Clay Aiken to run for Congress in North Carolina

by AP

alt


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Former "American Idol" and "Celebrity Apprentice" runner-up Clay Aiken joined another high-profile contest Wednesday — this one to get elected to 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. 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 He said the federal health care law needs to be changed but shouldn't be repealed.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."

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 assembled 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."

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. An Ellmers campaign spokeswoman didn't respond immediately to an email request for comment Wednesday morning.



More Local

MEMORIAL DAY

WWII vets share their stories during Newnan program

Ten local veterans of World War II shared memories from the last days of that war at the annual Memorial Day program at Veteran’s Memo ... Read More


Fireworks to be rescheduled

Remembrance, patriotism, fun at Senoia Memorial Day

Senoia's 10th annual Memorial Day Remembrance and Festival was a “great day” of patriotism, remembrance, and family fun. At 3 p. ... Read More


Grantville Memorial Day

Alford says military fighting for Americans’ freedom

Memorial Day is a time for remembering those who died fighting for their country. At Grantville’s Memorial Day program, however, the f ... Read More


Also charged with terroristic threats

Son arrested after using nunchucks on father

A man was arrested Monday after he struck his father in the head with nunchucks and later told officers he wanted to become a cop-killer. Ab ... Read More


Woman injured in knife assault

Newnan police are investigating an assault that occurred last week and left a woman with multiple lacerations to both arms. About 3:40 p.m. ... Read More

Downtown Newnan Clean-Up event to be held Wednesday morning

Keep Newnan Beautiful in partnership with Main Street Newnan will be hosting a morning clean-up of the National Register Historic District D ... Read More