Ben Carson rallied party faithful during a campaign stop in Southwest Florida, using the event as a chance to urge them to get out the vote for Republican candidates this election cycle.
Carson was in Cape Coral on Tuesday to campaign with Francis Rooney, a Naples Republican vying to replace Curt Clawson in the U.S. House. But the one-time Republican presidential hopeful also called Southwest Florida voters to support Donald Trump, and do their part keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.
“The time has come where we have to start acting like the patriots of old,” said Carson to a crowd of about 400 supporters. “This is our time right now.”
Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, announced last month he was backing Rooney in Florida’s 19th Congressional District. The two men campaigned in Cape Coral, one of Southwest Florida’s largest cities.
“This country was designed for citizen statesman like Francis Rooney, not career politicians like Hillary Clinton,” said Carson.
The two men met through mutual friends, including some who live in Southwest Florida. Carson said he decided to support Rooney’s congressional bid because they shared a similar vision for the country.
“I think America needs to change directions. We’re the country that began with limited government and fleeing oppression, and now we’re welcoming oppression to ourselves. We’re the people that created free speech, and now we’re afraid of free speech,” said Rooney after the event. “We need to take our country back and turn it into the economic engine of prosperity and freedom that created the American Dream, that created the opportunities I had.”
The congressional run marks the first time Rooney, a prominent Republican fundraiser and the former ambassador to the Holy See, has run for public office. He’ll face Republicans Dan Bongino and Chauncey Goss in the Aug. 30 primary.
Rooney has put $1.5 million of his own money into the race, and his campaign has been flooding the airwaves with advertisements. He’s also been racking up big-name endorsements, including ones from Gov. Rick Scott and Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO and another 2016 presidential hopeful.
While Carson was in Cape Coral to stump for Rooney, he also used the event as a chance to encourage Southwest Florida voters to come out in support of Trump come November. He defended the Republican nominee, and said he believed Trump is “coming to the understanding that he needs to concentrate on the issues.”
“There’s way too much emphasis on personalities,” said Carson. “We need to start concentrating on the issues and get away from the name calling and the personalities. This election is about so much more. It’s about major shifts in what we’re going to be as a nation.”