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# 65: "Clay Aiken's Not Just Any Joe"


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Saunders: Are there more Claymates or Renee-mates in District 2?

By Barry Saunders

bsaunders@newsobserver.com February 5, 2014 Updated 18 hours ago

At least this time, there are no brothas standing in his way.

The last two times Clay Aiken has vied for a top spot first on American Idol, then on Celebrity Apprentice he came in second behind Ruben Studdard and Arsenio Hall, respectively.

Should he win the Democratic primary for North Carolinas 2nd Congressional District, Aikens potential election opponent could be even more formidable, considering that she would have both the advantage of incumbency and a district that was tailored to her beliefs whatever they are.

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers lacks the girth and singing range of Studdard and the celebrity wattage of Hall, but she has been in office for one term. And figures from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics show that in 2012, 90 percent of congressional incumbents were re-elected. The good news for Aiken is that thats down from 2004, though, when 99 percent were re-elected.

Still, Ellmers undeniably appears worried that Clay may be a worthy opponent. She was, as he proudly pointed out, attacking him even when his candidacy was still a rumor.

As soon as it became official, Ellmers spokeswoman Jessica Wood took to email to call Aiken a performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco than Sanford.

Cmon, Jessica. Thats not even a dog-whistle: thats a full-on sic em, boy.

Perhaps Wood can enlighten the electorate on what people in San Francisco want that people in Sanford dont.

Oh, I get it: Clay is gay and San Francisco is hailed and yes, demonized for its acceptance of gay culture. Hmmm. Is Wood insinuating that there are no gays in Sanford?

I know at least one, and hes a great guy.

Mark Twain never said, as is often attributed to him, that the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. I do know, though, that I nearly froze out there in late August one year.

Ive also spent time in Sanford, and the desires and aspirations of the residents of both cities seemed indistinguishable jobs, affordable housing, a responsive government that works. The dude has barely dipped his toe into the political pool and already Ellmers camp is trying to separate the country into them vs. us.

Oy. Maybe Renee does, as Wood said, best represent the values of the voters in the 2nd District and remains focused on fighting for their families. If her opening re-election salvo is an attack on a political novice, though, one might conclude that she hasnt been fighting for families as effectively as she should have been.

What Rep. Ellmers has done is vote 40 times to defund Obamacare. Had she fought for jobs for her constituents with that same ferocity and earnestness, no one would dare even enter the race against her.

Of course, among some voters, opposing anything the president stands for is reason enough to support a candidate. Ellmers is likely counting on those Renee-mates to offset Clays legendary Claymates who are eligible to vote in the 2nd District.

Policy issues notwithstanding, political science professor Liz Fournier of St. Augustines University said, Personality has been an important criterion to the voters and has been key to Ellmers success. So in that case (Aikens) celebrity will help him, she said.

Wont his stand on the issues be as important as his personality and celebrity? I asked hoping shed say yes.

She didnt. I wish I could say yes to that, Fournier said, In my classes, I always try to teach critical thinking and to emphasize how important it is to analyze candidates stances on issues. ... (M)y experience has been that personality often outweighs objective analysis.


Idol host Ryan Seacrest once boasted yes, boasted on the show that more people had cast ballots for the next Idol than had voted in the then-just-passed presidential election.

Thats great for Seacrest, but anyone who cares about democracy ... would have to cringe at that, Fournier said, cringing.

(To vote for Idol, though, you dont even have to leave your couch and you can do it multiple times.)

Regardless of Aikens stand on the issues, his willingness to forgo the cushy life of a beloved celeb and get personally involved in politics is encouraging. Arsenio, Clays Celebrity Apprentice nemesis, tweeted his encouragement Wednesday: Run Clay run!!! Ruben, his Idol opponent, tweeted, Please support my friend @clayaiken.

Ellmers will have ample time to go after Aikens record, his lifestyle or anything she wants. For now, though, the statesmanlike thing to do would be to welcome him to the race and say she looks forward to debating him on the issues.

Tee-hee. I forgot for a second who I was talking about.

One detractor wrote on a website announcing Clays candidacy that he was unqualified, his candidacy a joke.

Qualifications? Well, lets talk about qualifications.

Ronald Reagan, considered the patron saint of rational Republicans, was a laughably bad actor before he entered politics.

Aiken is a better singer than Reagan was an actor, and look where Ronnie Baby ended up politically.

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One more, this one from WNCN, a local TV station. There's a couple of videos, the one they edited, and a long version that's over 11 minutes! (I'm only linking to the page, but the videos are below the picture of Clay and the reporter.)

Clay Aiken: Not being a politician will be a 'strength' in run for Congress

Posted: Feb 05, 2014 5:42 AM EST

Updated: Feb 05, 2014 5:46 PM EST

by WNCN Staff

CARY, N.C. -

Former "America Idol" contestant Clay Aiken announced Wednesday that he will run as a Democratic candidate for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District.

Aiken made the announcement in a video which was released Wednesday morning.

In an interview with WNCN Wednesday, Aiken said he was frustrated with Republicans and Democrats in Washington who are getting nothing done, and said the culture there needs to change.

He said he wants to run a grass roots campaign that focuses on issues, not personalities.

Aiken also said the fact that he is not a politician is "part of my strength." He said his background as a special education teacher is significant and that education is important to him.

"I went to school to be a teacher," he said. "Education is incredibly important to me. Speaking up for people who don't get spoken up for is incredibly important to me."

In the video, Aiken said, "For most Americans, there are no golden tickets. At least not like the kind you see on TV. 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."

Watch: Clay Aiken for North Carolina

In the video, the singer talks about growing up in North Carolina and his work as a special education teacher for students with autism.

In 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Aiken to a two-year term on the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

"That was when I first realized that our problems won't be solved by only one party or the other," Aiken says in the video.

Aiken will run in the Democratic primary first and, if successful, would face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in the election.

The primary is May 6. Keith Criscoe, a former Commerce secretary in the Beverly Perdue administration, also has announced he will run for the Democratic nomination.

The district is one of that was substantially changed during the recent redistricting and is heavily Republican. The Cook Political Report calls it the 98th most Republican district in the country. The Hill, a political website, has ranked Ellmers as the No. 2 member of the House of Representatives most helped by redistricting.

Republican Mitt Romney dominated the presidential voting in the district in 2012, winning 57.3 percent to President Barack Obama's 41.7 percent, according to the Daily Kos website.

The district includes the western parts of Wake County, sweeps down through Dunn to Fayetteville and then includes Sanford, Southern Pines and as far west as Asheboro.

Ellmers made headlines recently with some comments about Aiken on a Washington radio station.

On Jan. 29, the Congresswoman spoke to WMAL in Washington. While talking with the host, Ellmers had harsh words for Aiken, saying, "Apparently his performing career is not going so well. He's very bored."

Ellmers' comment wasn't received well by one person in Cary Wednesday.

"I'm a registered Republican and really conservative, and her actions, thoughts and statements about him are just mindless," said Marc Edwards. "They're just not intellectual statements, and so she's going to get her butt kicked in the upcoming election."

Aiken earned his degree in special education at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. He now lives near Cary.

I hope the bolded part holds true for more folks.

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I thought I would try to get all the articles, and I just cannot keep up. Thanks jmh for pointing me in the direction of a few more.

And then, I have to catch up on the tweets again!

I actually made the banner! Woohoo!!!!!!!! Thanks Fear!

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Two things:

1) That group of people with the selfie? THOSE are among the voters he's aiming for. If he can get them excited about his candidacy, he's got it.

2) Curtis Brown retweeted the Harnett County picture. Since people think he's mad at Clay for the photography kerfuffle a few years ago, I think this bodes well. *g*

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Sincerity becomes apparent. From being apparent, it becomes manifest. From being manifest, it becomes brilliant. Brilliant, it affects others. Affecting others, they are changed by it. Changed by it, they are transformed. -Confucius

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@clayaiken: I also met up with educators in Fayetteville as they left for Raleigh this morning. They were fired up. #clayfornc

And retweet

@DeaganWilliams: "We are sending @kayhagan back to Washington and sending @RepReneeEllmers back to Dunn."

-@ClayForNC #NCPol #NC02

Back at ya ldyj

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Me too merrieeee. I thought of it, of that Confucian concept, looking at those photos today. He's going to spend the next few months convincing people by his mere presence, because he is sincere.

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Picture to match the one tweet:


This one is from Twitter:


Clay Aiken is now a Member of CCAE NCAE NEA pic.twitter.com/AbJGkFqNx0


(North Carolina Association of Educators)

This one is from his official Facebook page:


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Wow, just catching up, but haven't read many of the articles posted, just too many! Also haven't seen any interviews yet because I've been having issues with my internet at home. Finally went and got a new power adapter for my router, and that seems to have fixed things. I've been spending most of my time watching the Olympics on TV.

Love all the pictures, love that he's out campaigning and meeting people. It's a Claypalooza!

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