By ED WHITE
DETROIT (AP) — Retired surgeon Ben Carson declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination Monday, resting his longshot bid on his vision of the nation as “a place of dreams” where people can thrive when freed from an overbearing government.
Carson, the only African-American in the race, spoke in front of hundreds of people at Detroit Music Hall, a few miles from a high school that bears his name. A choir singing the chorus from Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” set the stage.
He told supporters that he’s not anti-government but believes Washington has exceeded its constitutional powers.
“It’s time for people to rise up and take the government back,” he said. “The political class won’t like me saying things like that. The political class comes from both parties.”
The former head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins hospital has never run for public office. But he’s a star among some conservatives and will try to parlay his success as an author and speaker into a competitive campaign.
He told his rally: “I’m Ben Carson and I’m a candidate for president.”
Carson was the second White House hopeful to get into the Republican race Monday. Former technology executive Carly Fiorina declared her intent to run earlier in the day.
Carson earned national acclaim during his 29 years leading the pediatric neurosurgery unit of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, where he still lives. He directed the first surgery to separate twins connected at the back of the head. His career was notable enough to inspire the 2009 movie, “Gifted Hands,” with actor Cuba Gooding Jr. depicting Carson.
“I see myself as a member of `we the people,”‘ he told The Associated Press in an interview earlier this year, arguing that his lack of experience is an asset.
The 63-year-old Detroit native remains largely unknown outside of conservative activists who have embraced him since his address at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, where he offered a withering critique of the modern welfare state and the nation’s overall direction.
The speech restated themes from Carson’s 2012 book “America the Beautiful,” but he excited conservatives by doing so with President Barack Obama sitting just feet away.
Carson is a staunch social conservative, opposing abortion rights and same-sex marriage, views he attributes to his Christian faith.
He has more complex views on health care and foreign policy, including statements that could put him at odds with the most conservative branches of his party.
He has compared the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislative achievement, to slavery. Yet Carson also has blasted for-profit insurance companies; called for stricter regulations — including of prices — of health care services; and said government should offer a nationalized insurance program for catastrophic care.
Associated Press writer Bill Barrow contributed to this report from Atlanta.
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