Ben Carson, a University alum and renowned neurosurgeon, announced his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race Monday afternoon.
Carson, who will seek a nomination from the Republican Party, said he is not focused on votes, but rather is asking the voting public to consider his ideas and views.
“I’m not even asking people to vote for me. I’m just asking people to listen,” he said. “The real pedigree we need to heal this country is someone who believes in our constitution.”
The 63-year-old is anticipated to be the only African American entering the pool of candidates vying for the Republican nomination. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky are also seeking Republican nominations.
Several unannounced candidates for the Republican nomination remain, including Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Last week, Snyder released a statement saying he was considering running, and he will make a formal decision within the “next couple of months or so.”
A Detroit native, Carson has never run for public office, but earned national recognition during his leadership in the pediatric unit of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.
“I’m not politically correct, and I will probably never be politically correct,” Carson said. “I’m not a politician, I don’t want to be a politician. Politicians do what’s politically expedient. I want to do what’s right.”
At 33, Carson was the youngest director of the center’s pediatric unit. In 1987, Carson performed the world’s first operation to separate twins who were conjoined at the head. The success of the operation was the subject of the autobiographical film “Gifted Hands,” in which Carson was portrayed by actor Cuba Gooding Jr.
Carson holds conservative political views, which he attributes to his Christian faith and upbringing. Opposing both abortion and same-sex marriage, he has made many notable appearances before the Christian community, including at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast.
Carson’s speech at the breakfast, of which Obama was in attendance, was considered critical of the Obama administration’s health care policy. The speech earned him support from the conservative community. Carson encouraged a program in which newborn babies are given health savings accounts as an alternative to Obamacare.
“When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record and a health savings account to which money can be contributed — pretax — from the time you’re born ’til the time you die,” Carson said. “When you die, you can pass it on to your family members, so that when you’re 85 years old and you got six diseases, you’re not trying to spend up everything. You’re happy to pass it on and there’s nobody talking about death panels.”
Carson has also called for developing oil and energy in the United States, arguing that petroleum independence would deplete funding for terrorists groups in the Middle East. He has also endorsed a flat income tax rate, an idea he compared to 10 percent tithing that appears in the Bible.
Despite gaining much support from conservatives for his public critiques of the president, Carson has had several public blunders.
In 2014, Carson withdrew from speaking at the Johns Hopkins commencement ceremony after students protested comments he made comparing gay men and women to pedophiles.
A March interview with CNN garnered much negative feedback after Carson said being gay is an absolute choice because many inmates who go to prison straight are gay when they are released.
Carson has also compared the Affordable Care Act to slavery, saying it “robs you of your own ability to control your own life.” This statement and others he made comparing the U.S. government to Nazi Germany have made him the subject of additional criticisms.
During remarks at the Detroit Music Hall on Monday morning, Carson addressed criticisms alleging he wants to scale down on welfare programs
“There are many people who are critical of me because they say Carson wants to get rid of all the safety nets and welfare programs even though he must’ve benefited from them. This is a blatant lie. I have no desire to rid of safety nets for people who need them. I have a strong desire to get rid of programs who create dependency in able-bodied people.”
Carson will be the first African American to represent the Republican Party in the presidential race if he wins the party’s nomination.