GREENVILLE — Scott Carlton was perhaps the unlikeliest of guests at former President Donald’s Trump’s speech in Greenville this past Saturday, after winning a campaign-contribution raffle.
Carlton, a just-retired doctor who lives in the northern Idaho town of Coeur d’Alene, had less than 48 hours to get from his home to the Greenville Convention Center.
He said he found out on Thursday that he, in fact, was the winner.
“I got a text message, which I get a lot of political text messages, and I’ve entered a few of them before. I usually don’t donate to anybody I can’t vote for, but I decided to go ahead and enter,” Carlton told North State Journal in an interview.
“I got a call from Phillip [a staffer at the NCGOP], and it was a North Carolina phone number. So, I almost didn’t answer it, because I tend not to answer anything out of state. It was just a few days before [the convention], and I wasn’t the initial winner. I was the second alternate, but the initial winner couldn’t come, and the first alternate never responded. I didn’t really find out I was coming until Thursday.”
Once Carlton said he would come, he really had to hustle because he was responsible for getting to the venue on his own.
“So I called about flights into Greenville. There was one available, and it was a four-leg flight here and a four-leg flight back — 17 hours each way. I really don’t want to do that,” he said laughing. “So I looked at Raleigh. I didn’t think it would be too difficult, because I planned on renting a car anyway.”
With his flight reserved, Carlton figured a 90-minute drive from RDU to Greenville wouldn’t be too bad.
“I looked at car rentals and there were no cars anywhere, none, not a single one of the rental companies had a single car out of Raleigh. So I figured, ‘Well, this is going to be interesting.’”
Carlton said he was added to drop-out lists for cars, but none were available.
Hotel rooms, it turned out, were also hard to come by.
Greenville not only was hosting Republicans from across the state, but East Carolina University was hosting a College World Series regional, and Pitt County High School graduations were also scheduled for the same weekend.
“I Lyfted [used the ride-sharing service Lyft] from Raleigh to Greenville and I couldn’t get a hotel room. And, the closest thing I found was one hotel in Little Washington. So that’s where I’m staying, and I’m Lyfting everywhere.”
Carlton said he looked forward to both Trump’s speech and the lunch speech to the convention by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. He said he was just happy to be in Greenville and to see two well-known national figures.
“I had been to one of the state of Washington’s conventions, way back when, when I was living there. I hadn’t been to one in a while, and I just recently retired. I said, what the heck; I got the time. I’m not doing anything.”
He also entered a donation raffle to golf with President Trump in Florida but wasn’t as lucky on that one.
“You assume that somebody did win it, and somebody did go and play golf. But I didn’t really have any expectations. My kids thought I was crazy,” said Carlton.
Carlton has been an avid traveler throughout his life. He’s been to 49 of the 50 states, with plans to see the 50th — Maine.
Before moving to Idaho, he worked in Spokane, Washington, and now, he and all of his children live in Coeur d’Alene. Carlton said that the area, and a lot of Idaho, is seeing a surge in population growth.
Carlton attended Emory University in Atlanta and said he missed visiting the South.
“The first thing I noticed was the humidity again, being thirsty. I love the countryside in the South, the brick houses and big lawns. To me, it’s awesome. Totally different than the west coast,” he said.
For Carlton, the 2,600-mile journey to the convention was also noteworthy because he celebrated his 70th birthday over the weekend.