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The Washington Blade

Clay Aiken "Actively Considering" Run for Congress: Sources

Clay Aiken ‘actively considering’ run for Congress: sources

January 2, 2014

Clay_Aiken_insert_cMichael_Key.jpg

Clay Aiken is “actively considering” a run for Congress, sources say. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gay singer and “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken is actively considering a bid to represent North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district in the U.S. House, according to two Democratic sources familiar with his plans.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the 35-year-old Raleigh native has taken initial steps for a run, including consulting with political operatives in Washington, D.C., about a bid for the seat.

One Democratic source said Aiken made phone calls to gauge support, talked to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has met with figures in Raleigh, N.C., about a potential bid. Although it’s unclear when Aiken might formally announce a decision, the source said Aiken is “actively considering” it and “sounding and acting like a candidate.”

To help explore a run, the source said Aiken has been working with Betsy Conti, a Raleigh-based political strategist who’s worked for former North Carolina Gov. Bev Purdue and Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore in addition to serving as Maryland’s deputy labor secretary in the Glendening administration. It’s unclear whether Aiken has formally hired her or anyone else to help with his bid.

Another Democratic source said Aiken was in D.C. last month meeting with pollsters at Hart Research Association to examine polling data with one of the partners at the firm.

The DCCC hasn’t responded to multiple requests to comment about a potential Aiken candidacy in the past few weeks. Neither Conti nor the Hart Research Association responded to the Blade’s request for comment on Thursday.

Aiken himself was unable to be reached for comment. A Los Angeles-based management company known as the Firm, which reportedly represented Aiken for his music career in the last decade, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Aiken wouldn’t be the only candidate on the Democratic side to pursue a run for the House seat, which is currently occupied by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.). Former North Carolina Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco is expected to formally announce his candidacy on Monday. He formed a campaign committee to explore a run in December.

The filing deadline to participate in the primary is Feb. 28. The primary itself in North Carolina is set for May 6.

Although the polls indicate Republicans may be favored as the mid-term elections approach on a general ballot, the Democratic nominee — whether it’s Aiken, Crisco or someone else — may have a shot at the seat, which comprises Raleigh and was controlled by Democrats before the Republican surge in 2010. A House Democratic aide, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, described the second congressional district as a “winnable seat” for Democrats.

After finishing in second-place on Fox’s “American Idol” in 2003, Aiken used the prominence he gained from performing on the show to launch a successful music and Broadway career. He’s sold more than six millions copies of his albums, and, according to Forbes, made $1.5 million in 2010.

Aiken has also drawn on his fame to help promote causes as an activist. He co-founded the the National Inclusion Project, formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which seeks to help children with disabilities. Tapped as a national ambassador for the United States Fund for UNICEF in 2004, Aiken has travelled to Afghanistan, Indonesia, Uganda, Mexico, Kenya and Somalia as part of aid missions.

The singer has also taken part in LGBT activism. In 2010, the signer appeared at a briefing on Capitol Hill on behalf of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, to urge for passage of anti-bullying legislation with LGBT protections known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act.

“Like many kids now in middle schools and high schools, I was bullied,” Aiken said at the time. “I was picked on, I was called gay, I was called fag, I was called sissy, you name it. Fortunately, I was able to overcome it and live through it because of a number of friends who were supportive of me.”

Dogged by rumors about his sexual orientation during his appearance on “American Idol” and over the course of his musical career afterward, Aiken came out as a gay in 2008 by appearing on the cover of “People” magazine with his then-infant son Parker Foster Aiken.

“It was the first decision I made as a father,” Aiken told the magazine. “I cannot raise a child to lie or to hide things. I wasn’t raised that way, and I’m not going to raise a child to do that.”

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thinkprogress.org

What a Clay Aiken Congressional Candidacy Might Look Like

What A Clay Aiken Congressional Candidacy Might Look Like

BY JOSH ISRAEL ON JANUARY 3, 2014 AT 3:04 PM

ClayAiken-638x453.jpg

Clay Aiken

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/EVAN AGOSTINI

The Washington Blade reported Friday that multi-platinum singer Clay Aiken is “actively considering” a Democratic Congressional bid in his native North Carolina. While it’s not clear yet whether he’ll follow the path of Ashley Judd, who considered a Kentucky Senate run before deciding against it, or singers like Sonny Bono and Orleans’ John Hall, both of whom made it to Congress, the race he’s considering is an intriguing one.

Aiken would reportedly challenge second-term Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican elected narrowly in 2010 and re-elected with about 56 percent of the vote in 2012. Her 2010 campaign featured what Salon called “most baldly anti-Muslim ad of the year,” in which she opposed the Park51 Islamic Community Center in New York City as a “victory mosque” for terrorists. The district has a Republican tilt — about 10 points more Republican than the country as a whole according to the Cook Political Report — and gave Mitt Romney 58 percent of its vote in 2012.

Aiken, who is openly gay and campaigned against North Carolina’s marriage inequality constitutional amendment, might face an uphill battle in a state that passed the amendmentless than two years ago, by a 61 to 39 margin. A September poll found that while support for marriage equality is growing in the Tar Heel state, just 43 percent support it. Aiken would be the first out member of Congress from any Southern state. Beyond symbolism, he has a record of advocating for LGBT equality and

.

Given his involvement with education, youth with disabilities, and global youth poverty, it seems likely that programs for children would be a key focus of Aiken’s political agenda. Hiscollege degree is in special education and began his adult life as a teacher working with kids with autism. After working as a mentor to an young man with autism, Aiken and the teen’s mother founded a non-profit — now the National Inclusion Project which works to expand recreational and educational programs for children with disabilities. Aiken is current chairman of the foundation. He has also served since 2004 as a UNICEF Ambassador.

Though Aiken once observed that his “fan base is very ‘red state’ typically,” he has at times rankled some of the Republicans whose support he’d likely need to win a majority in the North Carolina 2nd District. Aiken drew criticism in 2012 from some after a later-deletedTweet in which he mocked the Republican Party for its lack of diversity. “Playing drinking game with my brother now,” he wrote. “We drink every time we see a black person on screen at the RNC convention. #soberasamormon” Country singer John Rich, a Romney supporter, blasted the tweet as “racist.”

But Aiken has some bipartisan credentials. In 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Aiken to his President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. At the time, Bush’s Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Wade F. Horn said that by the appointed, Bush was “strengthening the care, attention and services for people with intellectual disabilities.”

And he has drawn praise in the past from even birther Donald Trump. As a contestant on NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, Aiken was the runner up and drew praise from The Donald, who said he was “tough,” “smart,” and “cunning.”

After coming in second on both Celebrity Apprentice and American Idol, maybe on the third try Aiken could come in first and win in North Carolina’s 2nd District.

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thedailybeast.com

Clay Aiken Couldn't Beat Ruben Studdard. Can He Beat Renee Ellmers?

Clay Aiken Couldn’t Beat Ruben Studdard. Can He Beat Renee Ellmers?

by Ben Jacobs

The ‘American Idol’ star is reportedly considering a run in North Carolina. Why stealing hearts on TV may not translate to winning over voters in his deeply conservative home district.

The last time Clay Aiken was in an election, he received around 12 million votes and lost. If the former American Idol contender runs for Congress from his native North Carolina, as the Washington Blade reports he is considering, he’ll only need about 100,000. The problem for Aiken, a Democrat, is that he’ll have a hard time getting them.

Aiken is considering running in North Carolina’s 2nd District, a deeply gerrymandered seat that forms a somewhat-lopsided U that stretches across the middle of the state and manages to avoid both urban areas and significant concentrations of black voters.

The seat is held by second-term Rep. Renee Ellmers, who won her first election by fewer than 1,500 votes—against incumbent Democrat Bob Etheridge, who was hurt by an incident in which he pushed a Republican tracker on video in a confrontation on a Washington, D.C. street. After Ellmers’ election, the district became significantly more Republican via redistricting.

Aiken would still likely be the best candidate that Democrats could attract. He’d be able to raise a significant amount of money and draw a ton of national attention.

The question is whether Aiken would be a competitive candidate. While a Democrat does hold a similarly Republican district in the Tar Heel State, it’s Rep. Mike McIntyre, who has repeatedly voted against the Affordable Care Act and co-sponsored a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In contrast, the openly gay Aiken would have a difficult time transitioning from Broadway star to rural Blue Dog Democrat.

Even so, Aiken would still likely be the best candidate that Democrats could attract. He’d be able to raise a significant amount of money and draw a ton of national attention. Plus, Ellmers is likely to face a primary challenge: Elected as a Tea Party candidate, she’s upset some ardent conservatives with her steadfast support of Speaker John Boehner and House GOP leadership since arriving in Washington.

So far, national Democrats are staying out of the picture and letting Aiken make up his mind. David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement to The Daily Beast: “Congresswoman Ellmers is responsible for the most unpopular and reckless Congress in history that’s put the middle class at greater risk, but it’s up to potential candidates to talk about whether they’re interested in running for Congress, not us.”

Aiken has plenty of time to decide if he wants to follow in the footsteps of celebrities like Ronald Reagan, Al Franken, and Sonny Bono in running for office. North Carolina’s two-week-long filing period begins Feb. 10.

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Entertainment Weekly

Report: Clay Aiken May Run for Congress

Report: Clay Aiken may run for Congress

By Hillary Busis on Jan 3, 2014 at 11:10AM

Clay-Aiken.jpg

Image Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

Could Americans be getting another chance to cast their votes for Clay Aiken?

The answer is “possibly,” according to a new report in the Washington Blade. The article cites anonymous sources who say that the American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice runner-up is “actively considering” a bid to represent North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district, which is currently represented by Republican Renee Ellmers. (Aiken would run as a Democrat.)

According to the Blade, Aiken has been meeting with both pollsters and political figures including strategist Betsy Conti, who’s worked previously with Al Gore. The filing deadline for the district’s primary is Feb. 28.

While Aiken is best known for his post-Idol singing career — as well as fairly frequent TV appearances — a turn to politics wouldn’t come completely out of left field. He’s been an active supporter of causes and charities including the Ronald McDonald House, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, and his own National Inclusion Project for years; he was appointed a UNICEF National Ambassador in 2004 and a member of the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities in 2006. After officially coming out in 2008, Aiken also became gay rights activist. If he ran and got elected, Aiken would become the 113th Congress’s seventh openly gay or bisexual member.

Reps for Aiken haven’t yet responded to EW’s request for comment.

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wpix.com

Clay Aiken Seeking Seat in Congress?

By Erik Shute

​"American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken might be swapping out his mic for a super PAC. Speculation suggests he's making a run for Congress.

"Clay Aiken might be looking to get into politics. The 35-year-old singer is now putting a team together to run for Congress. The report says he has already got most of the staff together, and they are polling people across the state of North Carolina, where he is from, to see if they would vote for him." (Via KTRK)

Unnamed sources first talked with the Washington Blade. They said Aiken is in Washington with Democratic power players who plan to help him make a bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Blade continues:

"Although it's unclear when Aiken might formally announce a decision, the source said Aiken is 'actively considering' it and 'sounding and acting like a candidate.'" (Via Washington Blade)

Aiken would likely challenge the 2nd Congressional District seat currently filled by Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers.

And he might face a primary battle against former North Carolina Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco.

CBS News reports Crisco is expected to announce his bid next Monday. But the Blade's sources say Aiken's camp is betting his name recognition and personal wealth would give him better legs in the political race.

Several media outlets note the former American Idol also boasts a diverse background and is no stranger to the congressional floor.

MSNBC said after coming out as gay in 2008, he took a role in "LGBT activism and has spoken to Congress to urge them to pass bills that would protect LGBT students from bullying."

Fox News reports in 2006, "President George W. Bush appointed Aiken to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities."

And in Aiken's own words on his website:

"American Idol put the microphone in my hands so I could sing, but I think it's important to use that same microphone to talk about things that are important to me and to the world." (Via clayaiken.com)

We'll know soon enough if Aiken's serious. Congressional candidates running in the May 6 primary must file their campaign paperwork by Feb. 28.

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gpb.org

Clay Aiken's Political Reality: Results Mixed for Stars Like Him

Fri., January 3, 2014 3:30pm (EST)

Clay Aiken's Political Reality: Results Mixed For Stars Like Him

By Liz Halloran

Updated: 4 days ago

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Clay Aiken performs a special one night only concert at the Progress Energy Performing Arts Center in Raleigh, N.C., in March 2010.

Reality television star Clay Aiken set the political class chattering Friday with rumors that he may run for Congress.

Frozen in time as the elfin man-child of American Idol fame, the runner-up from a decade ago is reportedly considering running as a Democrat in his home state of North Carolina.

At least that's what unnamed sources, speaking with the promise of anonymity, spilled to the Washington Blade, a Washington-based gay publication.

If he gets in, Aiken will be just one in a line of reality stars aiming for political careers.

Still, the news that the now 35-year-old, out-gay dad has political aspirations was tailor-made for a social-media/reality show-obsessed culture, lighting up the Twittersphere and "Claymates" fan sites.

It's not like we haven't elected entertainers and actors before, whether it's Bedtime for Bonzo movie star Ronald Reagan or Harvard-educated Fred Grandy, who starred as "Gopher" in television's Love Boat and later was elected to Congress from his home state of Iowa.

The list of actors turned politicians is long, including Ben Jones ("Cooter" from The Dukes of Hazzard), Clint Eastwood and Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

But can the decade-ago reality show darling of pre-pubescent girls and blue-haired grannies, now a disability activist and music veteran, find love among the voters of North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District?

The second-place finisher to Ruben Studdard in the 2003 Idol singing contest, Aiken wouldn't be the first reality show participant to test the political waters. But he would be the most famous.

Aiken parlayed his American Idol climb including his makeover during the show's duration from spiky-haired special education teacher to marginally hipper version of same to an international stage as a UNICEF ambassador, a representative of gay American parenthood, and appearances on albums and Broadway.

His path has been paved by fellow semi-famous reality show cast members, who have met with mixed success.

Here are some other aspiring politicians who have used reality show fame as a springboard to attempts at elective office.

Rep. Sean Duffy: A Wisconsin Republican first elected in the 2010 GOP wave, Duffy earned his reality chops as a cast member on the MTV show The Real World: Boston in 1997. He met his future wife, a Real World: San Francisco cast member, in 1998 when they both appeared in the reality show Road Rules/All Stars. He made another appearance on Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Seasons in 2002. An accomplished log roller and speed climber, Duffy also previously worked as a prosecutor and as an ESPN sports commentator.

Duffy cruised to re-election in 2012.

Kevin Powell: Another Real World cast member, Powell twice challenged longtime Rep. Ed Towns, a Brooklyn Democrat, in primaries and lost most recently in 2010. Towns retired last year. Powell appeared on the MTV show in 1992, when it was filmed in New York.

Surya Yalamanchili: A contestant in the 2007 season of The Apprentice, Yalamanchili was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress in 2010. Running in Ohio's 2nd District, he lost to incumbent Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt.

Yalamanchili was "fired" by host Donald Trump in Week 8 of the series. Trump predicted, however, that Yalamanchili was destined for an "outstanding career."

Rupert Boneham: A veteran of several Survivor reality show iterations (his first was Survivor: Pearl Islands in 2003), Boneham ran unsuccessfully for governor in Indiana as a Libertarian in 2012. But he won more than 100,000 votes in his loss. The bearded Boneham has been described by People magazine as one of the reality show's "most iconic" characters. His wife, Laura, competed with him last year on Survivor: Blood and Water.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.__utm.gif?utmac=UA-5828686-4&utmdt=Clay+Aiken%27s+Political+Reality%3A+Results+Mixed+For+Stars+Like+Him&utme=8(APIKey)9(MDAzNTYzNDk2MDEyNDM5NTU1OTc1NDZmZQ001)

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people.com

Clay Aiken Considering Running for Congress: Report

Clay Aiken Considering Running for Congress: Report

By K.C. BLUMM

01/03/2014 at 02:00 PM EST

clay-aiken-300.jpg

Clay Aiken

ADAM NEMSER/STARTRAKS

Congressman Clay Aiken?

The American Idol finalist is "actively considering" a bid to represent North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives, a source tells Washington Blade.

The Raleigh native, 35, has reportedly talked to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and is "sounding and acting like a candidate," the source says.

While his rep didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, Aiken has been involved in several causes since coming in second on Idol in 2003.

He has traveled overseas on behalf of UNICEF, gone to Capitol Hill to support anti-bullying and anti-discrimination legislation and co-founded the National Inclusion Project to help children with disabilities.

The North Carolina primary is set for May 6, and the filing deadline is Feb. 28. If he decides to run for the seat currently occupied by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), he wouldn't be the only Democratic candidate.

Aiken hasn't referenced a possible political run on his Twitter account, but when he thanked fans for their birthday wishes on Nov. 30, he included the hashtag"oldenoughtorunforpresidentnow."

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bustle.com

Clay Aiken Running for Congress Say Reports. Say What?

CLAY AIKEN RUNNING FOR CONGRESS, SAY REPORTS. SAY WHAT?

By Sarah Hedgecock @smhedgecock 4 days ago

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Vince Bucci/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Looks like Clay Aiken, the runner-up on American Idol (and, less famously, Celebrity Apprentice) might be hoping to win another contest: the race for a congressional seat. Really. The Washington Blade reports that Aiken is “actively considering” running for the House of Representatives seat for North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district.

Hang on. What?

Yeah, this is a thing. Two Democratic sources familiar with the situation told theWashington Blade that Aiken has started consulting with political figures in Washington and Raleigh about potentially running for the office currently held by Republican Renee Ellmers. The deadline to run for the seat is at the end of February, and primaries will be held May 6.

This is serious, guys. Aiken has reportedly been working with a political strategist known for having worked with Al Gore and former North Carolina Governor Bev Purdue. Apparently, Aiken’s also met with a group of Washington polling analysts to look at polling data and assess whether a run would be a good idea — although the data show that Republicans are still likely to be favored in the midterm elections. But come on, guys! He’s Clay Aiken.

Surprising though it may seem, the run for Congress isn’t totally out of nowhere. Aiken has long been a public activist: Since appearing on the national stage, he has co-founded the National Inclusion project to help disabled children, worked as a UNICEF ambassador, and taken part in movements against bullying and LGBT discrimination. He’s even worked in Washington, appearing in 2010 at a Capitol Hill briefing on legislation to prevent the bullying of LGBT youth.

The openly gay Aiken would be a significant choice for North Carolina voters. In 2012, the state voted to ban same-sex marriages, and a sodomy law (which is, in practice, unenforceable) that remains on the state’s books.

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thewire.com

If Clay Aiken Wants to Run for Congress, He Should Move Away from North Carolina

If Clay Aiken Wants to Run for Congress, He Should Move Away from North Carolina

PHILIP BUMP

lead_large.jpg

Aiken and Tori Spelling in 2006. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

America's second-favorite American Idol contestant from the show's second season is apparently thinking about running for Congress in North Carolina's 2nd District. If he does, he'll come in second.

According to the Washington Blade, Aiken has been exploring the idea of launching a campaign for the seat that largely covers an area on the outskirts of Raleigh. It's currently represented by Rep. Renee Ellmers, who took office in 2011. The Blade reports that Aiken "talked to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has met with figures in Raleigh" about running. He's also been working with a regional strategist and apparently met with a pollster in Washington.

We can save him a bit of time and money on that poll. Ellmers is new to Congress and almost certainly has lower name recognition than Aiken. But Aiken has a number of strikes against him. (Update: As Aiken may have learned. He apparently indicated that he's not running.)

First and foremost is that between Ellmers' first and second races in the seat, it was redistricted. In 2010, she won a very close race, with a margin of only about 1,500 votes. Then the 2010 Census happened, and the district was re-drawn. In 2012, Ellmers won by 14 percentage points, with a 46,000-vote margin. And that was in an election in which the presidential race brought more people — and almost certainly more Democrats — to the polls. For any Democrat, a 2014 race against a Republican incumbent in a race that Cook Political Report deems a "solid Republican" seat would be an uphill climb.

But Aiken isn't any old candidate. He is also an openly gay man who would be running in a (politically) conservative area. In 2012, Gallup polled Americans to gauge their willingness to embrace a presidential candidate from one of a number of minority groups. Thirty percent of respondents said they would not support a gay candidate for the presidency. Only 56 percent of Republicans said they would consider such a candidate — meaning that almost half would not. These are nationalnumbers that apply to a presidential candidate, but, for a candidate that would need to pick up votes in a Republican-leaning district, that sort of obstacle could be prohibitive. (An April 2013 poll suggested that support for gay marriage in the state was heavily split along partisan lines as well, indicating that the national Gallup poll may reflect opinions in North Carolina.)

One of the biggest reasons that Aiken likely wouldn't win is that celebrity is no guarantee of political success. When Ashley Judd was considering running for the Senate in Kentucky, the Washington Post looked at previous celebrity excursions, determining that the "biggest such political wins of the last 15 years all featured the celebrity winning with less than half of the vote in an unusual race." Before that, the celebrity candidates won higher office after having some experience in politics. Aiken would be running in a normal House race with no experience. History suggests that this is not a recipe for success — political persuasion notwithstanding.

So why is Aiken even thinking about it, assuming the Blade report is correct? Perhaps because, as an AP poll out on Thursday indicates, everyone thinks they can do a better job in Congress than the sitting member of the House. Fifty-four percent of respondents to the AP poll said they would do a better job than their sitting member of Congress. Aiken has the money and time to actually think about giving that a shot.

The best investment of that time and money that Aiken could make in order to win a seat in Congress would be on a moving van. But even that would probably be a bad investment.

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nationaljournal.com

Clay Aiken Could Win a Congressional Race, If Music Salesin the District are Any Guide

Clay Aiken Could Win a Congressional Race, If Music Sales in the District Are Any Guide

The American Idol runner-up's music is most popular right near the congressional district where he's reportedly considering a run.

By Matt Vasilogambros

January 3, 2014

Clay Aiken may have gotten second place on American Idol in 2003, but he might have a good shot of winning a congressional seat in his home state of North Carolina. That is, if you're looking at music sales.

Per capita, the region in the country where Aiken's music is most popular is right near the congressional district where he could run.

Aiken, a 35-year-old pop singer whose success has dwindled in recent years, has remained a vocal supporter of gay rights and mental disabilities. But with a recent report that he is "actively considering" a run for Congress in North Carolina's 2nd District, his pulpit might get a little bigger. The seat is held by Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers and is considered a "Solid R" by The Cook Political Report, registering an R +10 in its measurements. In 2012, Ellmers won the seat with 56 percent of the vote.

However, nothing is ever certain in politics, especially in often-bizarre congressional races.

The congressional district is near two major music markets for Aiken's career. According to Nielsen Entertainment data, the Raleigh-Durham region is Aiken's best market in the country. The Greensboro-Winston Salem-High Point region, which is also near the congressional district, is the second-most-popular region for his music in the country. The Nielsen SoundScan index measures album sales and population totals.

Just take some of his major albums. Double-platinum Measure of a Man sold 85,000 albums in the Raleigh-Durham area. Platinum Merry Christmas With Love sold 51,842 albums—large figures for that area. Considering these album sales and his name recognition in the area, this could help his electoral success.

In total, Aiken has sold 237,000 albums in his home state, and more than 5 million in the U.S.

If he were to run in any place in the country, this region is the smartest, just in terms of music sales. The worst place for him to run: Albuquerque, N.M., according to Nielsen.

It makes sense that Aiken would be so popular in his home state. Home-state advantage has a tendency to reign in music. Take, for instance, the band Wilco. The band's biggest per-capita market in the country is Chicago, according to Nielsen, where its members are from.

Now, Aiken's race is not verified. He told a local reporter last week that he would not run, and the Washington Blade story that had the political world abuzz was anonymously sourced.

But if he were to run in that district, he might have a nice head start with his fan base.

And just for good measure, National Journal's Reena Flores made his first television ad:

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washingtonblade.com

Could Aiken Pull Off a Congressional Surprise?

Could Aiken pull off a congressional surprise?

January 8, 2014 |

Chris Johnson on January 8, 2014

Clay_Aiken_insert_c_Washington_Blade_by_Michael_Key.jpg

Clay Aiken‘s potential candidacy for Congress is stirring debate (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

The possibility of a Clay Aiken candidacy for Congress has generated significant buzz as political observers say the gay singer and “American Idol” runner-up has plenty to offer, although big questions remain about whether he could pull off a win.

Last week, the Washington Blade first reported that Clay Aiken was “actively considering” a run for North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district. In a follow-up report, the Washington Postconfirmed that Aiken was weighing a bid for the seat, which is currently held by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.).

Democratic sources familiar with his plans told the Blade that Aiken has spoken with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, met with political operatives in Washington and Raleigh and paid a visit to the D.C.-based Hart Research Associates to examine polling.

It’s unclear when — if at all — Aiken will make an announcement on whether he’ll pursue a bid for Congress. Via Twitter, Raleigh news affiliate WRAL-TV reported that Aiken told a station producer prior to the Blade report that he wasn’t running for Congress, but the singer hasn’t said anything about a run directly since the Blade broke the story last week.

Ian Palmquist, former chief of Equality North Carolina, said he thinks the general election in a district largely comprised of the Raleigh suburbs, will be tough for any Democrat, but not impossible for Aiken.

“Clay Aiken has some real strengths: He’s from the district, he’s a former teacher, he’s well-liked, and saying he has name recognition is an understatement,” Palmquist said. ”To be a strong candidate he would have to show voters a more policy-oriented side than they know him for now and earn the support of key primary constituencies, including African Americans.”

Palmquist added Aiken’s fame alone from his music and Broadway career after his 2003 stint on “American Idol” won’t be enough to propel him to victory.

“His fan base doesn’t necessarily align with his progressive politics, so he would have to expand his base of support significantly to succeed,” Palmquist said.

Although a Republican currently sits in U.S. House seat for North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district, the area was formerly represented by a Democrat in Congress prior to redistricting and the Tea Party boomlet in 2010.

Still, the district is favorable to Republicans. Ellmers won re-election in the district by taking 55.9 percent of the vote in the 2012 election — a year that was favorable to Democrats. Moreover, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the same year beat Obama in the district by 15.6 points.

Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, said Aiken doesn’t have a prayer in the general election against Ellmers.

“His chances of winning the general election? Probably approaching zero,” Rothenberg said. ”And that’s being generous. Both McCain and Romney carried the district easily. It isn’t competitive, especially in a midterm election with President Obama’s job approval sitting where it is nationally.”

Aiken, who came out as gay in 2008 in People magazine, also would have competition for the Democratic nomination to run for the seat. Former North Carolina Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco officially announced his candidacy on Monday. Also in the ring is Houston Barnes, an attorney.

The filing deadline to participate in the primary is Feb. 28. The primary itself in North Carolina is set for May 6.

The DCCC hasn’t responded to the Blade’s request for comment on a potential run by Aiken for weeks — before and after the initial report. DCCC spokesperson David Bergstein wouldn’t confirm his interest in running to other media outlets, including Politico, but said Ellmers deserves a challenger.

“Congresswoman Ellmers is responsible for the most unpopular and reckless Congress in history that’s put the middle class at greater risk but it’s up to potential candidates to talk about whether they’re interested in running for Congress, not us,” Bergstein reportedly said.

The Ellmers campaign declined to comment on the possibility of going up against Aiken during the general election.

Although the “American Idol” runner-up is best known for his music and Broadway career, he’s also drawn on his fame to promote causes as an activist. He co-founded the the National Inclusion Project, formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which seeks to help children with disabilities. Tapped as a national ambassador for the United States Fund for UNICEF in 2004, Aiken has travelled to Afghanistan, Indonesia, Uganda, Mexico, Kenya and Somalia as part of aid missions.

He’s also taken part in LGBT activism. In 2012, just before North Carolina voted to approve a ban on same-sex marriage known as Amendment One, Aiken appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” to speak out against the measure.

In 2010, the singer appeared at a briefing on Capitol Hill on behalf of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, to urge passage of anti-bullying legislation with LGBT protections known as the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act.

Daryl Presgraves, a GLSEN spokesperson, said GLSEN started working with Aiken four years ago, and in addition to wanting to use his platform to protect LGBT youth, he showed a specific interest in policy.

“After he gave a powerful and moving speech at a congressional briefing we held in 2010 in support of the Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act, it wouldn’t have surprised any of us at GLSEN if you told us that he would consider running for office one day,” Presgraves said. “He has a clear passion for helping others and recognizes the power to do so through policy.”

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wral.com

Source: Clay Aiken Prepping Congressional Bid

Sources: Clay Aiken prepping congressional bid

Posted January 23

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Pop singer Clay Aiken is assembling a political team for a run at the Democratic nomination in the 2nd Congressional District, sources told WRAL News on Thursday.

Aiken, a Raleigh native, is expected to make an official announcement next month, sources said.

Sources said Aiken has talked to Democratic consultants Betsy Conti, Nation Hahn and Gary Pearce about possibly helping with a run for Congress. He also has spoken with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sources said.

Former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and Durham attorney Houston Barnes have already announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination in the 2nd District, which is now held by Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers.

Ellmers also will face a primary challenge. Conservative talk radio host Frank Roche, of Cary, says she isn't conservative enough to represent the district, which Republican lawmakers redrew in 2011 to be more favorable to GOP candidates.

Aiken was the runner-up on "American Idol" in 2003 and later put out six albums and appeared on Broadway and on reality television. His most noted foray into the political arena came two years ago when he spoke out against North Carolina's constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.

Written by Cullen Browder

Copyright 2014 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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rollcall.com

Clay Aiken Prepping Congressional Bid in North Carolina

Clay Aiken Preparing Congressional Bid in North Carolina

By Emily CahnPosted at 2:58 p.m. on Jan. 23

aiken012314.jpg?resize=445%2C328

(Ethan Miller/Getty Images File Photo)

“American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken is preparing to run for Congress as a Democrat in North Carolina’s 2nd District, multiple Democratic sources confirmed to CQ Roll Call.

But his candidacy is being met with skepticism by some Tar Heel State Democrats, who are holding out hope of making it a race in this Republican-leaning district.

Aiken, a Raleigh native, is looking to take on second-term GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in the central North Carolina district, which President Barack Obama lost by 15 points in 2012. Raleigh-based WRAL reported Thursday that Aiken is building a campaign team and is expected to formally announce next month.

Democratic operatives said Aiken has met with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about the campaign. When asked, the DCCC declined to comment on whether any such meeting took place.

If Aiken gets into the race, some Democrats concede that his celebrity status would raise the profile of the race, which in turn could bring in resources. But will he be able to turn his name recognition into support?

“It’s a tough district; it’s a conservative-leaning district,” Democratic consultant Morgan Jackson said. “It’s a matter of can he tap into the base of folks who have been buying his albums for years?”

Former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and attorney Houston Barnes, both Democrats, have already entered the race.

Democratic sources said Crisco, a 70-year-old businessman and former Asheboro city councilman who launched his campaign earlier this month, offers the kind of candidate profile that would give the party a shot there — and that an Aiken candidacy could hinder Crisco’s chances.

“It’s a tough seat to begin with, and [Aiken] would have problems getting someone to take him seriously,” one neutral North Carolina Democrat said of Aiken’s candidacy.

North Carolina’s 2nd District is rated a Safe Republican contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

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huffingtonpost.com

Clay Aiken Makes Moves Toward Congressional Bid, Report Claims

Clay Aiken Makes Moves Toward Congressional Bid, Report Claims

The Huffington Post | By Ashley Alman Posted: 01/24/2014 11:31 am EST | Updated: 01/24/2014 3:59 pm EST

Following earlier claims that Clay Aiken was considering a congressional run in North Carolina, a local report says the former "American Idol" contestant is pulling together a campaign team.

Sources tell WRAL that Aiken, a North Carolina native, has consulted with Democratic strategists Betsy Conti, Nation Hahn and Gary Pearce for a potential 2014 run, and has spoken with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Earlier this month, the Washington Blade reported that Aiken was considering running for Congress. At the time, the DCCC couldn't confirm Aiken's plans, but Southern Regional Press Secretary David Bergestein told HuffPost it's no surprise Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), a controversial lawmaker in the state, has drawn opposition.

"Congresswoman Ellmers is responsible for the most unpopular and reckless Congress in history that's put the middle class at greater risk but it's up to potential candidates to talk about whether they're interested in running for Congress, not us," he said.

Ellmers' office did not respond to a request for comment.

Aiken was the "American Idol" runner-up in 2003, and came out as gay in 2008. No stranger to politics, he spoke out against North Carolina's Amendment One in May 2012, denouncing the legislation that aimed to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

"The polls in North Carolina show that over 60 percent of North Carolinians actually support some recognition for same-sex couples, be it civil unions or domestic partnerships," he said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "As North Carolinians see what it's done, and what it will do, I think they will support the fact that President Obama did speak out on principle. ... I think we'd like to see politicians speak out on principle a little bit more."

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.

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fayettevilleobserver.com

Will Clay Aiken Be Fayetteville's Next Congressman?

Will Clay Aiken be Fayetteville's next Congressman?

Paul Woolverton | Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014 1:07 pm

Update 6:05 p.m.: The Associated Press reports this evening that Clay Aiken has discussed a possible run with political advisors and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

---

The buzz in the political circles in Washington and Raleigh is that "American Idol" television show star Clay Aiken of Raleigh has decided to run for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Republican Renee Ellmers of Dunn.

Citing anonymous sources, WRAL TV in Raleigh and The Hill political newspaper in Washington say Aiken is in the race. As of this morning, there has been no official announcement.

Aiken joins former N.C. Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco, Triangle attorney Houston Barnes and counselor Toni Morris of Fayetteville in the Democratic primary.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary will have an uphill battle because the district is designed to elect a Republican.

Ellmers rode the Tea Party wave to office in 2010, defeating long-term Democratic incumbent Bob Etheridge. But now some in the Republican Party's Tea Party faction think she isn't conservative enough, and she's being challenged by conservative radio talk show host Frank Roche.

The N.C. Republican Party is already mocking Aiken.

"Clay Aiken, who was the runner-up on American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice is running for Congress? Seriously?" said NCGOP executive director Todd Poole in a news release that goes on to say Aiken narrowly lost the Idol singing competition in 2003 and the Apprentice TV show in 2012.

While Aiken and Ellmers likely are to disagree on many issues, in 2012 they both opposed North Carolina's state constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Aiken, who likely would be the state's first openly gay Congressman if elected, said in 2012 that same-sex marriage should be legal.

Ellmers in 2011 said she opposes gay marriage, but thought that the marriage amendment was wrong because it blocked same-sex couples from joining in civil unions.

If elected, Aiken will join a pantheon of celebrities-turned politicians.

These include:

  • Republican Fred "Law & Order" Thompson, former U.S. Senator
  • Democrat Al "Saturday Night Live" Franken, U.S. Senator
  • Democrat Ben "Dukes of Hazzard " Jones, former Congressman
  • Republican and singer Sonny Bono of Sonny & Cher, former Congressman
  • Libertarian Clint “Make my day” Eastwood, former mayor
  • Republican Arnold "Terminator" Schwarzenegger, former governor
  • Republican and actor Ronald Reagan, former governor and president

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lgbtqnation.com

Democratic Consultant Confirms: Clay Aiken Considering Run for Congress

Democratic consultant confirms: Clay Aiken considering run for Congress

MARTHA WAGGONER | Associated Press

Saturday, January 25, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. — Pop singer Clay Aiken, who first made a name for himself as a contestant on “American Idol,” is considering a run for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd District, a state Democratic Party consultant confirmed on Friday.

Clay-Aiken-450x304.jpg

Clay Aiken

The “American Idol” runner-up from 2003 has talked with him and other advisers and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about whether to seek the seat now held by Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, consultant Gary Pearce told The Associated Press.

The Washington Blade first reported the news earlier this month, citing unnamed sources.

“I was impressed with him,” said Pearce, who worked closely with former four-term Gov. Jim Hunt and with John Edwards’ 1998 U.S. Senate race. “He struck me as a very smart and serious person who had a sincere interest in representing his district.”

Pearce said he doesn’t know if he would be part of a campaign team if Aiken decides to run.

Aiken wouldn’t be alone in seeking the nomination. At least two Democrats — former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and Durham attorney Houston Barnes — have said they plan to run.

Ellmers, the incumbent, who won the office in 2010 as a tea party candidate, also will have competition as some Republicans have said they don’t think she’s conservative enough. Radio talk show host Frank Roche has said he plans to seek the GOP nomination.

Pearce said he thought Aiken would attract young and new voters and that his lack of previous political involvement would be a plus, especially with voters who “are disgusted with Washington.”

Aiken, who has made seven albums and appeared on reality TV and Broadway since “American Idol,” has spoken out against North Carolina’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. In 2009 and 2010, he spoke out against the Wake County school board majority that supported ending a diversity policy.

The 35-year-old Aiken is gay and has a son who was born through in-vitro fertilization. While that might be a negative in such a conservative district, Pearce said he believed most voters who wouldn’t support a gay candidate probably wouldn’t support a Democratic one either.

And voters are really concerned about one of two things, he said: “Why they work hard and can’t make ends meet or why they can’t find jobs.”

The filing deadline for the May 6 primary is Feb. 10.

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towleroad.com

More Sources Confirm Clay Aiken Prepping Congressional Bid in North Carolina

MORE SOURCES CONFIRM CLAY AIKEN PREPPING CONGRESSIONAL BID IN NORTH CAROLINA

BY KYLER GEOFFROY

Additional sources confirm pop singer and gay American Idolrunner-up Clay Aiken is assembling a political team to run for the Democratic nomination in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District, WRAL News reports:

Aiken, a Raleigh native, is expected to make an official announcement next month, sources said.

Sources said Aiken has talked to Democratic consultants Betsy Conti, Nation Hahn and Gary Pearce about possibly helping with a run for Congress. He also has spoken with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sources said.

Former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and Durham attorney Houston Barnes have already announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination in the 2nd District, which is now held by Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers.

Elmers defeated seven-term Democratic incumbent Bob Etheridge in the 2010 midterm elections. In 2011, Republican state lawmakers redrew the district to be more favorable to GOP candidates.

In 2012, Aiken spoke out against Amendment One, North Carolina’s anti-gay marriage amendment that was eventually passed by voters 61%-39%.

POSTED JAN 26, 2014 AT 7:00 PM EST BY KYLER GEOFFROY

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dailytarheel.com

Clay Aiken Considers Bid for Congress

Clay Aiken considers bid for Congress

By Lauren Kent | The Daily Tar Heel

Updated: 7 hours ago

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American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken might want to go from “Invisible” to a Congressman.

The Raleigh native is considering making a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives. He would run against GOP incumbent Renee Ellmers in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes parts of Alamance and Wake counties.

Gary Pearce, a Democratic state political consultant, said he has spoken to Aiken several times during the last month.

“(Politics) is obviously a whole new field to him, and he understands that it’s something you don’t just jump into without doing your homework,” Pearce said. “But I think he’s going about it the right way.”

Pearce said Aiken is motivated by his belief that the current political system is broken.

“I think he wants to give back,” he said. “He doesn’t need it for the glory.”

Aiken has until Feb. 28 to file the official paperwork to declare his candidacy.

Pearce said the Democratic Party needs candidates like Aiken who have the potential to bring in the youth vote.

Students interviewed who live in the 2nd District said they were surprised that Aiken was interested in politics.

Junior Alyson Grine said she was unsure of Aiken’s qualifications, but also said she realizes that celebrities have interests outside of their careers.

Aiken has a degree in special education from UNC-Charlotte and has served as a UNICEFAmbassador. He co-founded the National Inclusion Project and is involved with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Aiken came out as gay in 2008.

Grine said she doesn’t see an issue with a gay candidate, but her hometown of Pinehurst might not share her views.

“My hometown is basically a retirement home for golfers — they tend to be pretty conservative,” she said.

Still, junior Ever Castro, who is from Asheboro, said informed voters would support Aiken if he has a good platform — ideally one that focuses on major issues for the area, including job creation.

“I think they would look over his personal life and focus on his professional and political views,” he said.

But Pearce said the district’s conservatism in general could pose a problem.

“Obviously there are going to be some people in the district who would never vote for a gay candidate, but I suspect most of them would never vote for a Democrat, period,” he said.

Micah Beasley, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Democratic Party said the party will support whichever candidate wins the primary in May.

state@dailytarheel.com

Published January 27, 2014 in State

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newsandobserver.com

Clay Makes It Official: He Will Run for Congress

Clay Aiken makes it official: He will run for Congress

BY CRAIG JARVIS

cjarvis@newsobserver.com

February 5, 2014 Updated 5 hours ago

Singer Clay Aiken, 35, gears up for his campaign for the NC 2nd Congressional District's Democratic primary. Best known for his Hollywood appearances on American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice, Aiken now hopes to make mqdefault.jpg


  • CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Clay Aiken is raising his son with a partner. He does not have a partner. His son was born through in-vitro fertilization and lives with his birth mother, who shares custody with Aiken.

RALEIGH -- Singer Clay Aiken will officially announce his campaign for Congress on Wednesday, injecting a nationally known personality into what has been a quiet Democratic primary to produce a challenger to U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers.

Aiken’s decision to enter the race has already reshaped the field. Houston Barnes, a young attorney who lives in Durham, plans to announce Wednesday he is withdrawing from the race and supporting Aiken.

That leaves former state commerce secretary Keith Crisco of Asheboro and licensed professional counselor Toni Morris of Fayetteville as Aiken’s primary opponents.

In a video that will be posted online Wednesday, and in an interview with The News & Observer on Tuesday in Raleigh, Aiken portrays himself as someone who is not a politician. He emphasizes his personal story – growing up in a home torn apart by domestic violence – and says it inspired him to be a voice for the powerless.

He began on that path by teaching special education students in Wake County and – after a detour in the entertainment world – working with UNICEF. After months of exploring a Congressional bid, he recently decided to put his entertainment career on hold and run.

“I saw this as the best place I could serve, because I think Washington, in general, is dysfunctional,” Aiken said. “I think it’s high time we put people in Congress who were not beholden to their party, and not beholden to anything but the people who they live around and grew up around, in my case.”

Aiken, 35, said jobs and the economy will be important campaign themes; specifically, emphasizing education as a way to get people back to work, including through adult job retraining programs.

He said he would press Ellmers to explain her voting record that cut funding for military families. “She didn’t have to run on her record last time,” Aiken said. “I plan on changing that. I want her to have to talk about and defend some of the things she’s done to people in this district.”

Aiken said he planned to raise “the vast majority” of his campaign funds from supporters, but said he might have to use some of his own money. He still retains a fanatical fan base – known as Claymates – which in recent weeks has promoted his candidacy through an online petition.

Weighing in on the issues

A little more than a decade ago, Aiken, who grew up in Wake County, was quietly working on a college degree in special education and working at a YMCA in North Raleigh, with a singing hobby on the side. That changed dramatically in 2003, when he became a contestant on the TV show “American Idol.”

That led to several bestselling albums, other TV appearances and a role in the Broadway play “Spamalot.” He lives in a $2 million home he had built in a rural corner of the 2nd Congressional District near the Wake, Durham and Chatham county lines.

It has made him wealthy, but he has also used the money to establish a $2 million foundation to help children with disabilities.

Over the years he has weighed in on a number of controversial local issues, ranging from the Wake County School Board’s opposition to busing for diversity, to North Carolina’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Aiken in 2008 publicly declared that he was gay.

Aiken said Tuesday he doesn’t think being gay will be an issue with voters.

“People care about jobs, they care about the economy, they care about being able to pay for college,” he said. “That (his sexuality) is an issue that doesn’t affect many people in this district or this state.”

But it has already become an issue in the election. Ellmers’ campaign staff on Tuesday sized up the potential Democratic field this way:

“It speaks volumes to the state of the N.C. Democratic Party that the primary is shaping up to be a choice between the failed Perdue Administration’s Keith Crisco, a lawyer who doesn’t even live in the district, an activist who’s own party rejected her in the last democrat primary – and Aiken, a performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco than Sanford,” spokeswoman Jessica Wood wrote in an email. “Renee best represents the values of the voters in the 2nd District and remains focused on fighting for their families.”

Conservative Issues

Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University, said Aiken will have a hard time winning in the conservative district, and because of that some Democrats think he’s the wrong candidate.

“He’s going to have to pass the test of people asking him, ‘Why are you doing this? Are you serious? Are you really invested in this area?’ Those questions are going to have to be answered,” Taylor said.

The district, which has been redrawn since Ellmers’ election, may be conservative but it is evenly split along party lines, according to the latest analysis from the state Board of Elections: 36 percent Democrat, 36 percent Republican but with 28 percent unaffiliated. Unaffiliated voters choose which primary to vote in.

But Barnes, the candidate who is dropping out of the race, says Ellmers is vulnerable and Aiken is the best Democrat for the job.

Barnes, 31, said Tuesday that Aiken’s campaign consultants approached him a few weeks ago and convinced him the party’s best shot was to try to avoid a bruising primary and marshal forces against Ellmers. He said he would be making public appearances with Aiken in the coming weeks.

Neither Crisco nor Morris could be reached for comment on what Aiken’s entry into the race would mean for them.

A serious-minded person

Ellmers faces her own opposition in the primary, from investor and radio talk show host Frank Roche of Cary, who is challenging her commitment to the right. He accuses her of being part of the establishment.

Roche also says Ellmers is vulnerable and told an audience in Pinehurst last month that’s why so many Democrats have jumped into the race. When a man in the audience asked Roche if he could beat Aiken, the question drew laughs but Roche said he considered Aiken a serious-minded person with a real shot at winning the primary.

“My suspicion is if he gets in the race, he’s going to win that primary,” Roche said. “He’ll spend a lot of money, and name recognition is critical.”

Roche added that he was confident he could, in fact, beat Aiken in the general election.

Aiken and Ellmers have already tangled. Earlier this week, reacting to news that Aiken was considering entering the race, Ellmers told a Washington radio station, “Apparently his performing career isn’t going so well and he’s bored.” She then added that he was only the runner-up on “American Idol.”

Aiken, asked about her remarks, said he has spent the past decade not responding to criticism. But on Tuesday, he couldn’t resist.

“I will say it’s pretty sad that I didn’t even get a chance to get into the race before the mud started being thrown around,” Aiken said. “That’s not the kind of campaign I’m going to run. Maybe I should be flattered that she’s worried enough she thinks she needs to stomp me down.”

News researcher David Raynor contributed.

Read more here: http://www.newsobser....html#storylink

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wral.com

Clay Aiken Running for Congressional Seat

Clay Aiken running for congressional seat

Posted 5:14 a.m. today

Updated 4:33 p.m. today

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  • 57777-Untitled-2-220x165.jpg
    Clay Aiken campaign video

CARY, N.C. — Pop singer Clay Aiken officially announced on Wednesday that he will run for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd Congressional District.

In a video announcing his candidacy, Aiken referenced his time on "American Idol," saying "for most Americans, there are no golden tickets. At least not 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," Aiken said.

WRAL News first reported Jan. 23 that Aiken, 35, was assembling a political team for a congressional run. The 2nd District seat is now held by Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers.

"I don't think it was a single issue" that got him into the race, he said in an interview Wednesday. "I think it was an environment in politics, especially in Washington over the past three or four years of not getting anything done."

Aiken said in his campaign video that he believes Ellmers went to Washington, D.C., with good intentions, but she has since supported spending cuts that have impacted military families and voted for the government shutdown last fall.

"This is what's wrong with Washington," he said in the video. "That a congresswoman would go and vote against the best interests of North Carolina military families and those who depend on the military to do their jobs. To do it when you know it's wrong is even worse."

In a fundraising email that went out hours after his official announcement, Aiken called Washington "dysfunctional" and said he wants to stand up for area residents and give them a voice on Capitol Hill.

"I'm a Democrat, but I realize that our problems won't be solved by only one party or the other. It's going to require all of us," Aiken said in the email.

In his interview with WRAL News, Aiken said he thinks one person can make a difference in Washington.

"Politics isn't a place you go to get liked, but it is a place you can go to really make a difference," he said. "I think the change that can be made by one person, especially in a race like this, is to show politicians that voters are not interested in extremism on both sides, on either side, and that (voters) pay attention. We see when you're not working together. We see when you're not talking."

The North Carolina Republican Party was hesitant to criticize Aiken Wednesday, saying only in a release that voters "have no clue" on his positions on issues from the Affordable Care Act and government spending to gun control and abortion.

Former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and Durham attorney Houston Barnes previously announced plans to seek the Democratic nomination in the 2nd District, but Barnes said Wednesday that he will step aside and put his support behind Aiken.

"I have gotten to know Clay, and a friendship has formed. I like him, and I have gained a deep respect and admiration for him," Barnes said in a statement. "At this time, my stepping aside to forgo a damaging Democratic primary is vital to taking this seat back. We must unite to take this seat back from the extremists who continue to hold the middle class hostage."

Aiken was the runner-up on "American Idol" in 2003 and later put out six albums and appeared on Broadway and on reality television. His most noted foray into the political arena came two years ago when he spoke out against North Carolina's constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage.

"I'm not a politician, and I don't ever want to be one," Aiken said Wednesday. "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. Maybe we can play a small part in igniting that change across the rest of our country."

Ellmers also will face a primary challenge. Conservative talk radio host Frank Roche, of Cary, says she isn't conservative enough to represent the district, which Republican lawmakers redrew in 2011 to be more favorable to GOP candidates.

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huffpost.com

Clay Aiken Running for Congress in North Carolina

Clay Aiken Running For Congress In North Carolina

Posted: 02/05/2014 7:03 am EST Updated: 02/05/2014 11:59 am EST

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Former "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken is running for Congress in North Carolina.

Aiken said Wednesday he'll seek the Democratic nomination for the seat currently held by Rep. Renee Ellmers.

The 35-year-old Aiken is expected to face former state commerce secretary Keith Crisco of Asheboro and licensed professional counselor Toni Morris of Fayetteville in the Democratic primary.

Aiken has been a special education teacher in Wake County. He says he decided to put his entertainment career on hold and seek to represent the state's 2nd Congressional District.

He says he considers Washington to be dysfunctional and will focus on jobs and the economy and the importance of education.

Ellmers faces radio talk show host Frank Roche of Cary in the Republican primary.

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usatoday.com

Singer Clay Aiken Launches Bid for Congress

Singer Clay Aiken Launches Bid for Congress

Catalina Camia, USA TODAY3:28 p.m. EST February 5, 2014

1391450562000-clay-aiken2.jpg

(Photo: Gerry Broome, AP)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Clay Aiken was the runner-up on TV's 'American Idol' in 2003
  • He's seeking Democratic nomination to take on GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers
  • North Carolina's 2nd District was carried by Mitt Romney in 2012

Clay Aiken formally declared his bid for Congress, setting aside the singing career he launched on TV's American Idol to run as a Democrat for a North Carolina seat now held by a Republican.

In a video posted Wednesday on You Tube, Aiken alluded to the "golden ticket" that got punched when he was the 2003 runner-up on the reality singing show. He stressed his upbringing by a single mom and his days as a special education teacher in explaining that he wants to serve in Congress for people who don't have a voice.

"I'm not a politician. I don't ever want to be one, but I do want to help bring back — at least to my corner of North Carolina — the idea someone can go to Washington to represent all the people, whether they voted for you or not," Aiken said.

He is aiming to take on Rep. Renee Ellmers, chairwoman of the Republican Women's Policy Committee, who won a seat long held by a Democrat in 2010. In a radio interview last week, Ellmers dismissed Aiken's candidacy by noting, "As we know, he doesn't always fare that well. He was runner-up."

Aiken, 35, will face at least two candidates in the Democratic primary, including Keith Crisco, a former state Commerce secretary.

North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, based in the central part of the state and Fayetteville, is considered a conservative area. Republican Mitt Romney won 58% of the vote there in the 2012 presidential election.

The district's voting registration is about evenly split with 36% Democrats, 36% Republicans and 28% unaffiliated voters, according to a state Board of Elections analysis cited by the
News & Observer
.

Since garnering fame on the second season of
American Idol
, Aiken has been recording and appeared on Broadway. He spoke out against North Carolina's amendment banning same-sex marriage and has been an advocate on gay and lesbian issues. In 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Aiken to a presidential commission focused on people with intellectual disabilities.

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eonline.com (This one pretty much is a transcript of his campaign video)

Clay Aiken Running for Congress in North Carolina: "I'm Not a Politician But I Want to Invoke Change"

NEWS/

Clay Aiken Running for Congress in North Carolina: "I'm not a Politician" but I Want to Invoke Change

by ZACH JOHNSONToday 5:33 AM PST

rs_1024x759-140205050906-1024-Clay-Aiken-JR-2514.jpgYouTube

Millions of people voted for Clay Aikenduring the second season of American Idol—but will they do the same now that he's officially running for Congress in North Carolina? The runner-up confirmed his long-rumored political plans on Wednesday, Feb. 5.

"Invisible" singer Aiken, 35, hopes to oust Rep. Renee Ellmers, who currently holds the seat.

He will likely face former state commerce secretary Keith Crisco and licensed professional counselor Toni Morris in the Democratic primary. Aiken hopes to represent the state's 2nd Congressional District.

In his first campaign video, "Open Door," he begins by reflecting on his childhood in Raleigh. "I was 1-year-old, and my mother knocked on that door with only a diaper bag, the clothes on our backs and me in her arms. She needed a place to stay where she could escape from my father and start a new life. And she found that place here, in the home of a friend," he recalls. "For eight months we stayed in this living room and slept in a mattress on the floor. A tarp hung around the bed for privacy. I'm Clay Aiken, and I don't remember that time. Mom thinks that's for the best. My father could be a violent man, and he would get drunk and angry, and decide that Mom was the reason for the pain in his life. I saw later, when I was older, the pictures of her bruised face and blackened eyes in police photographs. In some ways this is where my life really began, on the floor of a living room in a small North Carolina home, where my mother and I only had each other. And she protected me, not only from my father, but from as many harsh realities as she could. And more often that not, she'd distract me with music."

"So much of who I am was shaped in those early years, and it's part of why I decided to run for Congress," the Broadway star continues. "I've been fortunate in my life, and if you only know the part of my story that begins with a golden ticket—something that still seems unbelievable to me even to this day—you might wonder what would qualify me to run. Well, it starts with a life I remember all too well: Mom working nights at Sears, clothes from the thrift store, Christmases where I might only get one small present—that would make it a present I would cherish. And school was the only chance I had to pull myself up, to achieve a dream I long held, to teach, to reach children like me and those who faced even more adversities than I did. 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."

"The years I spent as a special education teacher for students with autism was my first window into the difference a person can make in someone's life. Then it was the years I spent with UNICEF, traveling to places of heartbreak, like the war zones of Afghanistan and Somalia, where families had been torn apart and hope was sometimes hard to find. I'm a Democrat, but it's when I was appointed by President Bush to serve on a special presidential commission to address the educational challenges of children with special needs, that was when I first realized that our problems won't be solved by only one party or the other. Instead, it's going to require all of us."

Aiken adds, "My faith taught me to see the good in others, and the district where I'm running is represented by a Congresswoman who I believe went to Washington with good intentions. I'd like to believe people don't go there with anything else. But even though she knew that voting for massive cuts to the military was bad for our country and our district, she voted for them anyway, 10 times, after her party leaders told her to. And when her party leaders told her to vote for the government shutdown, she did, 21 times, even though she herself said it would be a disaster for the economy. And then she complained that she needed her paycheck. These folks hurt Carolina, they hurt our military readiness, and they led to thousands of civilians in Fort Bragg being furloughed. Cuts to childcare for 5,000 children who live on base, cuts to medical and dental clinics, and to counseling and survivor outreach for families of fallen warriors. Even free phone calls so families could call soldiers serving in Afghanistan were cut back. This is what's wrong with Washington, that a Congresswoman would go there and vote against the best interests of North Carolina military families and those who depend on the military for their jobs. To do it when you know it's wrong is even worse, and to do it because your national party told you to, well, that's what in the end convinced me that if I didn't try to do something about it, then I couldn't complain if no one else did."

"I'm not a politician—I don't ever want to be one," the single dad admits. "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. And maybe we can play a small part in igniting that change across the rest of our country. This is why I'm running for Congress. And in the weeks and months ahead, I'll need your help. We can all be like that friend who took my mother and me in, a friend who shelters those in their time of need, and who helps open a door to a new life and a renewed country for all of our people."

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washingtonpost.com

Why Clay Aiken is a Long Shot, in 3 Stats

Why Clay Aiken is a long shot, in 3 stats

BY AARON BLAKE

February 5 at 11:14 am

Former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken (D) is officially running for Congress.

But if you think the "Idol" runner-up has a good shot at beating Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and becoming the most talked-about freshman of the 114th Congress, consider these three stats:

1) Only three House Democrats represent districts that are redder than the one Aiken is seeking (it went just less than 58 percent for Mitt Romney).

2) Of those three Democrats -- two (Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) ) -- are retiring in 2014 after getting huge scares in 2012. The third, Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), has been in Congress since the mid-1970s but still finds himself in a toss-up race, despite that seniority.

3) 88 House Republicans represent districts that are bluer than Ellmers's.

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spin.com

Clay Aiken's Congressional Run is Real, and His First Ad is Spectacular

Clay Aiken's Congressional Run is Real, and His First Ad is Spectacular

Written by Marc Hogan

February 5 2014, 10:44 AM ET

Clay Aiken's reported run for Congress is actually happening, and the North Carolina Democrat's first campaign commercial is a powerfully emotional one. In the almost five-minute ad (above), the American Idol runner-up recalls his childhood experiences with an abusive father and his time working as a special ed teacher before acknowledging his exceptional rise to fame, portraying himself as a centrist, and criticizing incumbent representative Renee Ellmers. "For most Americans, there are no golden tickets — at least not the kind you see on TV," Aiken says, sitting in the house where he grew up. "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." Look, it's a political ad, but by those standards, it looks very, very good. Good enough to carry a district that Mitt Romney won by 15 points? Ask Ruben Studdard. Still, that was from the heart — we felt that right here, dawg.

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