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We Humbly Apologize For Mocking Clay Aiken's Congressional Run Because His Campaign Announcement is Really Great

WE HUMBLY APOLOGIZE FOR MOCKING CLAY AIKEN’S CONGRESSIONAL RUN BECAUSE HIS CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCEMENT IS REALLY GREAT

by Lisa Needham on February 5, 2014 at 11:31 am in Culture, Music, TV

We’ve been laughing along with everyone else at the idea of Clay Aiken running for Congress, and shared the sentiment of his opponent, Tea Party Congresscritter Renee Ellmers, who pointed and laughed and said Aiken couldn’t even win “American Idol.”

We have to eat some words because his campaign announcement is kinda the real deal.

Let’s get this important caveat out of the way: we would support a garden implement or a steering wheel or a used Kleenex in a run against Ellmers, because she is the lady that helped shut down the government but then snottily pointed out that she needed her paycheck unlike all those dumb federal employees, and she was also the gun nut whose AR-15 got stoled when her hubby left it unsecured post-target shooting, like you do. That said, Aiken running seemed like a sad bid to grasp the last moments of a fame that faded rapidly post American Idol loss, when he was reduced to performing on those terrible American Idol tours and seemed to have only the support of the sad lonely older lady demographic. So we are pleasantly surprised — extremely surprised, to be honest — to find that his campaign announcement hits every highlight a Democrat would need to get elected in North Carolina, especially if that person is already a gay pop star.

  • Genuinely impoverished humble beginnings and a father who abused his mother? Check.
  • Strong focus on fact that Ellmers has cut support for military members and their families to the very bone? Check.
  • Reminding people he’s a Christian? Check.
  • Letting people know he was a special education teacher before he did American Idol? Check.
  • Acknowledging that most people only know him from American Idol and he realizes that means they might not take him seriously? Check.
  • Being really nice about his opponent, stating that he knows she has a good heart, before pivoting to a laundry list of bad things she has done? Check.
  • Getting all bipartisan and saying that political solutions require both parties? Check.
  • UNICEF travel to war torn areas? Check.
  • Burnishing work-across-the-aisle credentials by saying he was appointed by President Bush to an educational commission focusing on special needs children? Check.
  • Even though he kicked open the closet door years ago and errrebody knows he’s gay, not mentioning it here so no one can accuse him of undue focus on it? Check.
  • Asking God to bless us all at the end of the ad? Check and check and check check check.

The only false note is the obligatory “I do not want to be a politician” statement. Dude, you are running for a political office. By definition you want to be, or already are, a politician. That’s cool. Deal with it and godspeed and god bless and whatever other god things we should wish you so you win this thing.

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time.com

American, Meet Your Next Congressman: Clay Aiken's Winning Formula

America, Meet Your Next Congressman: Clay Aiken’s Winning Formula

From recording artist to Congressman: Here's why the government is achin' for Aiken

By Price Peterson

@pricepeterson

Feb. 05, 2014

156514230-e1391638978683.jpg?w=720&h=480&crop=1

Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images

Clay Aiken visits the SiriusXM Studios on November 16, 2012 in New York City.

News broke this morning that
American Idol
alum Clay Aiken, who was the runner-up during the show’s second season in 2003, has
announced his intention
to run for
Congress
in
North Carolina
.

Politically-minded citizens everywhere have already begun to picture it: Aiken walking the hallowed hallways of the House of Representatives. Aiken nodding hello to fellow lawmakers. Aiken aking his seat at a mahogany desk. And most importantly, Aiken
getting results
for the American people.

And yet, bafflingly, Aiken’s detractors have already begun to question his qualifications. How exactly is a reality show runner-up — even one with a legendarily velvety voice — qualified to lead this country? There’s never
once
been a single congressperson who’s been
embarrassing
or
ill-suited
for
the
job
, so why should we risk electing one now?

These questions are foolish: Clay Aiken is
perfectly
qualified for Congress. Here’s why.

aiken-fan.jpg?w=600

Gregg DeGuire / WireImage / Getty Images

He’s Used to Being Berated in Public

Between Simon Cowell’s vicious teardowns on American Idol and Donald Trump‘s belligerent diatribes on Celebrity Apprentice, Clay Aiken is no stranger to being shouted at by unpleasant men under a spotlight. It takes a truly sturdy constitution to endure that kind of abuse. Aiken should be fine when it comes to the endless debates and the ordeals of campaigning. At this point, he could probably survive a phone call from Alec Baldwin. (And that’s saying something.)

He’s Popular With Middle-Aged Suburban Women

The Claymate fervor may have died down considerably since its mid-noughties heyday — but then again, does Claymate fervor ever really die? Rarely, if ever, has a honey-piped redhead made so many women weak in the knees. Given that women outnumber men at the polls, support among his constituents bodes well not only for Aiken’s election odds but his popularity rating in general.

He’s Already Had a Gay Sex Scandal

Before officially coming out of the closet in 2008, tabloids repeatedly ran stories linking Aiken to gay men with whom he was supposedly involved. (Of course, the “scandals” in this case were little more than having consensual sex with men who’d then run and blab about it to the National Enquirer, so that’s not such a big deal. Still very electable.) The important thing is this: Although Aiken will run as a Democrat, the secret gay trysts that litter his past should give him plenty of common ground with many members of the Republican party. Remember: nothing hastens an aisle-crossing like some good, old-fashioned locker room banter!

aiken-christmas.jpg?w=600

America Already Knows Which Side He’ll Take in the War on Christmas

While other politicians hem and haw about frivolous things like “the separation of church and state,” it should be perfectly clear where Aiken stands on this controversial holiday: for it. With a handful of Christmas albums and TV specials under his belt, his commitment to unbridled Yuletide cheer is beyond reproach. In fact, don’t be surprised if he reinstates the draft — the War on Christmas is no joke.

Four Words: Paula Abdul Congressional Testimony

What does Congress actually do, day-in and day-out, besides pass terrible laws, shut down the government, and behave foolishly in clips that gets used to comic effect on The Daily Show? Nobody knows! But just imagine how much spicier and jazzier the average congressional session will become when Aiken calls upon his famous friends to testify about important issues. Just imagine it: Celebrity Apprentice winner Arsenio Hall can testify on the subject of entrepreneurship. Ruben Studdard can deliver a stirring speech about the importance of smooth, soulful vocal stylings. Paula Abdul can brief everyone about what it’s like to be Paula Abdul. (That will probably be one of the sadder ones.) The possibilities are endless.

The evidence is plain: There has never been a better fit for Congress. And sure, it’s still just a pipe dream, but you might as well start getting used to the following phrase: President Aiken.

Read more: Clay Aiken Is Running For Congress: Here's Why That Will Work | TIME.com http://entertainment.../#ixzz2sV1gxWki

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huffingtonpost.com

Clay Aiken: Congress Could Learn a Thing or Two from "American Idol"

Clay Aiken: Congress Could Learn A Thing Or Two From 'American Idol'

Amanda Terkel aterkel@huffingtonpost.com

Posted: 02/05/2014 5:08 pm EST Updated: 02/05/2014 5:59 pm EST

WASHINGTON -- Singer Clay Aiken launched his bid for Congress Wednesday, saying he was confident it was possible to win as a Democrat running in aconservative North Carolina district.

"I understand that some numbers and pollsters would consider this district to be more conservative. I certainly don't think that it is a liberal district," Aiken told The Huffington Post in an interview. "That said, again, I think most people vote regardless of the party designation. They vote based on who they can trust and who they can know has their best interest at heart. And I think when we compel Congresswoman [Renee] Ellmers to run on her record, we're going to see people recognizing she really hasn't had their best interest at heart, but more so hers."

Aiken rose to national fame in 2003, when he came in second to Ruben Studdard on "American Idol." Since then, in addition to his music career, Aiken has been an activist, serving on the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities following an appointment by President George W. Bush. In 2008, Aiken announced that he was gay, and in 2012, he spoke out forcefully against North Carolina's proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Aiken kicked off his campaign this week with a

talking about his background -- including his father's domestic abuse of his mother and his own time teaching special education -- and criticizing Ellmers, who was elected in the tea party wave of 2010, for supporting cuts to military benefits under sequestration.

In his interview with HuffPost, Aiken also went after Ellmers for last year's government shutdown, lamenting that in the current Congress, politics seem to be a zero-sum game. He drew upon his experience on "American Idol" and in the music industry as an example of how relations could be more productive.

"I hate to use an 'American Idol' analogy because that's not who I am ... but for me to win 'Idol,' I didn't have to trip Ruben on stage. I didn't make him look bad," he said. "And people are spending more time in D.C. trying to make their opponent look bad than they are actually doing good stuff. For me to be successful on 'Idol,' I just had to do my very best. And if I did my very best, it would pay off for me. And if politicians, regardless of the party, would go up to D.C. and do their very best, you would see that effect for everyone in the country."

"I've realized over the past few weeks as I've really been getting into the meat of preparing for this announcement and kicking off this campaign that politics is the only business, if you want to call it that -- the only industry where one person's success is wholly dependent on the failure of someone else," he added.

Aiken will first have to win the Democratic primary if he wants to face Ellmers in the general election. Former North Carolina Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and professional counselor Toni Morris are competing with Aiken in the primary. Attorney Houston Barnes was in the race but now plans to withdraw and back Aiken.

Ellmers, for her part, has already gone after Aiken, making fun of him in a radio interview with WMAL last week.

"Apparently, his performing career is not going so well. He's very bored," Ellmers said. "I'll tell you, I'm a little hurt. I think he has an incredible voice and he's incredibly talented, and I'd rather have his support."

She also joked that he "didn't really fare all that well" on "American Idol."

When asked about Ellmers' comments, Aiken looked on the bright side. "Well, what I heard her say was that I had a beautiful voice. So I appreciate voice. I choose not to hear the other stuff," he said.

"Listen, like I said, I think the key to being successful -- not just in politics but in life -- is to put your best foot forward and show people why they should vote for you or like you or support you," he added. "That said, if there are things that she has done in office that have affected people in the district, I think those are fair game. But whether or not I won a TV show or not has nothing to do with my ability to represent people. I'm not going to respond to middle-school games."

Aiken's district comprises part of the Raleigh suburbs as well as a swath of the central and eastern parts of the state. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won it in 2012.

Aiken said he disagreed with President Barack Obama on the issue of the National Security Agency's intelligence gathering and believed Obamacare needed some changes, although he emphasized that "it is predominantly a law that is full of very valuable provisions."

"I'm a little unsettled by some of the actions of the NSA and some of the invasions of privacy that have been allowed under this administration. That is concerning to me," he said, adding that he would also like to see Obama "do a better job of reaching out" to the other side in general.

Aiken is a supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimation Act, which would bar workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Although the legislation passed the Senate last year and has bipartisan support in the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has shown no willingness to bring it up for a vote. With Obama vowing to be more aggressive in using his executive authority to bypass a deadlocked Congress, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights groups have been calling on the president to sign a non-discrimination order covering federal contractors.

Aiken said he believes his district is supportive of ENDA, but he was skeptical whether an executive order would be a good idea.

"Would I like to see something enacted? Yes," he said. "I think the only reason I'm hesitant about having the president sign any sort of executive order is that it's not permanent. I think permanence is important. Stability is important. If we let the president make laws that then the next president who comes in decides to overturn without talking to Congress or whatnot, I think that's when we have a country that's unstable. I would like that particular law to be passed and not overturned by one person's decision."

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politicsnc.com

Clay Aiken, For Real

Clay Aiken, for real

February 5, 2014 | by Thomas Mills | 2014 elections, US House | 2 Comments

M_ClayAikenGood630_021712-e1388760503493.jpg

Hats off to Clay Aikin and his political team. In a few short hours, they took a campaign that could have easily become little more than the butt of late night jokes and made it a contender, at least for the Democratic nomination for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District.

As one friend on Facebook posted, “When you quit giggling, and before you dismiss Clay Aiken running for Congress,

The

is powerful and Clay nails it. In a single five minute take, Aiken let’s us know he has a story, a message, real world experience, humility and smarts. And that’s in addition to name recognition and a built-in fan base.

I met with Aiken briefly this afternoon. He’s sincere and down to earth. He seems to understand what he is walking into and is undaunted by the task. That may change as the campaign gets underway.

Aiken wants to take on Renee Ellmers but before he gets that chance he’s got to get past a primary with Keith Crisco. That’s far from a sure thing. Crisco is a well-heeled and well-respected businessman who served as Secretary of Commerce under Bev Perdue. A lot of Democrats believe that Crisco’s profile matches up better with Ellmers. Besides, the primary electorate is older and may identify more with a older successful businessman than a young gay crooner.

Today was a good day for Clay Aiken. He made the world take notice of his campaign and forced people to start to take him seriously. Now, he needs to turn the goodwill and kudus he earned today into money and votes.

There will be tougher days to come, though. His celebrity will likely mean he has less room for error. The press and his opponents will be watching closely. Every misstep, no matter how small, will be amplified.

It’s a long haul and campaigns can be brutal. But if he can take the scrutiny, criticism and even ridicule, he can come out of this race a leader of the next generation of North Carolina Democrats regardless of whether he wins or loses.

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New York Times

Able to Carry a Tune but Hoping for a District

Able to Carry a Tune But Hoping for a District

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER FEB. 5, 2014


WASHINGTON — North Carolina has become difficult terrain for Democrats since the Republican-controlled legislature redrew congressional districts in 2011 with the goal of more or less eliminating them from the state’s House delegation.

But Clay Aiken, the 2003 runner-up on “American Idol,” announcedWednesday that he was going against the odds to make a run in North Carolina’s Second District. “This is not a whim for me,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’ve been thinking of this for over a year.”

The race is decidedly uphill for Mr. Aiken, who is running as a Democrat in a district that Mitt Romney won in 2012 with 58 percent of the vote. Put another way: “No chance,” said Nathan Gonzales, the deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report.

But Clay Aiken, the 2003 runner-up on “American Idol,” announcedWednesday that he was going against the odds to make a run in North Carolina’s Second District. “This is not a whim for me,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’ve been thinking of this for over a year.

The race is decidedly uphill for Mr. Aiken, who is running as a Democrat in a district that Mitt Romney won in 2012 with 58 percent of the vote.

Put another way: “No chance,” said Nathan Gonzales, the deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report.

But Mr. Aiken, who has to get past two primary opponents, says he knows what he is in for and believes that votes cast by the Republican incumbent, Representative Renee Ellmers, including some that reduced funding for military programs in a state with an important Army base, give him an opening. “My opponent is going to have to run on her record,” he said, noting that Mr. Romney’s showing in the district was better than hers.

06AIKEN-master180-v2.jpg

Ms. Ellmers, who ran in 2010 with the support of the Tea Party movement and barely squeaked into office, has dismissed Mr. Aiken as unable to win “Idol” and thus ill equipped to unseat her. (Her spokeswoman did not respond to emails requesting comment.) Ms. Ellmers, a nurse, quickly grew close to her party’s leadership team and helps it gather votes for tough bills.

Mr. Aiken’s announcement video focuses on challenges he faced in his early life, with a mother who escaped her abusive husband, as well as his experiences as a teacher. He makes only brief references to his musical career.

Mr. Aiken, who is openly gay, also seems disinclined to focus on his earlier denouncements of North Carolina’s constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage. “I am amazed that people think I have spoken out,” he said, although he did give a speech on the issue, participate in a video in support of marriage for gay couples and discuss the subject on a Sunday talk show.

But after that, “I don’t think I said another word,” Mr. Aiken said. “My position is clear. That’s a settled issue in North Carolina, and there is nothing a congressperson can do about it anyway.” The issue is not of pressing concern to voters in his state, he said, being more worried about “the unemployment rate and the lack of jobs.”

“People are worried about paying for their kids’ college and finding work,” he added.

Mr. Aiken’s fame carries both advantages and encumbrances. His name recognition will almost certainly attract attention — especially among the so-called Claymates who make up his fan base and took to Twitter on Wednesday to offer their support — and possible cash infusions to his campaign. But Mr. Aiken’s celebrity status could also stir skepticism among voters about his policy prowess. Further, he is subject to such inconveniences as the dissemination of artifacts from his stardom, like old photos of being licked by a giraffe.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Mr. Aiken conceded. When people hear he is running, “the first reaction is ‘Oh, really?’ ”

“I’m not going to lie about that,” he said. But “if people don’t take me seriously, I think that can be combated when people listen to me talk. It usually only takes me 30 minutes to let people know that on those issues I know, I know what I am talking about.” The other side of fame “is a benefit, and I am happy to have it,” he said. “Because of my platform that I have, people do listen.”

Mr. Aiken is initially emphasizing his career as a special-education teacher and his experiences working with Unicef in Somalia, and he points out that he was appointed by President George W. Bush to a presidential commission on special education, a wave to bipartisan possibilities.

Day 1 of the race was a tad overwhelming. He gave what he thought was an interview with a man he thought was a reporter but turned out to be an adviser looking for a job. “He said, ‘Don’t wear that tie,’ ” Mr. Aiken recalled.

Also, he is already exhausted. “Is it 10 o’clock at night yet?” he asked. (No. It was 11 a.m.) “I am afraid to look at my watch. It depresses me.”

Also, for those who wonder if he believes Harry Connick Jr. is a good addition to the “Idol” judge panel, sorry.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t watched the show in years.”

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politico.com

Clay Aiken Talks Donald Trump, Music, Politics

Clay Aiken talks Donald Trump, music, politics

By: Natalie Villacorta

February 6, 2014 06:20 AM EST

”American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken has been so busy preparing for his congressional campaign that he doesn’t even know what songs are on the radio anymore.

“I turned on the radio the other day and didn’t recognize anything,” Aiken said in an interview, laughing, after being asked what his campaign song would be.

Aiken announced Wednesday that he’s officially challenging Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who has held her seat in the overwhelmingly Republican district since 2011. The campaign might be a long shot for the openly gay singer: About 58 percent of 2nd District voters went for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, and Aiken has spoken out against North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage.

But first, he has to beat two opponents in the Democratic primary.

But Aiken said he’s not worried that the district is considered Republican turf because once he starts talking about the issues people are concerned about, they won’t care what his party designation is.

Plus, he’s got swarms of “Claymates” — his ardent fans — and Donald Trump cheering him on.

While Aiken wasn’t Trump’s No. 1 pick in the fifth season of ”Celebrity Apprentice” in 2012, he said the business magnate has voiced enthusiasm about his campaign.

“He was very enthusiastic when we spoke, and he was very supportive of me personally,” Aiken said, though he couldn’t say whether he had Trump’s official endorsement.

In a campaign video released Wednesday, Aiken knocked Ellmers for her votes on military budgets and the government shutdown in October.

“Even though she knew that voting for massive cuts to the military was bad for our country and for 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 said herself it would be a disaster for the economy, and then she complained that she needed her paycheck,” he says in the video.

Last week, amid rumors of Aiken’s campaign, Ellmers mockedhim, noting that he was a runner-up on “Idol.”

“Apparently, his performing career isn’t going so well and he’s bored,” Ellmers told a Washington-based local radio station.

Aiken brushed off the attacks.

“If I worried about knocks from people, I would have dug a hole and buried myself 10 years ago,” he said.

He won’t be retaliating with such “petty” personal attacks, he said, but he does plan to hold Ellmers accountable for her voting record.

“In politics, the only way you can win is if you can make somebody else lose. And because of that we’ve got a culture in Washington where people aren’t even trying to do anything good any more. They are not even trying to do anything right for people. They’re just trying to make the other people look bad and make the other person lose,” he said.

Aiken said that when he shows North Carolinians that he’s a person whom they can trust and who will stand up for their best interests, they won’t give a hoot whether he’s a Republican or a Democrat.

Even the folks who think their views fall far right or far left are actually much more moderate than they think they are, he said.

“I have family who would like to consider themselves far right and when I talk to them about specific issues they find that we wind up agreeing on a lot. They’re devastated to learn that they might be more moderate than they thought they are. But most people are.”

© 2014 POLITICO LLC

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npr.org

Song And Dance: Of Course Clay Aiken is Running for Congress

Song And Dance: Of Course Clay Aiken Is Running For Congress

by LINDA HOLMES

February 06, 2014 9:50 AM

Yesterday, we learned that Clay Aiken, who lost to Ruben Studdard at the end of the second season of American Idol way back in 2003, will be running for Congress in North Carolina's 2nd District.

Let's all smirk about what the world is coming to if an American Idol runner-up can run for Congress. Let's all roll our eyes, let's all be deeply and highly amused. What a silly idea! A reality show person, my word.

<snip with examples of other politicians starting from show biz>

Truly, Clay Aiken running for Congress isn't even that weird. This has been going on for so long, and making people chortle derisively for so long, that there's a Tom Lehrer song about it that was written in 1965 — about the song-and-dance-man-turned-politician George Murphy, which rhymed "Helen Gahagan" (actress who married actor Melvyn Douglas and was elected to Congress) and "Ronald Reagan" (whom you may have heard of). "Ronald Reagan," by the way, was specifically pronounced with utter bafflement, 15 years before the guy got a big promotion.

It may sound silly, but plenty of people who run for Congress have done nothing that particularly suggests useful expertise, and in Aiken's case, while not all of us are fans of his singing style, he's got a solid history with issue advocacy, particularly for people with disabilities. And he is one of the very few people about whom I would say, "Well, and he was very likeable on that Celebrity Apprentice program." (He lost to Arsenio Hall. What a ripoff. Don't get me started.)

Yes, he once warbled a love song originated by a cartoon mouse. But hey, everyone does things they regret, or at least some of the rest of us regret, and if you don't believe me, look at Ryan Seacrest's hair in that clip.

Clay Aiken probably wouldn't even make the Top 500 on a list of Silliest Humans To Run For Office This Year. He sings, he dances (sort of), he used to be a special ed teacher, and once he gets over the hurdle of reminding people that this time around they can only vote for him once, there's no telling how far he might go. For good or for ill, running for office has never been limited to those with a spotless history of being taken seriously.

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adweek.com

Clay Aiken's Campaign Ad Is Personal, Political and Nearly Perfect

Clay Aiken's Campaign Ad Is Personal, Political and Nearly Perfect:Singer quickly proves congressional bid is no joke

By David Griner

February 6, 2014, 11:14 AM EST

It's hard to say what we were expecting from reality TV star Clay Aiken's first campaign ad in his congressional campaign, but this certainly isn't it.

Instead of leveraging his fame or playing to the media circus around his decision to run for a House seat from North Carolina, he has created a political ad that's thoughtful, sincere and just an all-around example of great storytelling.

Filmed in one seamless five-minute shot, Aiken's ad was filmed in the home where he and his mother sought refuge from his abusive father. Aiken patiently unravels the story of his life and political awakening, gradually transitioning into his criticisms of his district's current legislator, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers.

Ellmers is a Republican and Aiken a Democrat, a fact he quickly shrugs off as if it's a mere technicality unrelated to the matters at hand. But of course it will matter. This ad is sure to have its critics, since we live in a political era that seems incapable of respecting any message that comes from a messenger on the other side of the aisle.

But politicians from both parties would be wise to watch Aiken's video and learn from his ability to come across as humble, informed and sincere. He may not have the "aw, shucks" everyman persona of Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but he's about as close as you're going to find in 2014.

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talkingaboutpolitics.com

Yes, Clay Aiken

Yes, Clay Aiken

Gary Pearce

posted on February 06, 2014 13:57

Your first reaction was probably the same as mine. Clay Aiken? The singer? For Congress?

Then I met him. He’s the same person you meet in his

. He’s smart, serious and genuine. He clearly has thought deeply about policy matters. He has a unique voice that is a breath of fresh air in a polluted political climate. And he has a genuine empathy for people that he has demonstrated as a YMCA counselor, a special education teacher, a foundation leader and a UNICEF representative overseas.

He’s kind of like Opie Taylor would have turned out if he’d had a big voice. Except he’s tougher than he looks.

Republicans predictably pushed the rewind button on their political mud machine. The haters and the homophobes crept out of their Internet cellars. Have at it. Aiken’s campaign feeds off their fuel – and the public’s disgust with it.

For Democrats, there’s a choice between competing theories of the race.

Keith Crisco’s theory is that he can peel off Republican voters in Randolph County. He says he did it when he ran for county commissioner in 1992. He lost, but he ran ahead of Governor Hunt and President Clinton.

Aiken’s theory is that he can mobilize a new wave of new and young voters. He can inject new energy, reshape the electorate and shake up the race.

There is a new generation of voters – and leaders – rising in North Carolina. They are idealistic and driven to make a difference. They are connected and engaged. If Democrats win them now, they can win with them for a long time to come.

The question for Democrats is which path is right for the future. Which helps Kay Hagan most this year and helps candidates for governor and President in two years. I think the answer is obvious. That’s why I’m for Clay.

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theonion.com (satire)

"American Idol" Star Clay Aiken Running for Congress

‘American Idol’ Star Clay Aiken Running For Congress

AMERICAN VOICESOpinionISSUE 50•05 • Feb 6, 2014


More than a decade after competing on American Idol, 35-year-old singer Clay Aiken announced that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District seat. What do you think?


  • 148.jpg?0601

    “Sure, I’d vote for him again.”
    Patricia Watson –
    Personal Shopper

  • 148.jpg?0530

    “You don’t see that kind of political aspiration from those deadbeats on The Voice.”
    Sean Esdaile –
    Meter Reader

  • 148.jpg?0612

    “The fact that he can’t dance is going to haunt him no matter what he does.”
    John Gaylor –
    Food Scientist

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thehollywoodreporter.com

Ruben Studdard Reacts to Clay Aiken's Run for Congress: He's "Very Passionate"

Ruben Studdard Reacts to Clay Aiken's Run for Congress: He's 'Very Passionate'

5:12 PM PST 2/6/2014 by Fred Bronson

The season two winner tells THR it "could be the best thing that ever happened to his district."

[1]aiken_2011_a_l.jpg

Vince Bucci/Getty Images

Clay Aiken, left, and Ruben Studdard

While Clay Aiken was sitting down with Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC to discuss the first day of his congressional candidacy, Ruben Studdard was sitting down with The Hollywood Reporter[2]at the Daily Grill in Studio City. The topic of discussion was Studdard’s new album, Unconditional Love, released this week on the Verve label. But the conversation quickly turned to Aiken’s announcement that he was running to represent his North Carolina district in Washington, D.C.

“Clay is very passionate about the things he believes in,” Studdard replied when THR asked him about his fellow season two finalist. “If he wins the race, it could be the best thing that’s ever happened to his district. Not because of his celebrity but because of the things he cares about. It takes a special person to educate children with special needs and that’s what he did even before he was a celebrity. Right now in America, you either have money or you don’t. Clay has lived in both income levels and he’ll be able to effectively address the issues that impact the lives of people in his district."

“I’m really proud of him," he continued. "Proud that he’s brave enough to do this because when you run for public office, you open yourself up to a lot of criticism.”

And would Studdard be willing to help out with the campaign, especially with fundraising? “If Clay calls me, I’ll be there,” he says.

That may come as a surprise to some fans of the winner and runner-up of season two, who are still battling it out in cyberspace about who should have won that season of American Idol.

“I think it’s ridiculous that 10 years later people on the internet are still fussing with each other,” says Studdard. “Clay and I are clearly friends. It was great to go out on tour together. We had no idea our fans were like the Hatfields and the McCoys. Meanwhile, Clay and I are at Denny’s eating pancakes. Both of us had this amazing opportunity to be on a show that changed everybody’s lives and I wouldn’t change that experience for the world.”

Twitter: @FredBronson [7]

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Why reality TV was the perfect prep for Clay Aiken's jump into politics

Why reality TV was the perfect prep for Clay Aiken's jump into politics

By Omarosa Manigault

updated 9:25 AM EST, Fri February 7, 2014

Editor's note: Omarosa Manigault was one of the first contestants on NBC's "The Apprentice" in 2004. She also worked in the White House during the Clinton administration and is an ordained minister in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter @Omarosa.

(CNN) -- Reality TV may prove to be a golden ticket for Clay Aiken's congressional bid.

Nearly a decade ago, Americans were introduced to the adorable schoolteacher from North Carolina. Aiken wowed viewers and judges early in the second season auditions of "American Idol." No one expected such an incredible voice to come out of such an unassuming package. He came out of nowhere and stole the show.

His singing won him a golden ticket to Hollywood, but his resolve won him a unique place in the hearts of American viewers.

And that could be just the training he needed for his next career.

This week, Aiken once again presented himself as an unassuming candidate, this time jumping into North Carolina politics as a Democrat to challenge U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican, for her 2nd Congressional District seat.

As a former political appointee and reality TV show participant, I am intrigued by Aiken's foray into the world of politics. He and I got our start on TV right around the same time.

In all of my encounters with him over the last decade, I have found him to be kind, warm and authentic. I bet the voters in North Carolina will see the same thing.

A friend asked me if I thought Aiken's TV background would help or hurt him in his congressional race. That's easy. National TV has uniquely prepared Aiken for this adventure into politics. Here's why.

Aiken has had to convince millions to vote for him -- first via a toll-free 866 number and soon in a voting booth. He has had to deflect the barbs of critics -- I'm not sure who is worse, Simon Cowell or Sean Hannity. And he has had to learn how to win over the media -- first in Hollywood, now inside the Beltway.

120822050736-clay-aiken-2012-story-body.jpgClay Aiken on dysfunction in D.C.

111012073840-aiken-apprentice-1012-story-body.jpgClay Aiken running for Congress

Back in 2003 and 2004, reality TV was a lot different. Aiken and I both were parts of instantly successful franchises at the peak of their popularity. Each week, millions of viewers tuned in not only to watch but also to vote for their choices -- or vote off whom they didn't like.

This created a new entertainment democracy. Viewers were empowered to choose their favorites, and contestants had to campaign and compete for a spot on the show -- and for the hearts of America on an unofficial campaign trail.

Reality TV requires you to have thick skin. When you have to face harsh critics such as Cowell or Donald Trump weekly, you have no choice but to be tough.

But the toughest critic of all proved to be the American public. Aiken was subjected to intense, relentless scrutiny. He was forced to learn and apply leadership principles that were essential to his longevity and success, on screen and off. And even when he got knocked down, he had to get back up and fight again.

There are skills that we learned being on a reality show that may help Aiken win.

First, his message, which he has already tried and tested during his "American Idol" days, will get refined in the political arena.

He proudly shared Christian beliefs and his passion for young people with special needs, both traits that resonated with viewers -- and likely with North Carolina voters.

Secondly, his relationship with the media during "Idol" taught him how to deal with them in a smart, shrewd yet upfront and sincere way. The press can spot a fake a mile away.

On "American Idol," he quickly learned to forge relationships with the media to connect with those who would cast their votes each week.

In his congressional race, he will likely be able to reach voters in ways that his competitor can't. Because of his TV training, he already knows how to do so.

Lastly, his two previous losses -- he came in second place behind Ruben Studdard during the second season of "Idol" and placed second behind Arsenio Hall in the fifth season of "Celebrity Apprentice" -- could prove to be just the hook in his bid for Congress.

Going up against an incumbent in a traditionally Republican district, voters will see Aiken as the underdog and may rally behind him. Voters may feel that his time has come.

And everyone roots for the underdog.

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

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

BY BARRY SAUNDERS

bsaunders@newsobserver.com

February 5, 2014

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 Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District, Aiken’s 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 that’s 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.”

C’mon, Jessica. That’s not even a dog-whistle: that’s a full-on “sic ’em, boy.”

Perhaps Wood can enlighten the electorate on what people in San Francisco want that people in Sanford don’t.

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 he’s 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.

I’ve 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 hasn’t 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 Clay’s legendary Claymates who are eligible to vote in the 2nd District.

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

Won’t his stand on the issues be as important as his personality and celebrity? I asked – hoping she’d say “yes.”

She didn’t. “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.”

Goshdarnit.

“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.

“That’s great for Seacrest, but anyone who cares about democracy ... would have to cringe at that,” Fournier said, cringing.

(To vote for “Idol,” though, you don’t even have to leave your couch – and you can do it multiple times.)

Regardless of Aiken’s stand on the issues, his willingness to forgo the cushy life of a beloved celeb and get personally involved in politics is encouraging. Arsenio, Clay’s “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 Aiken’s 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 Clay’s candidacy that he was unqualified, his candidacy a joke.

Qualifications? Well, let’s 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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Clay Aiken: Not being a politician will be a 'strength' in run for Congress

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

Posted: Feb 05, 2014 4:42 AM CST Updated: Feb 05, 2014 4:46 PM CST

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."

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.

North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District

3254856_G.jpg

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Here's the Real Reason Clay Aiken Could Get Elected to Congress

NEWSHere’s the Real Reason Clay Aiken Could Get Elected to Congress

By Kyle Kramer • February 07, 2014

The reality star-turned-political hopeful seems to be running against all odds in North Carolina. Luckily, he’s from a state where ‘American Idols’ are truly American idols.

Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images

Comment Clay Aiken is running for representative of the second congressional district of North Carolina, against incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers. Compared to the average story about North Carolina politics, this one has really made the rounds. But why have outlets like TMZ and Politico latched onto this hard-hitting news about my home state, whose other major contributions to national political discourse include coming up with the term “freedom fries” and the John Edwards sex scandal? Because A) Clay Aiken is like a top-five, all-time endearingly corny celebrity, and B) the only thing better than a celebrity train wreck is a political train wreck, and this story could be both!

That’s certainly the prevailing opinion, in part because Clay is running as a Democrat in a district that voted overwhelmingly in favor of the corny, but in no way endearing, presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012. Just about every political expert who’s chimed in this week has dismissed Clay’s chances as basically nonexistent, and his opponent is skeptical as well.

“As we know he doesn’t always fare all that well,” Ellmers said in a radio interview last month, according to the Raleigh News and Observer. “He was runner up.”

As soon as Clay officially announced his candidacy, Ellmers questioned his background as “a performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco than Sanford [North Carolina].” This is basically code for: “Clay Aiken is gay, and his weird gay life could totally get on us!!!”—a resounding message in a state where more than 60-percent of voters chose to pass an amendment banning same sex marriage as recently as 2012. But here’s the thing, and the real reason why Ellmers is already lashing out: Clay Aiken could actually win, even with the political odds against him, because American Idol does not mean the same thing in North Carolina as it does everywhere else. In North Carolina, American Idols really are idols.

This enthusiasm isn’t unfounded. North Carolina, statistically, boasts one of the strongest Idol finalist records of any state. Two of the 12 current Idol winners are from North Carolina, a number matched only by Alabama. Since the show started, the state has produced seven finalists, a total that trails only the substantially more populous states of Texas, California and Florida and the music-industry magnets Georgia and Tennessee. What’s more, even the North Carolina-repping finalists who haven’t won have seen more post-show success than the average contestant. In addition to Clay, their ranks include Kellie Pickler and Chris Daughtry, both of whom are more famous than their season’s actual winner, Taylor Hicks.

The Idol fervency in this state runs deep, and I’m not just saying that because of all the times I saw classmates swoon over season eight finalist Anoop Desai’s high school and college a cappella concerts (although I did, and that dude could have definitely gotten it with, like, half the audience in every case). We’re talking about a place where, for years, people driving on I-40 through Greensboro were greeted by a congratulatory billboard for season three winner and High Point native Fantasia Barrino. A place where season 10 winner Scotty McCreery was given a parade in his honor and was announced as a marquee performer at the state fair nearly a year in advance.

Locally, this phenomenon is well documented. In 2011, on the eve of Scotty’s win, Charlotte’s FOX affiliate ran an in-depth segment on the state’s Idol prowess and, a few months later, it was the subject of a cover story in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill’s alternative weekly paper, in which the author, Grayson Currin, noted at one point “Lesson learned: Don’t mess with North Carolina’s Idols.”

And Clay Aiken, our state’s first Idol—don’t even try to tell us that Ruben Studdard won that shit legitimately—holds the dearest place in everyone’s hearts. I have no polling data to back this up, but I’m pretty sure Clay is more popular in North Carolina than every president ever, including James K. Polk, who, of course, was from North Carolina. This is a state whose non-Idol musical stars are basically Petey Pablo, The Avett Brothers, James Taylor and J. Cole, whose most tangible tie to the state is an “NC” in his Twitter handle.American Idol has been good to us. It may be national consensus that Clay Aiken is corny music for moms, but in North Carolina, you still have to ride for him, automatically. Damn right, I made it a priority to download “Invisible” when that shit dropped. Clay’s music, all North Carolinians will tell you, is pure flames.

Does this make him qualified to be a politician? Not exactly, but what qualifies anyone for the job? Ellmers, his potential opponent, was a nurse before entering politics, and she’s used her expertise to repeatedly vote in favor of repealing a law that’s helped many people in her state (myself, for instance) get health insurance. Aiken’s spent the last few years doing all kinds of advocacy work and staking out stances on local issues. He runs a nonprofit geared toward helping children with disabilities, he’s worked with UNICEF in Somalia and he was appointed by President Bush to serve on a bipartisan commission focused on special education (prior to Idol, this was his field). He was one of the more high-profile critics of Amendment One, the same-sex marriage ban, and a controversial push by the ultra-conservative Wake County School Board to end school busing practices designed to increase diversity. His campaign, staked on the message that not everyone has a “golden ticket” to success and backed by his story of being raised in an evangelical Christian tradition by a single mother, has a compelling narrative.

Even if Clay doesn’t win, his candidacy could be effective in attracting money and attention to political issues in a state that has been reeling from the conservative backlash to Barack Obama over past few years. If fans got passionate about the unfairness of Ruben Studdard beating Clay on Idol, imagine how they’ll react when they find out about the gerrymandering that turned Clay’s slightly blue-leaning district into a Republican stronghold! Or how they’ll feel about voter ID laws, which could make it even harder for people to vote than it was during that clearly rigged season two finale! Forget soccer moms, NASCAR dads, Log Cabin Republicans and Reagan Democrats—in North Carolina, there’s no constituency as powerful as American Idol fans. When it comes to this race, it’s not polling data that’s a measure of a man; it’s Clay’s debut album, Measure of a Man.

Laugh it off if you want, but in North Carolina, you can bet people are paying attention.

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Aiken Angling for His Next Stage: Congress

Aiken Angling For His Next Stage: Congress

David Sinclair/Managing Editor | Posted: Friday, February 7, 2014 2:20 pm

Before Clay Aiken hit the big time as runner-up on “American Idol” in 2003, his performance venues included a small Southern Pines stage.

Now the recording star is moving to another kind of national stage, announcing last week that he will run as a Democratic candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes all of Moore County.

Aiken, who was in several productions at the former Mannie’s Dinner Theatre in Southern Pines when he was in high school, said in an interview with The Pilot last week that he is a “serious” candidate and that he is “not naive enough to believe” that his name recognition will be enough to carry him to Washington in his first bid for elective office.

“This is a serious thing for me,” Aiken said. “I am dedicated to this cause. I care about the people of this district. I am going to convince people that I am the best person for the job. I have a microphone. I feel like this is where I can make a difference.

“Between now and November, my goal is to make sure people’s values are heard. We are tired of people going to Washington and not listening.”

One of the main reasons Aiken said he decided to run is because the incumbent, Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, has lost touch with the district and is more interested in doing what her party leaders tell her to do.

“She has gone to Washington and has not listened to the people of the district,” he said. “Instead, she has listened to her own party leaders. People are sick and tired of the dysfunction going on in Washington.”

Aiken said that applies to both Republicans and Democrats in Congress who hold to extreme positions and are unwilling to compromise.

“Truth is, everyone has gray areas,” he said. “Instead of representing these people, who moderate on their opinions, they live on the edges. This is not one party or the other. It is both. It is a shame when compromise is a curse word.”

Before Aiken gets a shot at Ellmers, he will have to win a primary in May. Two other Democrats — former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and Toni Morris, of Fayetteville — say they will run.

Another Democrat who had announced plans to run, Durham attorney Houston Barnes, said Wednesday morning that he is dropping out and throwing his support to Aiken.

Ellmers will also face a primary challenge from investor and radio talk show host Frank Roche, of Cary, who is challenging her commitment to the conservative cause.

Aiken and Ellmers have already tangled even though they are not yet opponents.

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,” The News & Observer of Raleigh reported. She then added that he was only the runner-up on “American Idol.”

Aiken said it was “pretty sad” that he had not even entered the race and Ellmers was already attacking him personally.

“That is the same kind of mud -slinging that people are sick of,” he said. I don’t know if that means she is nervous. They will have to do a lot worse than that to bother me. I’ve spent 10 years in the public eye listening to criticism. I did it in front of 50 million people. I think I can handle it.”

Aiken, who lives in Cary, made a reference to his success in the music industry in a video announcing his candidacy last Wednesday.

“For most Americans, there are no golden tickets,” Aiken said in the video. “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.”

In the video, Aiken talked about growing up in North Carolina and founding the National Inclusion Project that serves children with special needs in North Carolina and 34 other states.

He also mention his work 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.”

Aiken cited his 2006 appointment by President Bush 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 said in his announcement.

Aiken said Ellmers has made herself “vulnerable” by voting 10 times for spending cuts that he said hurt the military and military families — cuts that she admitted would hurt the district and the country. He pointed out that she also voted 21 times for the government shutdown in 2013 at the direction of her party leaders, even though she predicted it would be a “disaster” for the economy.

He added that “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for him and many voters was when Ellmers voted to shut down the government in an effort to defund the Affordable Care Act but still wanted her paycheck.

“This is what’s wrong with Washington,” Aiken said, “that a Congresswoman would go [to Washington] 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.”

Aiken was raised and attended public schools in Wake County, where he was also a YMCA counselor. His acting abilities brought him to Mannie’s Dinner Theatre in 1995 when he played Max in “The Best Little Christmas Pageant,” and in 1996 when he played Rolf in “The Sound of Music.”

He earned a degree in special education at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.

Aiken was the runner-up on “American Idol” in 2003 and later put out six albums and appeared on Broadway and on reality television.

In 2008, he publicly declared that he was gay. He has a young son who was born through in-vitro fertilization and lives with his birth mother, who shares custody with Aiken, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh. Two years ago, he spoke out against North Carolina’s constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriages.

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

“People are concerned about jobs, the economy, raising their kids and being able to pay for college,” he said. “That is what is important to the people of this district and the state, not my sexuality.”

But Ellmers’ campaign staff made a reference to it Tuesday in an email to The N&O about the potential Democratic field.

“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 (Barnes) who doesn’t even live in the district, an activist (Morris) whose 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.”

Barnes did not announce his plans to drop out of the race until early Wednesday morning.

Aiken responded by saying that he actually knows Sanford quite well. He said he has family who live in Sanford.

Regardless of who wins the Democratic primary, Aiken says, it is vital to hold Ellmers accountable for her actions in Congress.

“This constituency, not just Democrats, needs someone who can make the incumbent run on her record,” he said. “She has taken even more detrimental votes in the last two years. This is what is going to defeat her — herself.”

Roche, meanwhile, 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, according to The N&O.

“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.

Barnes said in his news release announcing his decision to drop out of the race that Ellmers is “vulnerable” and Aiken is the best Democrat for the job.

“At this time, my stepping aside to forgo a damaging Democratic primary is vital to taking this seat back,” he said. “We must unite to take this seat back from the extremists who continue to hold the middle class hostage.

“The emergence of so many candidates in this race illustrates Congresswoman Ellmers’ vulnerability.

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Complete Transcript of Clay's Congressional Bid Video

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. 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, who 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 just 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. 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 was 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, but instead, it’s going to require all of us.

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. 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. Thank you for watching and God bless you all.

CLAY for North Carolina

To support Clay, please volunteer & contribute at ClayAiken.com

PAID FOR MY CLAY AIKEN FOR NORTH CAROLINA, APPROVED BY CLAY AIKEN

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harnettnews.org (The Harnett Dispatch)

Standing Room Only at Harnett County Democratic Groundhog Breakfast

POSTED ON FEBRUARY 8, 2014

BY HARNETT

STANDING ROOM ONLY AT HARNETT COUNTY DEMOCRATIC GROUNDHOG BREAKFAST

This morning a large crowd of Democrats shared breakfast together for the annual Groundhog breakfast. This years theme was to honor the past and present Democratic Chairs. The event was hosted by the Democratic men’s club, former Judge Gerald Arnold welcomed the guest to the event and said that is was a good day and great day to be a democrat. The event brought out the heavy weights of the Democratic party from across the state. In attendance today was Congressman David Price, Judges from the North Carolina court appeals, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, Former NCDOT secretary Gene Conti, and other will known local and State elected officials both active and retired. Congressman Bob Etheridge shared the history of the event and presented a plaque to the family of the late C.P. Stewart for his service to the Harnett County Democratic party .

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Democratic Candidates Announce Their Candidacy

POSTED ON FEBRUARY 8, 2014

BY HARNETT

DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES ANNOUNCE THEIR CANDIDACY

Democratic Candidates Announce their Candidacy

The following individuals made it official today and announced their candidacy for the upcoming 2014 Election

In the 2nd Congressional District

American Idol Star Clay Aiken announced earlier last week that he would be seeking the democratic nomination to challenge Rep. Renee Ellmers. Mr. Aiken made an appearance today at the Harnett County event and said that he is running because Rep. Ellmers has lost touch with the district and that we the people of the 2nd district need representation that is connected to the district that she represents. He said that he is running to make Rep. Renee Ellmers respond to the people of the district because she has not responded to the district since taking office.

Former NC Commerce secretary and Businessman Keith Crisco is also vying for the chance to challenge Ellmers in the 2014 general election. Mr. Crisco stated that his experience in creating jobs in North Carolina both in the private and government sector is what he’s all about and he will reach across the isle to make North Carolina a place where people can thrive. Mr. Crisco also stated that he is the only candidate that can beat Ellmers based on experience and leadership.

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salon.com

Clay Aiken talks John Roberts, jobs and why he’s running: The Salon interview

MONDAY, FEB 10, 2014 07:30 AM CST

Clay Aiken talks John Roberts, jobs and why he’s running: The Salon interview

The former American Idol runner-up answers questions about minimum wage, voting rights and LGBT equality

JOSH EIDELSON

clay_aiken-620x412.jpgClay Aiken

(Credit: AP/Charles Sykes)

With a web video announcing a bid for Congress, former teacher and “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken became the most famous challenger of the 2014 cycle. Incumbent Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, R-NC, quickly dismissed the challenge, with a spokesperson calling Aiken “a performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco rather than Sanford” – a line critics called a reference to Aiken’s homosexuality. Mitt Romneyreceived 58 percent of the district’s vote in 2012.

“When I see that we are not being represented,” Aiken told Salon Friday, “it frustrates me in the same way that it frustrated me when I saw those kids in that special needs classroom not being served.” Aiken accused Congress of “punishing” the unemployed while acting to “exacerbate” unemployment, condemned the Roberts Court’s ruling rolling back parts of the Voting Rights Act and urged that companies that offshore jobs be barred from federal contracts. He declined to say whether he’d back congressional Democrats’ proposal for a $10.10 minimum wage, and expressed “reservations” about executive orders, including when it comes to anti-gay discrimination. A condensed version of our conversation follows.

You talk in your announcement video about your family’s confrontation with domestic violence, and about your work in education. How do those experiences shape what you’d do on those issues in Congress?

My work experience as a special ed teacher started, really, because I saw firsthand how those particular populations get underserved, and how they get ignored too much. And so I used my platform as an entertainer to deal with, to try to address, the needs of kids with special needs…

I think pre-K for children is an incredible way to start trying to make sure that kids are getting an adequate education, and making sure that pre-K is available for 4-year-olds and children getting ready to start school. Because getting kids in the process of learning, and understanding how to learn — learning how to learn — is just as important oftentimes, in those early years, as the ABCs are…

The quicker we can address some of the learning challenges that kids have, the quicker we’ll be able to get them better prepared and educated and ready to go to higher education settings like colleges or community colleges.

If you hadn’t been on “American Idol,” do you think you’d be running for Congress right now?

I was always interested in politics, and I was always interested in policy and government, and it was always something that I sort of paid very close attention to.

I don’t know that I aspired to be in politics, though, no. I mean, this was not a goal of mine. This was not a part of my original life plan. But having done television, and having been able to be in the public eye, and get a platform and a microphone, so to speak — both figuratively and literally — I have an opportunity to speak and have people listen, you know? I don’t think many potential congressmen or congresswomen — or even incumbents — get a chance to talk to folks like Salon, or folks you know – [like] the New York Times – or the opportunity to speak now on such a wide level. And send the message that Congress is broken, and Washington is broken, and people are not doing anything at all, and people are frustrated.

Being on “Idol,” I became successful, and I had success — I have had success in my career — in large part because of the people who are in North Carolina, and in this district. They have always been the most supportive of me. They have always been the people who kind of put me here, gave me this platform.

And so, when I see that they are not being represented, when I see that we are not being represented, it frustrates me in the same way that it frustrated me when I saw those kids in that special needs classroom not being served. And I recognize that I have that voice that was given to me by a TV show, and have that opportunity to speak out. And I want to use it for the people who helped put me here.

Last year North Carolina passed what The Nation called “the country’s worst voter suppression law,” creating a “voter ID” requirement, ending same-day registration, and reducing early voting. Do you support any part of that law? Do you think it should it be overturned in court?

We’ve heard representatives from North Carolina speak out and very openly admit that a large part of the motivation for those laws was to keep certain people from voting. Disenfranchising voters is not the way we encourage people to be a part of the democratic process.

You know, I want everyone to vote. I want everyone to be a part of electing officials. Because when we are not a part, when we don’t have a very broad voter base, then we don’t have true representation.

I don’t think that there’s substantiated evidence that shows that voter fraud is such a rampant problem that we have to put in place measures that people have to pass in order to exercise that constitutional free right. Voting should be — and is required to be — a right that is unencumbered. That does not have tests that people must pass, like we asked people to pass literacy tests in the early half of the last century.

We know that that’s not right, because it’s – voting tests, literacy tests and that type of civic test were ways to keep people from exercising their constitutional right to vote. Anything put in place to restrict that right, or to make it more difficult for people to exercise it, should be outlawed, and should not be allowed.

Last year, the Supreme Court found parts of the Voting Rights Act, making it harder for jurisdictions including North Carolina to pass potentially discriminatory voting laws, to be unconstitutional. Was the Supreme Court right?

You know, I find it somewhat ironic that someone could — that any group could say that this law has been so effective that we no longer need the law. By that logic, if the law is effective, then it needs to stay in place – because it is effective. And for that reason I don’t follow that train of thought.

If something is effective, then we need to maintain it. By taking away those protections, we are simply opening the door for the same type of persecution to take place again.

We just saw data released showing 10 million workers unemployed in January, a third of whom have been unemployed for at least six months. What, if anything, should Congress do about this?

Well, we saw the unemployment number creep down a little bit today, and I will be the first to say I don’t think it’s going down as quickly as we want it to.

While Congress is in large part the problem, and the reason that the unemployment numbers are not improving, and the job market is not improving — and I think that they’re part of the problem because they’re not doing anything to get anything done. You know, they’re obstructing, they are sitting around, they’re not working together to find solutions.

Since Congress — to me, and I think to the majority of American voters — is the problem, and they are the reason…these improvements that we seek are not being realized, I do believe that it is incredibly disappointing that they have not voted yet to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.

You know, we cannot be restricting progress — we cannot be obstructing progress — by not working together across the aisle to find answers to our problems, and then punishing the people who are being affected by that obstruction, by not supporting them while we are continuing to exacerbate it.

And what are the policies that Congress should be passing in order to address unemployment?

We have to make sure that we are keeping jobs in this country. I mean, I would like to see the tax breaks, and the loopholes that corporations can take advantage of in the tax code for shipping jobs overseas – I want to see those closed. Tax deductions for the moving expenses…that a company incurs when they move those jobs overseas — we shouldn’t let companies be taking tax breaks for that kind of thing.

At the same time, I believe that the U.S. government should not be entering into contracts with companies that the Department of Labor has determined ship jobs overseas…

Are you urging the president to sign an executive order that would preclude contracting with companies with certain outsourcing records?

You know, I am hesitant of executive orders. And, I mean, I’m the first to admit that I’m not the most educated about the ins and outs of that type of executive order. But I will say I am hesitant to ask for anyone to sign an executive order, because I understand how temporary that ends up being. And creating laws based on one person means that the next person who’s in office, whoever that may be, has the right to overturn it. And then we end up with just as much instability — or potentially just as much instability — as we have now…

For that reason, I understand the desire for Congress to act and get something done, because it provides more permanence. And so I can’t really answer and tell you whether or not I would encourage him to sign an executive order, but I will say that my belief right now is that I do have some reservations about executive orders in general.

What about the call for Obama to sign an executive order to ban anti-LGBT discrimination under federal contracts – do you support that?

You know, I don’t have a difference of opinions, just because — from one particular topic to the other. I certainly don’t believe — and I think the majority of Americans, and I believe the majority of North Carolinians don’t believe — that we should be discriminating against any population in jobs and employment.

That said, I want to see a permanent law in place. And so, while I’m happy that the president believes that, and feels that way, and feels it’s important, I want to see Congress act and make it permanent.

Would you support the version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that passed the Senate?

The answer is yes. That we need to make sure that the laws we’re passing are protecting people. And we should not be voting against something that makes progress just because it doesn’t make as much progress as we’d like to see made.

As much as I might like to see any number of issues progress in larger steps, I understand that some of these things happen in smaller steps. And so for that reason, progress is progress. And success is success.

What do you believe should be the federal minimum wage?

I don’t know the answer to what the federal minimum wage should be precisely. I do believe that we need to increase the amount we’re paying workers. I do believe that nobody should be working 40 hours a week and living in poverty. Nobody should be working two jobs and living below the poverty line. The minimum wage should be increased.

People are not being paid enough, and we have not increased the minimum wage — and we should be incentivizing the people who go to work. We should make working full-time something that will pay a living wage.

That said, I’m not sure that the minimum wage is the only way to solve that problem. I think we need to take a hard look at how to get the Earned Income Tax Credit back up to where it should be, and be incentivizing people in that way as well.

We need to make sure that we are doing it in a way that companies are still hiring people. And we need to make sure that – there’s no answer to any question that relies on only one side or the other. And for the last three years, we’ve spent too much time doing nothing because neither side will budge. I believe personally that the minimum wage should be increased. But I understand that there’s a need to meet in the middle somewhere, and make sure that it affects everyone positively. And so I think minimum wage increase is not the only answer.

The proposal from congressional Democrats for a $10.10 minimum wage – would you vote in favor of that?

Again, I can’t answer it any differently than I did before. I don’t know precisely what the minimum wage should be. Because I think that a lot of this – a lot has to be looked at.

Personally, I think that a $10.10 minimum wage seems to be a reasonable place to start. But again, I don’t think it’s the only answer. And I think that we have to listen to the arguments from both sides and figure out what’s best. And that isn’t always from one side or the other.

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longawkwardpause.com (Satire)

Aiken Says He's the "Measure of a Man" Congress Needs

Aiken says he’s the ‘Measure of a Man’ Congress needs

Posted by Ned's Blog on February 12, 2014 in Humor, Ned Hickson, News | Leave a comment

RALEIGH, N.C. — My interview with singer and 2003 American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken began with a tour of North Carolina’s second Congressional district. As I sat on the back of his bedazzled Vespa motor scooter, Aiken seemed to take pride in his city, as well as take corners so sharply I had to squeeze his waist. Though he formally announced his bid for Congress a week ago, Aiken told me more than once that he’s no politician.

“I’m no politician!” he shouted over his shoulder, then swerved to avoid a cloud of mosquitoes. “Woooo! Shields down!”

Some speculate that his run against Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers is a publicity stunt aimed at putting him back in the spotlight for the release of his next album, Aiken for Change, which coincidentally happens to be his campaign slogan. When asked about this, the American Idol star abruptly brought the scooter to a stop in a rundown South Raleigh neighborhood known for its high crime rate and low employment. He removed his helmet and raised a finger, prepared to reply with a well-thought rebuttal, then quickly put his helmet back on.

“Oh darn,” he whispered. “I didn’t mean to stop in THIS neighborhood!“

A short ride and several sharp turns later, we arrived at a small coffee shop adorned with Aiken For Change banners and, at the counter, a campaign donation jar labeled Change for Aiken. The Congressional hopeful made it clear on his website that the majority of his campaign funding is dependent on donations from supporters, who can pledge $5, $10, $50, $100 and “Other.”

“I want to make it clear that ‘Other’ just means sums larger than $100,” said Aiken. “I know how the media is, so don’t read anything into it.”

It was clear that the java shop was Aiken’s favorite haunt, and that the one-time Broadway “Spamalot” star was its favorite customer. As if to underscore this, Aiken’s favorite hot drink arrived without him ever placing the order.

“One piping hot skinny Mexican!” said Betty the barista, who was clearly enamored with the Congressional hopeful.

Aiken’s trademark empathy was immediate as he leaned forward and whispered, “I think she kind of likes me. I’m not sure how to break it to her that I’m… you know…” he then smiled and waved in her direction before turning back to me. “… Not reeeally a coffee drinker.”

It’s no secret that the past Celebrity Apprentice star has disagreed with many of the decisions Congresswoman Ellmers has made while in office, including voting multiple times for cuts in military spending and for government shutdowns — votes that Aiken believes have been disasterous for his district’s economy and America in general.

“Plus,” said Aiken, “according to our records, she has never bought a single copy of any of my CDs.” He then leaned forward again, whispering: “You have to wonder about somebody like that, right?”

Though he admits his musical success has afforded him a $2 million custom-built home and other extravagances, such as a fleet of bedazzled Vespa scooters he keeps in a climate controlled showroom, Aiken, 35, insists he’s still grounded.

“Seriously, my mother lives with me and was madder than a hornet when I stayed out past 10 the other night without calling,” Aiken admitted. “If it wasn’t for this interview — and a teeny white lie that it was for Newsweek — I’d be grounded to my room right now.”

While millions of self-professed “Claymates” and other supporters who are part of what is known as “Clay Nation” are promoting Aiken’s campaign through social media, Ellmers’ spokeswoman, Jessica Wood, called the Days of Our Lives cameo-star “…a performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco than Raleigh. He has no business being in this race and doesn’t represent the values of the voters in this district. And don’t even get me started on his shirts.”

When told of Woods’ remarks, Aiken was clearly agitated, causing him to make a fist that he slammed onto the table with enough force to send the coffee jacket sliding down his paper cup.

“Owww! FRACK!” he said, then apologized for losing his temper. “It’s just that I designed those shirts myself.”

Aiken quickly composed himself by changing the subject; a move that demonstrated his growing political savvy. “We have wonderful new campaign buttons!” he blurted, then pulled out a large, saucer-sized button from his waist satchel. In the center is Aiken’s smiling face surrounded by his latest campaign slogan:

Aiken for Congress: Because moving forward doesn’t always mean going straight

“My mom is making hundreds of these with one of those button-making thingies,” said Aiken, whose eyes suddenly widened. “Momma Mia! I told her I’d only be gone an hour. If I’m late again she’ll ground me for a month — and I’ve got the primaries to think about!”

With a hasty handshake, the Congressional hopeful and one-time Beyonce talk show interviewee was sprinting to his Vespa for a quick trip home. “They say the fastest route to any point is a straight line,” Aiken said over the whir of his revving scooter. “We’ll just SEE about that!”

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indyweek.com

Aiken, Crisco, and the Battle for Renee Ellmers' 2nd Congressional District

February 12, 2014

Aiken, Crisco, and the battle for Renee Ellmers' 2nd congressional district

by Bob Geary

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Sure, Clay Aiken's announcement video is sensational. Check it out. But J. Keith Crisco, the other leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2nd congressional district, has a video too. But Crisco's has 985 views on YouTube. Aiken's, after five days, had nearly half a million.

But then, Crisco's candidacy was a snoozer, notwithstanding his experience, before Aiken jumped in against him last week. Suddenly, Democrats everywhere were debating whether Crisco, 70, the business leader, or Aiken, 35, the celebrity showman, stands the better chance against incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers.

Before I get to Aiken vs. Crisco, though, I should mention that in 2003 when Aiken was on American Idol, I was completely caught up in the drama. The first time I tuned in, with the field already down to six or seven finalists, I predicted that Aiken would defeat the early front-runner, Ruben Studdard, based on equal singing ability and a big edge in likeability.

Aiken, a nerd with a shaky voice when he started, was in the process of transforming himself into a full-fledged star. Actually, he was freeing his inner star. He also seemed to be genuinely nice—a credit to his mother, his Raleigh upbringing and our much-vaunted "North Carolina values."

When it came down to Aiken-Studdard on the final night, I tried to vote for Aiken, only to be thwarted by a busy signal at his AT&T number. I remain convinced that Studdard's narrow win was because too many of us Claymates called too few AT&T lines—and we overwhelmed the system.

Point being, I'm not objective about Aiken. But then, politics isn't a talent show, is it?

Of course it is, and the primaries are the auditions. Democrats and Republicans are looking for a cast of candidates to best represent them—put on the best show, you might say. Some prefer candidates who showcase an issue. Others want candidates who can win.

For her part, Ellmers is a little goofy, but not in an amusing, screwball-comedy way. If a House Republican is saying something stupid about Obamacare, it's probably Ellmers. A registered nurse, she's become a go-to spokeswoman for the House Republican leadership, which makes her anathema to some rank-and-file Republicans who consider their House leaders too darned reasonable. (No, seriously.)

Thus, Ellmers has a GOP primary challenge from tea party extremist Frank Roche, though Ellmers should win.

Remember, too, that the Republican General Assembly gerrymandered our congressional districts. That means that the 2nd District, a collection of suburban and rural precincts in parts of eight counties—including some of Wake—has been engineered to vote Republican.

The argument for Crisco, as the Democratic nominee, is that he's from Republican Randolph County and might cut into Ellmers' margins in the western part of the district. Crisco was Gov. Bev Perdue's Secretary of Commerce and employs 200 people in his Asheboro textile company. As Democratic analyst Thomas Mills says, he's a "business-friendly moderate from a small town," which used to be a winning formula for Democrats in rural North Carolina but isn't so much any more.

No, in this district peeling off a few moderate voters from the Republicans isn't going to get it done. Especially in a mid-term election when voter turnout drops—and usually the drop-off is greater for Democrats.

The idea of Clay Aiken as a congressional candidate struck me as silly—until I watched his announcement video. Once again, Aiken succeeded in transforming himself, this time from the gutsy kid I remembered into a mature candidate with a passion for helping others.

He talks about being raised by a single mom who fled an abusive husband. He talks about teaching special-education classes for children with autism and his work for UNICEF. He gets it that politics is for helping those in need—and zaps Ellmers for voting to shut down the government but wanting her own paycheck delivered as usual. (She did back off that dumb comment.)

Lawrence O'Donnell, the MSNBC analyst and an old Democratic hand, told Aiken: "I have not seen anyone put out a better campaign announcement than that and a better, more strongly put and impassioned rationale for running."

And don't just go by the video. Read up on Aiken and you'll discover that this young man who burst forth on American Idol has used his talents to help children with disabilities, not just to enrich himself.

The argument for Aiken, as Democratic analyst Gary Pearce wrote in support of his candidacy, is that he can mobilize a new wave of younger voters to come out for the Democrats. "He can inject new energy, reshape the electorate and shake up the race," Pearce wrote.

Well, that's a tall order, but let me say this. For the Democrats, 2014 is not about the 2nd congressional district. It's about gaining back some seats in the General Assembly and getting U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan re-elected, thus helping to preserve the Democrats' majority in the Senate.

To that end, the party must mount a good show, with strong candidates in the supporting roles—candidates who command attention and draw new voters to the polls.

I haven't mentioned that Aiken is gay. But Ellmers did with her sophomoric crack about "San Francisco values." No matter. In our cast, homegrown LGBTQ talents are needed and welcome.

Like I said, Ellmers isn't amusing. And Aiken? He gets better and better.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Claymation."

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guprogressive.com

Clay Aiken Needs to Be a Congressman

Clay Aiken Needs to be a Congressman

That’s right, you read the headline correctly, Clay Aiken really is running for Congress. Specifically, he is running as a Democrat in North Carolina’s second congressional district. Many are going to stop there and wonder why a musical celebrity run for office? At first glance we might assume that this is a publicity stunt, like Donald Trump trying to get more camera time with his bogus presidential run, but there’s a lot the general public doesn’t know about Clay Aiken.

Who was Aiken before American Idol? He was a regular American, from a blue-collar home, and an individual with a good heart. As a teenager he spent time working at a local YMCA, directing children’s camps, and giving back to this community. After he graduated high school, but before enrolling at UNC Charlotte, Aiken began substitute teaching for a special education classroom at an elementary school in Raleigh. This sparked an interest for helping children with disabilities, and while in college he took a part time job as an assistant for a boy with autism. His interest in Special Education continued after acquiring his newfound celebrity status from American Idol, and he continued to work towards a bachelor’s degree in special education.

After finding success as a musician Aiken refused to stop giving back to the community. As a National Ambassador for the U.S. fund for UNICEF Aiken worked to ensure that all children, on a global level, are given at least an elementary school level education. Through his work with UNICEF Clay has traveled to Uganda, Banda Aceh, Kabul, Bamyan, Mexico, Somalia, and Kenya. On these trips he didn’t function merely as a celebrity to garner attention for crises, instead he actively volunteered, administering polio vaccinations to babies and working with kids in the Mexican states of Chiapas and Tabasco to ensure they had a happy Christmas after floods ravaged their villages. He was subsequently appointed by President Bush to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities in 2006.

Aiken takes his experience as a philanthropist and activist into his campaign for congress. He aims to give everyone a fighting chance for happiness, and in his campaign video he admits that “for most Americans there are no Golden Tickets”. This is why I’m excited that Clay is running for Congress, because he’s a real individual with a genuine desire to help others. This is why Clay should win this seat, because he is everything that congress isn’t; he represents everything that the current members of congress can’t achieve. A loving father, an openly gay celebrity, an advocate for human rights around the world, and a man with a good heart, Clay Aiken is so much more than an American Idol contestant. He doesn’t come from money or power, but from a simple home in Raleigh, North Carolina. If Clay can win this long-shot election in a heavily Republican district, then he will be the first positive change North Carolina has seen in three years.

by Hayden Frye on February 11, 2014

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wncn.com

Clay Aiken Surpasses $100K in Donations

Clay Aiken campaign surpasses $100K in donations

Posted: Feb 14, 2014 11:39 AM CSTUpdated: Feb 14, 2014 11:40 AM CST

by WNCN Staff

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Clay Aiken's campaign announced Friday that it surpassed $100,000 in individual donations more than a week after the former "American Idol" announced he was running for Congress.

The singer officially announced his candidacy for Congress in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District on Feb. 5 in a five-minute

video.

The campaign reports more than $70,000 in online contributions alone from over 1,400 individual donors in its first week. The average online donation is $49.

The campaign also raised an additional $30,000 in donations and pledges from individuals in the district and North Carolina.

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

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packpoll.com (North Carolina State University polling data)

Clay Aiken Announces bid for Congress: Campaign Ad Successful among NC State Students

Clay Aiken Announces bid for Congress: Campaign Ad Successful among NC State Students

02.16.2014 8:25 PM

Clay Aiken recently announced his candidacy for North Carolina’s second congressional district, a seat currently held by ® Rep. Renee Ellmers. Aiken, perhaps best known for his second place finish in American Idol’s sophomore season in 2003, went on to become a professional musician, actor, and writer. Aiken’s announcement made national news, garnering media coverage from organization such as NPR, The New York Times, and the Washington Post. NC State students are unimpressed, until they watch his campaign ad.

Is Aiken’s ad effective? Survey says, “Yes!”

The North Carolina native announced his candidacy in a four-minute campaign video that can be seen

Many political observers were impressed by the quality of the ad, which already has received more than half a million views on YouTube. Is Aiken’s ad effective?

A recent representative poll of NC State undergraduates (February 10-14, 2014) was conducted over the internet to explore whether viewing Aiken’s ad could change minds. The survey also tested whether Aiken’s homosexuality is a political liability among State students. Our poll has a response rate of 15% based on the 447 students who started taking the poll, although slightly fewer (392) finished it.

To explore these issues, we embedded an experiment within our survey. At random, one group (a “control group”) of students was assigned only to read basic information about Aiken, but they did not see the campaign video. This group saw the following text, “As you might know, Clay Aiken is a former second place winner from North Carolina on American Idol. He is believed to be a top 10 Idol alumni in terms of record sales. Aiken recently announced that he is trying to win the 2nd congressional district here in North Carolina, running as a Democrat.”

The two other groups (“treatment groups”), also chosen at random, were provided Aiken’s ad to watch, and also read the same text seen by the control group. These two treatment groups were identical except we added that Aiken was openly gay to the text, allowing us to measure the impact of information about Aiken’s homosexuality.

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Powerful Effects

Watching the ad helped Aiken tremendously. Most people (51%) who only read the text had neutral views about Clay Aiken. Unfavorable views, though, were also more prominent than favorable ones (32% vs. 17%, respectively). Yet, Aiken’s favorability nearly doubled after watching the ad. Aiken’s favorability reached 37% among those who saw the video, an increase of twenty percentage points, while those saying they viewed him unfavorably declined to just 22% of the sample. The remainder, 41%, was neutral.

We find similar effects for perceptions of Aiken’s competency. If students only read the text description, 64% believed Aiken would be an incompetent public official. However, seeing the ad reversed these perceptions. Among those viewing it, 57% said Aiken would be a competent legislator.

Finally, most students believed that Aiken was liberal, regardless of whether or not they saw the video. However, the percentage saying Aiken was liberal declined slightly, from 81% to 75%, if they saw the ad. Being perceived as more moderate will probably be essential for Aiken to succeed in the 2nd district.

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Ad works for Republicans, Independents, not just Democrats

Digging deeper, we find that the ad was effective on students of all political persuasions. Aiken was viewed favorably by just 6% of Republicans if they did not see the ad, a figure that increases to 16% among those viewing it. For independents, the impact of the ad was even greater. Not a single Independent viewed Aiken favorably if they didn’t watch the ad, but 33% of them had favorable impressions if they did. Likewise, Aiken’s favorability among Democrats increased from 39% to 57%, among those not viewing the ad compared to those who did.

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NC State Students un-phased by Aiken’s Sexuality

Unsurprisingly, Aiken’s ad made no mention of his being openly gay, which could prove to be a campaign issue in a district widely regarded as politically conservative. We examined this by telling some students, but not others, that Aiken is openly gay. In prior PackPoll surveys, students overwhelming indicated their tolerance of homosexuality, such as opposing Amendment One and supporting gay marriage. Being gay, then, should not affect students’ opinions about Aiken. Social desirability, though, a phenomenon where respondents give “pleasing” but untrue responses in surveys, could exaggerate students’ tolerance.

We fail to find any significant difference in opinions about Aiken between the two treatment groups, only one of which was told Aiken was openly gay. The null effect is true not only for Aiken’s favorability, but also for his perceived competency and ideology. We also examined if Aiken’s homosexuality might have influenced partisans differently, but we again failed to uncover any meaningful change in attitudes across students holding different political orientations.

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Aiken Not Invisible Anymore

Aiken not invisible anymore

Opinions Editor | Posted: Monday, February 17, 2014 6:00 am

American celebrities have influence over popular opinion: They endorse products, support political candidates and even run for political office. Sometimes they have enough clout to win, as in the case of Ronald Reagan, who won the 1980 presidential election against incumbent Jimmy Carter. So with the recent announcement of “American Idol” Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken’s bid for Congress, the ridicule should be tempered with serious consideration.

Aiken announced his candidacy for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd District in a Feb. 5 YouTube video filmed in the house where his mother, a victim of domestic abuse, brought him up as an infant. He said the state needs better infrastructure to support the unemployed and less fortunate, voicing bipartisan ideals of changing the system to assure that making a living is possible on a minimum wage. Aiken is running as a Democrat in traditionally Republican Raleigh against incumbent Renee Ellmers, who jabbed at Aiken’s second-place finish in “American Idol” and said he “must be bored” when she was interviewed Jan. 29 about rumors of Aiken’s candidacy on the political radio station WMAL.

The politically aware should not snort with derision at Aiken, though. Despite his rise to stardom via “American Idol,” Aiken has a number of very real qualifications, such as working with UNICEF and being appointed to a special education commission by former President George W. Bush. He has also taught special education in North Carolina for several years, and despite his celebrity status, he is aware of the issues that affect the state. Instead of criticizing politicians as many do, Aiken has decided to do something about it.

There has probably never been a better time for an unlikely candidate to run for office. The national approval rating of Congress has fallen from 20 percent to 12 percent during the last four years, according to a Feb. 10 Gallup poll. The average historical approval rating for Congress is 33 percent, which is still shockingly low, but the current approval rating is a dip that comes in the wake of October’s frustrating budget standoff. As Aiken points out, Ellmers voted against the proposed budget on Oct. 16, joining the GOP effort to blackmail the government in exchange for a budget deal. That fact could make her unpopular when Congressional elections come around this fall, despite her 14 percent lead over the competition in the 2012 election.

Historically, when political approval rates for incumbents are low, a third-party or long-shot candidate can sneak by. For instance, independent presidential candidate Gary Johnson garnered approximately 1 percent of the national vote in the 2012 election, a much higher margin than most third-party candidates earn, according to Federal Election Commission documents. Aiken is not a third-party candidate, but he is certainly not a career politician.

Celebrities have won significant races in the past when incumbents’ approval ratings were low. Former President Reagan, a wealthy Hollywood movie star, took the presidential election in 1980, earning 51 percent of the vote after President Jimmy Carter’s approval rating fell to 34 percent in 1980, likely because of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. While Reagan was ridiculed at the time for running for public office, he won the presidency and is idolized by the Republican Party today as a hero of conservatism. However, Reagan was a long-shot candidate who might not have won if Carter’s approval rate had not fallen.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, a bodybuilder and movie star, is another case of a politician’s unpopularity putting a long-shot candidate in office. Former California Gov. Gray Davis was forced into a vote recall after questions were raised about his re-election in late 2002, and the special election in early 2003 handed Schwarzenegger the position. He had never held an elected office before, but with Davis’ plummeting popularity and statewide skepticism about the growing deficit, Schwarzenegger secured 55 percent of the vote.

North Carolina could do a lot worse than Aiken, and after Congress’ record-breaking do-nothing year, the House could see a revolving door effect. Americans are dissatisfied with both national parties—74 percent said they believe America needs a third party to balance Washington politics, according to an Oct. 11 Gallup poll. A third party takes a lot of effort and organization to form, and because founding a party is a long and complex process, there is no assurance that the end result will be satisfactory.

If Americans really want to see a change, they need to be informed voters. Congressional representatives are major influential players in national policies, so voters should make sure they at least know the names of the candidates for their districts. After so much national frustration with Congress during budget season—and the rest of the year, for that matter—the politicians may be scrambling to keep their seats. If voters really are unhappy, they actually have the chance to fire Congress, as the bumper sticker goes. Raleigh residents should give Aiken a chance in the upcoming election—he may be the first step to action in a gridlocked Congress.

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