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First gay GOP presidential candidate Fred Karger ends his campaign

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. -- Fred Karger, who made history as the first openly gay Republican candidate for president, said Friday that he was ending his campaign.

The Republican establishment largely ignored Karger's bid, and Fox News and other media organizations denied him from appearing in any of the presidential debates, thus muffling his voice.

Karger issued the following statement:

“After 2 ½ years of campaigning as a candidate for President of the United States I am officially ending my historic campaign today June 29, 2012. It’s been one hell of a ride, and I want to thank the thousands of people across this country who volunteered, contributed, opened their homes, came to our events and cheered me on. Special thanks to the thousands more who shared their stories with me in person, via email, facebook, twitter, etc. Every one of you kept me going.

"It’s been the experience of a lifetime. I’ve made many new friends and undoubtedly picked up a few more detractors. I hope and trust that my discussion of the key issues helped to open dialog on fixing the economy, balancing the federal budget, creating jobs, education reform, the environment, immigration reform, ending the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and fighting for full equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. We must move forward on these issues and many more.

"A big thank you goes out to our incredible campaign team, most of whom have been around for nearly the entire 2 ½ years. Your dedication, spirit and great ideas made all the difference.

"I plan to rest up for awhile and then I will be back at it to help in the fight for LGBT equality. We will let you know as soon as our exact course is determined."

Karger dropped by the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News office in May while he was campaigning for the June 5 California primary. You can read an in-depth interview with Karger HERE.

At the time, Karger noted that even though he was shut out of the presidential debates, he nonetheless met tens of thousands of people all over the country who had never met a gay Republican.

“I hope I was able to change hearts and minds,” Karger said.