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Iowa conservatives hope to exclude one 2012 GOP hopeful

Fred Karger, an openly gay Republican who has formed an exploratory committee in hopes of seeking his party’s nomination for president in 2012, has already had “conversations” with the Hawkeye State’s more socially conservative party members, but the discourse is heating up again as state activists aim to exclude Karger from upcoming debates.

Karger informed reporter Sean J. Miller of The Hill this weekend that he was excluded from a list of 2012 hopefuls invited to a March event hosted by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition (formerly Iowa Christian Alliance). Karger believes his exclusion is a direct result of homophobia.

… Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa group, said Karger wasn’t among the 15 potential candidates invited to attend because he only talks about one issue — gay rights. “We’re inviting all potential candidates who are legitimate candidates,” Scheffler told The Ballot Box. Karger “is not a legitimate candidate.”

“That’s code for homophobia,” said Karger, who worked as a consultant on the late Ronald Reagan’s campaigns for governor and president. “I’m going to send him a letter and ask that I be included, and I’m going to look to the [Federal Election Commission] to see what the rules are.” …

It is hardly the first time that Karger and Scheffler have had an unpleasant exchange.

In May 2010, Scheffler — who also serves as one of Iowa’s representatives on the Republican National Committee — e-mailed Karger with a promise that he would “work overtime to help ensure that your political aspirations are aborted right here in Iowa.” Scheffler also indicated that Karger was part of the “radical homosexual community” that wanted to “harass supporters of REAL marriage.” Karger later utilized the exchange as a fundraising pitch after forming his exploratory committee.

The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition has invited many potential GOP candidates to its upcoming event, including some that are only rumored or speculative contenders. A partial listing includes 2008 possible repeats former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich are also among those invited.

Although Scheffler challenged Karger’s potential candidacy as illegitimate due to a perceived one-issue bias, the group did extend an invitation to former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who has thus far generated press primarily for his stance on legalizing marijuana.

Karger has pledged to fight in order to participate in the upcoming Iowa event.

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