OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma is not one of the traditional early states in the presidential primary, but it is an important one on the GOP calendar. The Sooner State bleeds Republican red. The GOP holds every statewide office and Oklahoma’s entire congressional delegation consists of Republicans. They also maintain a super-majority in both bodies of the State Legislature.
Oklahoma is among the first 20 states on the presidential primary calendar. The state was part of Super Tuesday in 2012, when 10 states headed to the polls on March 6. Rick Santorum picked up the victory in Oklahoma. The state sent 43 delegates to the Republican National Convention.
Judging from the reaction Ben Carson received over a two-day span in the Oklahoma City area, he might be the favorite to win the state in 2016. A Carson book signing at the Mardel Christian Bookstore in Edmond on Monday drew an estimated crowd of 500.
The line began forming at least two and a half hours before Carson’s scheduled arrival time. It snaked throughout the store aisles as people from various demographics anxiously waited to see the best-selling author. Blacks, Hispanics, whites, registered Democrats, independents, large families, retirees, people in wheelchairs and medical professionals all turned out in droves.
Some held banners with words “Run, Ben Run”. Others were adorned with “Carson 2016” t-shirts, homemade signs and even a makeshift Wheaties box with Dr. Carson’s face drawn on it. That came courtesy of nine-year-old Carson fan A.J. Allsbury.
“I’m so nervous,” A.J. said as he proudly displayed the cereal box prior to meeting Carson. He became a huge fan after reading Carson’s “Gifted Hands” book and learning of the prominent neurosurgeon’s struggles in school early in life.
“His mom couldn’t read, but then she made Ben read more. It really inspired me so that I could read,” A.J. explained. His parents say A.J. went from a second grade reading level to fifth grade since the start of the school year, all due to the inspiration of Ben Carson’s book.
Dr. Carson signed autographs non-stop for over an hour and a half, including A.J. Allsbury’s Wheaties box. The outpouring of support and encouragement for Carson to run for president was enormous. Almost every single one of the 500 or so attendees signed the Draft Ben Carson Committee’s petition urging him to enter the race. The committee had a slew of volunteers feverishly working the crowd.
The next day, Dr. Carson headlined the Oklahoma Christian Home Educators Consociation’s “Capitol Day”, joining countless homeschooling families in celebrating the day with a visit to the State Capitol and the state’s elected representatives.
Tuesday marked OCHEC’s 30th Annual Capitol Day. That is the longest running annual state legislative event of any homeschooling organization in the country. To celebrate their 30th year, OCHEC held its first annual gala, headlined by Ben Carson. The event sold out all 620 tickets. A pair of seats cost $350.
Ben Carson’s speech did not disappoint. For almost 49 minutes he offered the large crowd a mix of personal stories, his views on a variety of political topics and solutions for how to cure the country’s ailments.
“If they keep voting to raise the debt ceiling and to raise the national debt, we need to vote them out of office,” Carson said, garnering a round of applause.
He then warned that he is not politically correct, eliciting another ovation. “When I want to say something, I don’t analyze every word just to make sure nobody’s offended. What I would actually prefer is that we reach a point in this country where everybody doesn’t have such thin skin so that they don’t get offended so easily,” Carson said, as the crowd applauded again.
The speech was similar to ones he has offered in Iowa, but Carson’s policy stances are becoming more defined. He suggested the federal government should stop replacing workers that retire as one way to reduce costs and redundancy. He advocated for a flat tax and discussed the dangers of dealing with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Carson advocated for the absolute destruction of ISIS and offered suggestions for reforming education in ways other than just throwing more money at the problem.
The presidential hopeful also provided a wholehearted endorsement for homeschooling. “I’m always thrilled to see homeschoolers, all over the country because those kids know something. They actually have studied, they’re articulate, they’re respectful. They understand what America is about. I wish every kid in the nation could be homeschooled. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to do that,” Carson said.
Following his speech, Ben Carson received a prolonged standing ovation. He then did something that was a departure from previous appearances. Carson offered to answer a few questions from the audience.
Dr. Carson’s answers were long, as were some of the questions. Here is a quick overview of Q&A session:
-How would you fix Obamacare? “It doesn’t need to be fixed. It needs to be replaced,” Carson said. He also talked about opening Health Savings Accounts for every American who wants one.
-Can you give a couple of examples where our country took a wrong turn? “Making people dependent” on the government and “on the world leadership stage”. He said America needs to live up to its role as the world’s superpower, including using “every tool we have” to obliterate ISIS.
-A Fair Tax advocate pushed him to favor that plan over a flat tax. Carson said both should be considered and would be better than the current system. Ultimately, the people would decide which plan is preferable.
-What one thing would you like to see happen in five years? “Our national debt, instead of being up to $22 trillion dollars is down to $10 trillion” and on the way even further down. “The other thing that I really want to see is a nation that is not ashamed of its relationship with God.”
Afterwards, attendees were singing Ben Carson’s praises.
“I thought it was amazing. It’s refreshing, it’s inspiring, it’s hope-filled and I’ll tell you what, he shows a great vision for the future of the country that we can get back to the greatness of America,” said Brad Bidde of Edmond. “He’s at the top of my list right now for sure.”
Much like homeschoolers in Iowa, the crowd was largely composed of strong social conservatives and evangelicals. The homeschooling community is one of the prized groups of supporters for Republican presidential candidates because of their ability to volunteer and network with like-minded folks.
“He was very inspirational in terms of the ideas that he had. I love the fact that he’s all about common sense and bringing our nation back to where the Founding Fathers started it all,” said Joy Alice Morrow from Tulsa. “Unequivocally yes, he has my vote.”
Afterward the event, Carson signed more books for attendees, creating another long line. OCHEC representatives were elated with their first gala celebration. They too had high praise for Ben Carson’s speech.
“Dynamite. Absolute dynamite,” said OCHEC gala organizer Marcus Hulings.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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