Political Notebook: Media polls ignore gay GOP prez candidate
by Matthew S. Bajko
He is one of the few declared candidates running for president, yet gay GOPer Fred Karger is largely missing from the major media polling on the 2012 race.
The majority of polls about the lineup of potential GOP presidential candidates ignore Karger, a southern Californian who is a former Republican political consultant. He is the first out candidate to seek a major party's presidential nomination.
His exclusion from the polls is a sort of Catch-22 for Karger. Not only does it reduce his visibility in the race, it also hinders his ability to take part in the upwards of 18 GOP debates among the candidates over the next year. Several of the debates require candidates to receive at least 1 percent in polling in order to participate.
"This is a battle to get the recognition to be in national polls," Karger told the Bay Area Reporter this week.
The lack of polling led organizers of tonight's (Thursday, May 5) "First in the South" debate, hosted by the South Carolina Republican Party and Fox News, to inform Karger Tuesday that he would not be allowed to take part. Debate participants had to have garnered at least an average of 1 percent in five national polls based on the most recent polling.
Up until last week, the only polls to include Karger had been conducted by several online websites and a GOP club at a New Hampshire college. Then last Friday Fox News released a poll in which Karger garnered 1 percent.
Conducted by Anderson Robbins Research and Shaw and Company Research, the poll of 332 Republicans conducted in late April had Karger with the same support as Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. ambassador to China who launched a federal political action committee Tuesday to raise money for a potential presidential bid, and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who officially announced his bid last week and is expected to take part in Thursday's debate.
Karger called his being included in the poll a "breakthrough" and hopes other news organizations and their pollsters will now add his name to their surveys.
"I am hopeful I will be included in others," he said.
His campaign has contacted the pollsters conducting 11 different national polls to request that they quiz voters about his candidacy. Those conversations likely led the Fox News pollsters to include him, said Karger.
"We talked to both of the polling firms that do work for Fox. They said, 'We were not aware of Fred and will include him in our next poll.' That is a huge breakthrough because they are so dominant," said Karger. "Having a conservative news station include me might help others like NBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post to do the same."
He has also reached out to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for assistance in pushing the major media outlets to allow him to participate in their debates and add his name to their polls.
GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro told the B.A.R. that the LGBT media watchdog group contacted external legal counsel last week to determine if it could advocate for openly LGBT candidates in such a manner without jeopardizing its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
A spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, whose aim is to help elect LGBT candidates, declined to comment when asked for its reaction to Karger's exclusion from the polling and if the organization had reached out to media outlets on his behalf.
"We have a policy of not commenting on the campaigns of candidates unless and until they are endorsed by our board," wrote fund vice president Denis Dison in an email.
Representatives from several polling firms, including Gallop, the Marist College Poll, and Langer Research Associates LLC, which conducts polls for ABC News and the Post, did not respond to the B.A.R.'s request for comment.
Fox News spokespeople also did not reply to the B.A.R. 's questions about its decision to include Karger in its most recent poll.
With the debate hosts' stipulation that candidates need to meet certain polling thresholds, it would appear the news outlets are in effect helping to select those candidates that not only receive debate invites but also press coverage that stems from the candidate forums.
Yet David Steinberg, president of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, said the impact of the media's polling decisions on fair and accurate coverage of the race is difficult to discern.
"It's hard for me to really say if this is fair or not. I don't know what the policies of the various polling firms and media outlets are," wrote Steinberg in an email. "Are they limiting individuals in polls to 'viable' candidates? If so, how do they define 'major candidates' or 'viable candidates' or some other criteria for including people in such polls? If they are applying their rules uniformly, then I don't believe it's a fairness issue."
Just because someone is a declared candidate does not "in and of itself make one a viable candidate," added Steinberg. "I know from my years in Boston that neighboring New Hampshire has pretty liberal rules for getting on the ballot (like paying a couple grand, if I recall). Does that mean Lyndon LaRouche and an unemployed, twice-convicted drug dealer (along with the other 40 people potentially on the ballot) should be included in polls and debates?"
Jimmy LaSalvia, executive director of the conservative gay Republican group GOProud, doesn't believe Karger should be added to the polls or asked to the debates.
"I think his 15 minutes are up," LaSalvia told the B.A.R. "Now that the race is on and the credible candidates are launching their campaigns, Fred should find something else to do. His run for president stunt has run its course."
Karger remains undaunted. He plans to be at Thursday's debate, albeit in the audience, and will likely hold a press conference at the event. While disappointed he won t be on stage, he holds out hope an invite to another debate will come.
"It is kind of one debate at a time," he said. "I want to get in one debate."
Gay cop runs for SF sheriff
Michael Evans, a gay San Francisco police officer since 2007, has thrown his hat into the city's sheriff's race this fall. Working the night shift, the 30-year-old cop patrols the Polk Street corridor and the Tenderloin.
A Castro resident, Evans is a member of the department's Pride Alliance for LGBT officers and serves as treasurer of the southern California-based Protect and Defend, a nonprofit organization that represents LGBT members of the military, police, fire, and EMS around the world.
He moved to the Bay Area in 2000 and has been a Castro resident for the past six years. He said he decided to enter the race in order to improve the working relationship between the police and sheriff's deputies.
"In my opinion, there are things that could be done differently, such as better communication between the police and sheriff departments. Maybe better teamwork is a better way to describe it," said Evans.
Despite his relative youth, Evans said he doesn't believe his age will hamper his chances with voters.
"I think me being young is a benefit in that I have fresh ideas and new ideas," he said.
Evans comes from a large Southern family. His twin brother is a police officer in Alabama, where they were born and raised, and his eight other brothers and sisters also live in the state.
A graduate of American Intercontinental University, Evans served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 2000 to 2005. He conducted search and rescue operations in the Bering Sea and narcotics enforcement in the South Pacific Ocean. He also served during Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Persian Gulf and Operation Enduring Freedom.
He is one of seven people who have pulled papers to seek the elected sheriff position. Another gay candidate, former deputy sheriff Jon Gray, also filed papers to run. A number of current and former sheriff department officials have pulled papers to run, including Matthew Haskell, a sheriff's sergeant; Paul Miyamoto, a sheriff's captain; deputy sheriff David Wong; and retired senior deputy sheriff William Angel.
The front-runner in the race is District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who this week received the backing of Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who has served for three decades and opted not to seek re-election this year.
In announcing his endorsement, Hennessey pointed to Mirkarimi's graduating from the San Francisco Police Academy, his Naval Reserve training, and more than eight years of being an investigator for the San Francisco District Attorney as making him qualified to be sheriff.
"Ross brings the right combination of law enforcement training, legislative experience, and political acumen to meet the challenges ahead. I am proud to endorse him in his bid to become our next sheriff," stated Hennessy.
Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings around 10 a.m. for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reports on Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's re-election and fundraiser tonight (Thursday, May 5).
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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 861-5019 or e-mail mailto:.