Ben Carson can add his name to the growing list of Republican presidential primary candidates to visit North Carolina.
Carson toured Victory Junction — a camp for children with chronic illnesses — and spoke at the Berean Baptist Church last week.
“A lot of candidates are realizing that North Carolina will be an extremely pivotal state in the 2016 elections,” said Frank Pray, chairperson of the UNC College Republicans.
Carson's choice to visit Victory Junction likely stemmed from his former career in the medical field.
“Dr. Carson wanted to come to Victory Junction because he is a former pediatric neurosurgeon and we serve children with serious medical conditions,” said Mark Schumacher, chief development officer for Victory Junction.
The idea for Victory Junction came from NASCAR driver Adam Petty before his death in 2000 and his family spearheaded its creation. During his visit, Carson was given a tour by Austin Petty — Adam's brother who is closely affiliated with Victory Junction.
“We enjoyed having (Carson) here because it drew more attention to the amazing mission we have,” Schumacher said.
Carson's next stop was Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem on Tuesday.
“Our church is just a forum for people to come and hear and glean information about the candidate and then they can decide what they would like to do,” said Pastor Ronnie Baity.
He said the visit was not an endorsement of the candidate but rather a place for him to be entertained.
After giving his speech, Carson tweeted, “Great to see everyone at Berean Baptist Church,” and included a picture of him speaking to the congregation.
Baity said the church was chosen as host because of its history of receiving political figures.
The church also has an organization called Return America, which brought thousands of people to Raleigh in support of North Carolina's 2012 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Baity said the organization also helped draw Carson's visit.
“Ben Carson had a very excellent reception from our church, everyone really seemed to appreciate him being here,” he said.
Pray said the visit to North Carolina and the publicity the visit generated are very critical to Carson's campaign because of how important the North Carolina voters will be during the national election.
“Previously Ben Carson has been in the top tier of presidential candidates in the North Carolina polls,” Pray said. "The Ben Carson idea really resonates well to the people of North Carolina."
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