CONCORD, N.H.—Republican Fred Karger, who claims to be the first openly gay presidential candidate, signed his name and wrote "Equality for All!" on a keepsake poster Monday as he formally put his name on the ballot for New Hampshire's yet-to-be scheduled presidential primary.
Karger, a longtime GOP operative from California who has been campaigning in New Hampshire for close to two years, was the first candidate to show up in person when the filing period opened Monday. But Ron Paul filed first by proxy, sending a staffer who quietly signed him up just after 8 a.m. By late afternoon, one other candidate -- former Utah Gov. Jon Hunstman -- had filed in person, and one -- Andy Martin of Chicago -- had filed by mail.
Karger, who hid his sexual orientation until three years ago, showed up at the Secretary of State's Office with a campaign sign, an oversized mock check and a real check to pay the $1,000 filing period. He signed the filing paperwork and was the first candidate to scrawl a message on a poster that later will get reprinted in the state's "red book," a compilation of election results and political history.
"The fact that I'm here today in the secretary of state's office with Secretary (Bill) Gardner, signing up and paying the filing fee to be in the New Hampshire primary is hugely significant for me personally, and for millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Americans who are looking for hope and looking for the opportunity to live their lives honestly," he said.
Karger said despite his years working behind the scenes in politics, he is an outsider. He described himself as someone who can bring back the same kind of optimism former President Ronald Reagan instilled in the American people.
"That's what's missing. It's missing from President Obama, and I think from the rest of the Republicans running. I watch those debates -- which I'm trying to get into -- and it's doom and gloom," he said. "Let's talk about the potential of this country."
Huntsman arrived in the afternoon with his wife and a crowd of supporters who chanted "In the Hunt!" as he entered the office. He repeated that slogan when signing the poster, adding "and only in N.H.!" as a nod to his strategy of focusing almost exclusively on New Hampshire.
Huntsman said he has held about 80 events in the state so far and is prepared to do another 80.
"This is a state where conventional wisdom is always upended by candidates with good ideas and a vision for this country," he said. "A state where residents take their first in the nation responsibility exceedingly seriously."
Monday's opening day was tame compared to four years ago, when a Minnesota fugitive living in Italy beat a costume-wearing ex-convict to become the first to file as an official candidate in the 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary. Jack Shepard's courier package from Rome beat Robert Haines' hand-delivered, incomplete petitions and $1,000 credit check to be the first accepted by the secretary of state. It took Haines more than 90 minutes to turn in his papers, after he embarked first on a loud and erratic one-man show that included five costume changes, multiple characters and cursing.
The current filing period runs through Oct. 28. Gardner set the filing period is earlier than usual in response to crowding by other states. He has said early December is a realistic option unless Nevada officials move their caucus back.
Gardner said Monday he is unlikely to announce the primary date this week.