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North Carolina

Clay Aiken announces bid for U.S. Congress

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. — Former “American Idol” and “Celebrity Apprentice” runner-up Clay Aiken joined another high-profile contest Wednesday – this one to get elected to the U.S. Congress in his native North Carolina.

Aiken announced he would seek the Democratic nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat currently held by Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers.

Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken

The entertainer is talking about his non-singing career as a special education teacher, UNICEF representative and presidential commission member on education while explaining his reason for getting in the race.

In each situation, “I saw a group of people, a population that was not being served,” Aiken told The Associated Press in an interview.

In a video unveiling his bid, Aiken referred to his “golden ticket” – finishing as the runner-up to Ruben Studdard in TV’s 2003 “Idol” competition, which has led to several albums and a role in a Broadway musical. But he said he empathizes with those struggling in the 2nd District where he lives, referring to his upbringing by a mother who fled domestic violence.

“For most Americans, there are no golden tickets – at least not like the kind you see on TV,” he says to the camera. “More families are struggling today than at any time in our history, and here in North Carolina, we’ve suffered more than our share of pain.”

Aiken, 35, is expected to face former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco of Asheboro and licensed professional counselor Toni Morris of Fayetteville in the Democratic primary in May. Another Democratic hopeful – Houston Barnes of Durham – gave up his bid Wednesday and threw his weight to Aiken. Official candidate filing begins next week.

Aiken said that he considers Washington dysfunctional and that he would focus on jobs, the economy and education. He said the federal health care law needs to be changed but shouldn’t be repealed. He supports abortion rights and considers his political philosophy in the broad middle between political extremes – he said he was once a registered independent voter.

“I’m not a politician. I don’t ever want to be one,” he says in the video. “But I do want to help bring back – at least to my corner of North Carolina – the idea that someone can go to Washington to represent all the people, whether they voted for you or not.”

Watch:

Winning in the 2nd District will be a challenge. Political experts consider the district, which covers all or parts of nine counties west and southwest of his native Raleigh, Republican-leaning. Mitt Romney won 58 percent of the vote in the district in 2012, according to a North Carolina Chamber analysis.

Ellmers, a two-term congresswoman, faces her own primary challenge from radio talk show host Frank Roche of Cary, and she has been criticized by tea party forces who helped her get elected as not conservative enough. Aiken said he examined the district’s makeup for more than a year and has assemble d a veteran Democratic political team.

Aiken announced in 2008 that he is gay. He has a 5-year-old son conceived through in-vitro fertilization with a female friend. He said in the AP interview that he doesn’t believe his sexual orientation will play a role in whether or not people vote for him: “There are dozens of issues that are important to the people living in the district, and that is not one of them.”

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John Davis, a longtime political researcher in North Carolina, said Aiken stands a decent chance to win the primary, but the district boundaries drawn by Republicans will make it difficult for any Democrat to win in November. Davis said Aiken’s sexual orientation will matter to some voters.

“It’s not going to be an issue that people are going to talk openly about,” Davis said.

Aiken criticized Ellmers in the video for what he called repeated votes to cut military spending – the campaign said later the votes were related to automatic spending reductions – and for the government shutdown. The district includes Fort Bragg.

The district includes Fort Bragg. An Ellmers campaign spokeswoman didn’t respond immediately to an email request for comment Wednesday morning.

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67 more reader comments:

  1. GOD NO.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:41pm
  2. Why not?

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:43pm
  3. Ivel, google who is running against before you say that..we are talking NC

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:44pm
  4. Lones, I am from NC. And, quite frankly, I dont know who is worse. Aiken would make a totally incompetent statesmen, and his opponent is clearly anti-gay. Pick your poison.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:46pm
  5. maybe he can win votes. I think we need to support each other whenever we can. GO CLAY!

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:50pm
  6. No matter what I feel about this, I’m glad to see him doing it: it pushes forth that no matter what people say about this community, we can accomplish our dreams and hopes to make things better, no matter what. He’s doing it through his own means, no one else’s.

    I wish him all the luck in the world!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:43pm
  7. LOL!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:43pm
  8. hell yea thats what im talkign about

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:43pm
  9. I wish him all the best… But I don’t see him winning. :/

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:43pm
  10. Who?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:43pm
  11. As long as he sings everything he says in congressional meetings, I approve.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:44pm
  12. Lol ,

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:44pm
  13. Good luck, I hope that you keep your integrity and hire armed body guards to protect you. Hugz!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:45pm
  14. No really…. I can’t stop laughing!!!! LMFAO!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:45pm
  15. Why does everyone think that because they have some sort of notoriety it’s incumbent upon them to run for office?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:45pm
  16. Because it's better than the alternative! Look at the crap attorneys, that have become lawmakers. I don't think they have done a good job either, otherwise we would have equality!

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:05pm
  17. I don’t think celebrities are good choices to vote in, no matter the sexual orientation. He has no background in politics.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:45pm
  18. His background is in education, and all politicians had to start somewhere. Nobody is born a politician, and I'm sick of attorney's trying to dictate our lives.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:02pm
  19. "I'm sick of attorney's trying to dictate our lives" - Eye- Opener statement Donni

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:31pm
  20. oh my goodness

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:45pm
  21. lgbt aşktır

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:45pm
  22. Clay Aiken, despite being known for his music, is actually an educated man with a degree in Education from UNC Chapel Hill. He’s as qualified as any and NC needs a strong popular liberal voice badly.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:47pm
  23. A singer, why not? We already have enough comedians in Congress.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:47pm
  24. He will do well.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:49pm
  25. Anyone who battled the education system survives it and graduates has learned a lot about pollitics!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:49pm
  26. He’s smart, he’s motivated, and he cares.
    Go for it, Clay!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:49pm
  27. Anastasia is right. He works with special needs children. Bush appointed him to a commission once.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:50pm
  28. He should run under the realist party

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:50pm
  29. He is a realist in my book at least .

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:51pm
  30. What? Why? Has he held any other type of office? If not then this a stupid.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:51pm
  31. Someone has to start somewhere, and why not, the examples of lawmakers of today are absolutely horrible! Go Clay....my daughter lives there, and extended family.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:01pm
  32. As a Queer person, I’m thrilled! As a person who actually watched his season on American Idol, and his season on Celebrity Apprentice, I’m LMAOing.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:52pm
  33. Please no! This has nothing to do w being gay it has EVERYTHING to do w the fact that we DON’T need another person who knows nothing & has no experience in politics trying to be in office. This is a fail.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:52pm
  34. Originally politics were not the people that went to school they were the people that volunteered there time and dedicated. Take Ben Franklin and the printing press.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:16pm
  35. Way to go Clay. You would and will do a EXCELLANT job if and when elected.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:53pm
  36. At least he’s doing it for the right reasons…unlike most career politicians. If I lived in NC I would vote for him over the ignorant Republican (Ellmers) currently holding the seat.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:53pm
  37. Awesome. If I lived there I would vote for him.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:54pm
  38. I really hope people give him a chance. I live in NC, and I will be voting for him because we need him. He has a degree in special education and taught in one of the largest school systems in the country, has spoken in front of Congress numerous times about bullying in our schools, established and helps run(along with his mother) The Inclusion Project which is a very successful charity for special kids, and is a whole lot more intelligent than people give him credit for. He could make such a difference here. He will have a lot of opposition due to being gay, but I am hoping that those of us with more progressive views outnumber the ones who don’t. And Ellmers is beyond awful. Like Palin awful.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 4:55pm
  39. What really ?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:00pm
  40. Go head with your bad self I’ll tell my cousins to vote for you.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:03pm
  41. Love you Clay! Rock on! You know you can do anything you set your mind to!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:05pm
  42. Going straight for Congress huh?

    What was he doing beforehand?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:05pm
  43. Need a husband

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:07pm
  44. Tina Meek Dennis thought of you

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:08pm
  45. I wish more celebrities would get into politics rather than just being activists

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:08pm
  46. win

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:09pm
  47. Congrats Clay! I know you will do a fine job!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:22pm
  48. too creepy. won’t win.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:23pm
  49. I feel the LGBTQ people are all for this. Why? I’m gay and I think this is a HORRIBLE idea! We need meet scientists, ecologists, mathematicians and other higher educated people running the show. Not closet-cased celebrities. This is a shame.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:30pm
  50. Emily Wagner

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:33pm
  51. Why.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:35pm
  52. Oh Please.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 5:40pm
  53. LMFAO!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:10pm
  54. Good luck! Renee Elemers needs to go!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:51pm
  55. Good on you….

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:52pm
  56. Doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning. Maybe he should try for a real job instead.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:55pm
  57. Love it. You rock!! Intelligent, empathetic, ethical and kind.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 6:59pm
  58. In North Catolina..that is so courageous! Kudos Clay Baby!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 7:11pm
  59. what district? I really hope it’s mine!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 7:38pm
  60. wow hes 35? lol

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 8:03pm
  61. I’m on his side, but just being realistic…unfortunately, he doesn’t have a chance in hell against that bitch. The playing field is already very much in her favor. Quite frankly, I don’t know why he’s wasting his time.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 8:25pm
  62. Go get ‘em, Clay.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 8:29pm
  63. He COULD NOT be worse than the Teapublican asshat from his district.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 8:34pm
  64. He sucks

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 8:36pm
  65. You go Clay, Yaaaa do good, love a fan;)

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 9:14pm
  66. Please don’t even try!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 9:25pm
  67. Good luck, Clay!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 9:56pm