CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- If you wanted to dine with Republican almost-front-running presidential candidate Ben Carson Wednesday evening at the Independence Golf Club in Midlothian, you needed to bring $500 to $2,700. Not to mention passing muster with his new Secret Service detail, plus Chesterfield and State police who were on hand to keep things secure while the famous neurosurgeon ate his heart-healthy salad, met local folks and spoke about how he'll strengthen and unite this land.
But not everyone paid to get in.
Huge Ben Carson fan Kathy Ehli got waved in because she's the chaperone - and grandmother - of young Miss Powhatan County Fair, Monroe Hill.
Monroe, 12, found the speech "very informative and helped me connect with him."
Her grandmother absolutely loved it. "I think he stands for the values we want in this country.
Richmond artist Jerome Jones Jr. not only got waved in, he got to visit with the doctor and watched him sign the portrait Jones had painted of Carson in 2005, after being inspired by his books and his famous conjoined twins separation surgeries, not all of which were successful.
For 40 years, Jones has been painting and then meeting "pioneers in their field."
Ben Carson joins Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Willie Mays, Cal Ripkin Jr., among many others in Jones' body of work.
"I'm just inspired by his life story," he said of Carson.
Would he vote for him?
Jones laughed. "I'm not a political person," he said. "I'm praying for him though."