.

He has ranked high enough in several polls, including two by Huffington Post. In a March 31 Saint Anselm College Republicans straw poll he finished first, ahead of Mitt Romney, and with three times the votes of Donald Trump, Tim Pawlenty or Ron Paul, and 10 times the votes of Mike Huckabee.

However, the Republican Party excluded Karger while allowing candidates like Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza.

Karger said the Saint Anselm poll is significant to him because that school is in New Hampshire, the state with the first primary.

Karger spent his career as a political strategist and his strategy in this election is to take the first primary and caucus states — Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which legally recognize same-sex marriage. Both are also heavily independent — 42 percent in New Hampshire and 37 percent in Iowa.

Karger said that people have left both parties in those states, but mostly the Republican Party because his party has moved too far to the right.

Karger has the background to be taken as a credible candidate by Republicans. He ran Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign, and he worked with Lee Atwater on the Willie Horton ads that helped propel George H.W. Bush into the White House.

Karger was also part of the Gerald Ford campaign committee.

Dolphin Group, Karger’s political consulting firm, has worked on hundreds of local and state elections for Republicans around the country for more than 30 years, he said.

After selling Dolphin Group, Karger became a different type of political activist.

When California’s Proposition 8 got on the ballot challenging same-sex marriage, Karger founded Californians Against Hate.

He initiated boycotts, including one targeting the Hyatt in San Diego whose owner was a major funder of Prop 8. It cost the company $1 million per month, according to the hotel’s own estimate.

Karger investigated the power of the Mormon Church in influencing votes, and after a 19-month investigation, the church was found guilty on 13 counts of campaign reporting violations.

That was the first time the California Fair Political Practices Commission had found a religion guilty of election irregularities.

“No one has gone against NOM like I have,” Karger said.

Karger noted that he battled Maggie Gallagher and the National Organization for Marriage and helped uncover their disregard for Maine’s election laws. NOM was ordered to follow election law and disclose its political contributors.

“Maggie Gallagher has blood on her hands,” Karger said, blaming the hate from her organization for the deaths of gay teens.

He called her disgusting and said he wonders why, if she believes in traditional marriage so much, she doesn’t wear a wedding ring.

“She a walking time bomb,” Karger said of Gallagher’s behavior.

Karger hardly sounds like a typical Republican when he discusses LGBT equality issues and he supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 election. So he explained why he still calls himself a Republican.

“I grew up with Nelson Rockefeller,” he said. “I still believe in the principles of the Republican Party,” such as “keeping government out of our lives.”

And, he said, staying out of our lives includes allowing a woman the right to choose.

“I’m strong on national defense,” Karger added. “I’m a strong law and order guy.”

Rockefeller is best known as the governor who built New York’s state university system, and education is a top priority for Karger.

Karger said he wants to bring back that GOP of yesterday.

“I know there are a lot of dissatisfied centrists,” he said, and that’s who he’s appealing to.

He said he has planned his attack on his Republican opponents.

He’s going after Romney’s ties to the Mormon Church.

Just as Mike Dukakis was vulnerable on the release of Willie Horton, a prisoner who committed violent felonies after his parole, he said Huckabee should be too. Huckabee released Maurice Clemmons who later killed four police officers.

“Huckabee never showed remorse,” he said.

And without fanfare, presidential candidate Karger put his birth certificate on his website. He said he figures Donald Trump would find other things to attack him on, so why give him this one.

While running, he especially wants gay youth to hear his message.

“Come out to family, friends, coworkers,” he said.

—  John Wright

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson could be another pro-marriage GOP presidential candidate

Gary Johnson

Former Republican New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (1995-2003) will run for president, according to the best source for Republican news, Fox News.

Fox reports that Johnson, who favors same-sex marriage, abortion rights and legalizing marijuana, will skip forming an exploratory committee and announce his candidacy by the end of April.

Johnson doesn’t sound like a Republican. He has said, “I don’t think you’ll ever hear me invoking God in anything I do.” He said he doesn’t listen to Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.

On Arizona’s immigration law, he said it would lead to racial profiling. And of the 10-foot wall being built across parts of the border with Mexico, he said, “A 10-foot wall requires an 11-foot ladder.” He also said Iraq and Afghanistan do not threaten our security and we shouldn’t be there.

So why is Johnson running as a Republican? His main issue is the economy. He believes in slashing spending and his four main targets are Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and defense.

The only announced candidate for the Republican nomination as of the end of March was Fred Karger, who is openly gay and created Californians Against Hate to oppose Prop 8 in California.

Johnson’s strategy is similar to Karger’s, which is to win in the first primary and caucus states — New Hampshire and Iowa — both of which have same-sex marriage.

Anti-gay candidates like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have not announced their intentions. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has opened an exploratory committee, and GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann reportedly plans to. Meanwhile, Donald Trump said he can’t announce his candidacy until the end of the current season of Celebrity Apprentice. At least if Trump wins, we’ll always know where his priorities are — with his employers at defense contractor and NBC-owner GE.

—  David Taffet

Ed Oakley: ‘What is [Tom Leppert] smoking?’

Ed Oakley is shown alongside Tom Leppert during a runoff debate in 2007.

Turns out we aren’t the only ones concerned about the potential negative impact of Tom Leppert’s gay-loving past on his bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2012. From a Dallas Morning News article Sunday about Leppert’s chances, which appeared under the headline, “Ex-Dallas mayor Tom Leppert faces tough odds in U.S. Senate run”:

There are photos of Leppert participating in Dallas parades celebrating gay pride, which could cause angst for conservative voters, as well. …

But Leppert says he’ll be able to convince voters that he has the tools.

“I’m a conservative Republican and I always have been,” he said. “What our issues have to be is building a tax base. What you’ve got to do is grow the economy. I want to make a difference on those national economic issues.”

Leppert said he’s guided by his faith on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. He’s a member of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. He’s against abortion and believes marriage is between a man and woman.

“On the fiscal issues, on the spending issues, you’re going to find me as conservative as anybody,” he said. “On the social issues, I view those as faith issues. I’m comfortable talking about them, but I don’t want to lose sight on what’s going to make a difference.”

Leppert, of course, never mentioned his anti-LGBT views while serving as mayor. In fact, when we asked Leppert about marriage equality in 2008, he told us he was undecided on the issue. But don’t feel bad, because the LGBT community isn’t the only thing Leppert was for before he was against it. In a separate article on Sunday, the Morning News reported that Leppert, who championed the Trinity River Project as mayor, is now suddenly opposed to funding the project with earmarks. The article quotes openly gay former City Councilman Ed Oakley, who was defeated by Leppert in the mayor’s race in 2007:

—  John Wright

BREAKING: Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert to announce resignation today

Mayor Tom Leppert appears in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in 2007.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert is expected to announce his resignation at the close of today’s City Council meeting.

Leppert’s resignation has long been expected as he prepares to seek the Republican nomination for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat in 2012. It’s really just been a question of when, and now we know: Leppert will step down four months short of the end of his term.

For a Republican in Texas, Leppert has been a relatively good mayor for the LGBT community. After defeating openly gay former City Councilman Ed Oakley to become mayor in 2007, Leppert reached out and appeared to understand the LGBT community’s importance in Dallas.

Leppert hired an openly gay chief of staff, former WFAA reporter Chris Heinbaugh, and became only the second mayor to appear at gay Pride, doing so in two of his four years in office. Leppert made a habit of showing up at GLBT Chamber events and also attended two of four Black Tie Dinners.

But in the latter part of his term Leppert clearly veered to the right in an effort to position himself for the Republican Senate primary — including joining the virulently anti-gay First Baptist Church of Dallas.

So, it’ll be interesting to see how Leppert treats LGBT issues in his Senate campaign. Being a moderate Republican won’t win him many votes in a statewide Republican primary, but at the same time it will be difficult to hide from his record in Dallas.

Leppert’s resignation means that Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway will temporarily become mayor until after the May elections. Although Caraway is a Democrat, he hasn’t been much of an advocate for the LGBT community.

—  John Wright