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NC-02: Ellmers Under Fire From Both Left and Right

NC-02: Ellmers Under Fire From Both Left and Right

April 1, 2014

by John Wynne


North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District - Renee Ellmers ®

Welcome to the first edition of the District Geography series. Here, we’re going to be looking at the competitive districts in North Carolina and also make predictions as to what might happen in the fall. We’re going to start by analyzing the congressional districts, then move on to the State Senate and State House districts. First up is the 2nd congressional district.

The 2nd district is based in Central North Carolina, but lacks a true regional identity and is more of a mishmash of various areas, including Sanford, the Fort Bragg-Fayetteville area, the crimson-red Greensboro exurbs, and the town of Cary. Heavily Democratic areas, like the city of Pittsboro and more diverse communities in Fayetteville, have been carved out and are part of the 4th district. The result? A district that is safe for most any Republican.

Presently, the district is held by Republican Renee Ellmers of Dunn, first elected in the Tea Party wave of 2010, defeating Bob Etheridge. Initially, Ellmers was given little chance of victory, but a “YouTube moment” for Etheridge changed all that, and she eked out a win in November with strong Tea Party support. The 2nd was made substantially more Republican in redistricting, and Ellmers easily prevailed over her Democratic challenger, Steve Wilkins, in 2012.

Republican Primary

Since her first election, Ellmers has been a rather different Representative than the Tea Party had in mind, less of a bombthrower and more of an ally of the Republican leadership. Many on the far right thus consider her a traitor to the cause, and her recent support of comprehensive immigration reform has been a cause of considerable ire for them. Accordingly, the Tea Party has attempted to replace her with someone more ideologically pure. But their efforts have come up short: two strong potential opponents to Ellmers passed up on the race, and the only other Republican running is Frank Roche, who is less than an ideal challenger. A former talk show host, Roche has sought various elected offices in the past, always coming up short, a losing streak that is unlikely to change with the primary against Ellmers.

Roche’s big problem: money. He doesn’t have any. And while Ellmers isn’t the strongest fundraiser, a group supporting immigration reform has run ads touting her as tough on border security. This is perhaps an indication that Ellmers senses some danger. But unless Roche can raise a lot of money, and fast, Ellmers will prevail on May 6th, but her margin of victory will probably be underwhelming.

Democratic Primary

While the 2nd is ostensibly strongly Republican, Democrats have two strong contenders to choose from. The biggest name, of course, is Clay Aiken, the singer-songwriter who gained fame on American Idol and then as an activist. The other is Keith Crisco, former Secretary of Commerce under Bev Perdue. There hasn’t been any reputable public polling, so it’s anyone’s guess as to who will prevail in May. The Aiken campaign touted the results of a survey that had Crisco in third place in the primary, behind counselor Toni Morris, but this internal poll is to be viewed with skepticism.

The Aiken-Crisco primary sets up an interesting contrast, that is in some respects a battle of old vs. new. Crisco fits the profile of successful North Carolina Democrats of the past: business-friendly, moderate to conservative, from a rural area. Aiken, however, fits the profile of the new, hip, urban Democrat, and makes no secret of the fact that he’s gay. There is also a large age disparity: Aiken is 35, while Crisco is 70.

In the primary, Aiken is likely to do well in suburban Wake County, but it’s a question of how well he’ll perform among the more traditional Democrats living in the more rural parts of the district. Then there are the “Claymates” – Aiken fans who don’t generally turn out in primaries but might do so to support their idol. This will definitely be one to watch on May 6th.

General Election

To predict elections going forward, it’s wise to look at elections past. And the 2nd district’s record is one that is reliably Republican. Despite losing nationwide, Mitt Romney won here with 57% of the vote in 2012, so in normal circumstances a Republican should be favored. However, there are arguably some abnormal circumstances here which should make observers cautious about declaring Ellmers a shoo-in. First, Ellmers could have trouble generating support from the Tea Party base, which could leave her vulnerable to a conservative Democrat with strong crossover support, like Crisco, or a more liberal Democrat who can raise a lot of money and turn out a lot of nontraditional voters, like Aiken. But even in such a perfect storm scenario, the national tide is likely to carry her to victory. The same is true in the unlikely event that Frank Roche is nominated. Thus, while Republicans can’t be absolutely certain of winning here, they can take comfort from the district’s record and what appears to be a building Republican wave. Notably, this is the Democrats’ best chance of picking up a seat in the entire state, which goes to show how much of an advantage Republicans have with the current maps.

The bottom line: Ellmers has been one of the luckiest politicians in Washington. It’s possible her luck will someday run out, but in both the primary and the general she seems well-positioned. Still, Ellmers shouldn’t be too confident, as strange things can happen. In the 2nd district, they’ve happened before.


Rep. Renee Ellmers

Frank Roche, talk show host


Clay Aiken, celebrity and activist

Keith Crisco, businessman

Toni Morris, counselor

District Rating: Leans Republican

Counties in district: Alamance (part), Chatham (part), Cumberland (part), Harnett (part), Hoke(part), Lee, Moore, Randolph (part), Wake (part)

2012 Result

Renee Ellmers ® – 55.9%

Steve Wilkins (D) – 41.4%

Voter Registration

Democrat – 36.3%

Republican – 35.3%

Unaffiliated – 28.0%

White – 74.1%

Black – 17.7%

Other – 8.2%

Results in Other Elections

2012 President

57.2% Romney

41.8% Obama

2012 Governor

60.1% McCrory

37.7% Dalton

2010 Senate

60.7% Burr

36.9% Marshall

2008 Senate

49.8% Dole

46.8% Hagan

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Achin' for Clay

Achin' for Clay

Gary Pearce posted on April 03, 2014 10:15

Carter said a “celebrity” campaign was different. Now I get it. Working with Clay Aiken is unlike any campaign I’ve seen.

Aiken starts with the most valuable quality a candidate can have today. He is a genuine political outsider in a time when voters are disgusted with politics. And he has near-universal name recognition. He doesn’t have to buy that on TV.

His challenge as a candidate is – or, was – different. Call it the WTF Factor. As in “Clay Aiken for Congress? WTF?” People know who he is, but is he qualified?

Aiken put that to rest in his five-minute announcement video. It has been viewed more than 600,000 times. Then he walked a gauntlet of interviews in the state and national media. When people hear him and talk to him, they realize he knows the district, knows the issues and knows what people are going through.

Now he’s on a roll. People react to him like to no other politician. I saw it last weekend at the College Dems/Young Dems convention and at Lillian’s List this week. The room buzzes when he comes in. People watch him. They take his measure. They want to take pictures with him.

Aiken seizes that moment. He takes their cell phone and snaps a selfie with them. Now, “#selfieswithclay” is a thing.

All this explains why he has a 20-point lead in the Democratic primary. And why the DCCC has put this race on the radar. And why Renee Ellmers suddenly looks spooked.

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newsobserver.com Under the Dome

Cook Report Gives Clay Aiken Breathing Room

Cook Report gives Clay Aiken breathing room

Posted by Craig Jarvis on April 11, 2014

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers still has a lock on re-election – but ….

That’s the analysis by the authoritative and nonpartisan Cook Political Report in a long piece published Friday about Clay Aiken’s chances of an upset.

For reasons laid out in detail in the article, The Cook Report “as a precaution” has moved the 2nd Congressional District seat from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican.”

Daylight for Aiken comes after the Report sat down with him and came away impressed with his grasp of the issues, passion and sense of political realism.

Ellmers’ district has been gerrymandered to further bolster a GOP candidate. But that could work against her, the Report says: Most of the redrawn district is new to Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn, and more people recognize the pop singer’s name than they do hers.

There’s always a chance that the North Carolina legislature’s swing to the hard right could bring a backlash from those who think differently about education and voting rights, the article says. And Sen. Kay Hagan’s re-election machine could turn out Democratic voters beneficial to Aiken.

All that and more – big missteps by Ellmers, for example – would have to line up in Aiken’s favor. “He needs a perfect storm like we’ve rarely seen to beat Ellmers,” the Report concludes.

The piece barely mentions Aiken’s other obstacle: He still has a Democratic primary to survive against a rival who is expected to be well-financed. The Report says he shouldn’t have much trouble defeating Keith Crisco, and being a celebrity, he shouldn’t have trouble raising enough money.

Still, the analysis goes, Ellmers is “the overwhelming favorite to win.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobser...ml#storylink=cp

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atr.com (Roll Call)

Clay Aiken Reports Fundraising for North Carolina House Campaign

Clay Aiken Reports Fundraising for North Carolina House Campaign

By Emily Cahn Posted at 10:21 a.m. on April 15


(Ethan Miller/Getty Images File Photo)

Clay Aiken, an “American Idol” runner-up and Democratic long-shot running for Congress in North Carolina, reported raising $233,000 in the first quarter of this year.

Aiken’s haul includes a $23,000 loan to his campaign, according to his campaign finance report filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission. Aiken reported $125,000 in cash on hand as of March 31.

The haul is smaller than expected for a celebrity candidate; they often rake in huge hauls thanks to deep-pocketed Hollywood connections.

Aiken will face former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and mental health counselor Toni Morris in a Democratic primary on May 6. In an interview over the weekend, Aiken told Roll Call that he is confident he will emerge from the primary in the 2nd District.

“We’ve done an initial primary poll and it showed us with a pretty substantial, healthy lead over both the second- and third-place opponents,” Aiken said in a Saturday phone interview. “We haven’t done one since that, but I think the margin there was somewhere between 20 and 30 percent.”

All three are looking to oust GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers, who is expected to win re-election in this GOP-friendly district. Mitt Romney carried the district with 57 percent in 2012.

The other candidates have yet to file their first-quarter reports, which are due to the FEC by midnight Tuesday.

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

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Clay Aiken Claims Lead in NC Dem Primary for Congress

Clay Aiken Claims Lead in NC Dem Primary for Congress

Tuesday, 15 Apr 2014 11:47 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

Former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken says he’s leading his two primary Democratic opponents in the race for a North Carolina congressional seat.

The singer, who is openly gay, has raised $233,000 in the first quarter of this year in his longshot bid to win the Second District, according to Roll Call.

Aiken reported that he still had $125,000 in the bank at the end of March, although his campaign finance report shows that he owes $23,000 to the campaign.

According to the report, his fundraising efforts fall well short of the sum usually raised in an election race by celebrities, who can call on their wealthy Hollywood friends.

But Aiken was thrilled with how much support he’s gained so far in the contest, and he says that he’s well-ahead of his two primary opponents.

"We’ve done an initial primary poll, and it showed us with a pretty substantial, healthy lead over both the second- and third-place opponents," Aiken told Roll Call. "We haven’t done one since that, but I think the margin there was somewhere between 20 and 30 percent."

Aiken will face former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and mental health counselor Toni Morris in the May 6 primary.

The Democrats are looking to unseat Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, who is favored to win re-election in the district that Mitt Romney carried with 57 percent in 2012.

Aiken, who is single dad to a 5-year-old son, placed second in 2003 on "American Idol"to Ruben Studdard.

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Endorsed Candidates for Primary Day, May 6th

Posted by Jeremy | April 17, 2014

Endorsed Candidates for Primary Day, May 6th

Your vote counts

Who you vote for is a personal decision. We get that. We hope you’ll consider voting for the only candidates with the union label. Your vote does count!

Early Voting runs April 24 through May 3. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is April 29.

Only races with endorsed candidates are listed below:

Statewide / Western NC

  • Kay Hagan, US Senate
  • Robin Hudson, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice

Triangle Labor Council

  • Kay Hagan, US Senate
  • Robin Hudson, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • Clay Aiken, Congressional District 2
  • Laura Fjeld, Congressional District 6
  • Robert Reives, State House District 54

Greater Sandhills Central Labor Council

  • Kay Hagan, US Senate
  • Robin Hudson, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • Clay Aiken , Congressional District 2
  • Larry Lancaster, Cumberland Co. Commissioner At large
  • Jeanette Council, Cumberland Co. Commissioner District 1
  • Barbara McKoy, Harnett Co. Commissioner District 1
  • Sylvia Adamczyk, State Senate District 21

Eastern NC Central Labor Council

  • Kay Hagan, US Senate
  • Robin Hudson, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • Penelope Carroll, Dare Co. Board of Ed District 2
  • Carr Ipock, State Senate District 2
  • Don Davis, State Senate District 5

Triad Central Labor Council

  • Kay Hagan, US Senate
  • Robin Hudson, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • Clay Aiken, Congressional District 2
  • Laura Fjeld, Congressional District 6
  • Alma Adams, Congressional District 12
  • David Churchill, Guilford Co. Clerk of Court
  • Kirk Perkins, Guilford Co. Commissioner At large
  • Kay Cashion, Guilford Co. Commissioner At large
  • Pricey Harrison, State House District 57
  • Kerry Graves, State House District 58
  • Earl Jones, State House District 60
  • Craig Blitzer, Rockingham Co. District Attorney
  • Gladys Robinson, State Senate District 28

Southern Piedmont Central Labor Council

  • Kay Hagan, US Senate
  • Robin Hudson, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • Alma Adams, Congressional District 12
  • Kim Ratliff, Mecklenburg Co. Commissioner At large
  • Pat Cotham, Mecklenburg Co. Commissioner At large
  • Trevor Fuller, Mecklenburg Co. Commissioner At large
  • Vilma Leake, Mecklenburg Co. Commissioner District 2
  • Matt Newton, State Senate District 40

Eastern Piedmont Central Labor Council

  • Kay Hagan, US Senate
  • Robin Hudson, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • Annie Ward Mobley, State Houe District 5
  • Jean Farmer-Butterfield, State House District 24
  • Michael Wray, State House District 27

Southeastern NC Central Labor Council

  • Kay Hagan, US Senate
  • Robin Hudson, NC Supreme Court Associate Justice
  • Jonathan Barfield, Congressional District 7

Paid for by the North Carolina State AFL-CIO and not authorized by any candidate or candidates committee.

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Clay Aiken Running to Be a Voice for Students, Educators, and North Carolina

Clay Aiken running to be a voice for students, educators and North Carolina

Posted April 18, 2014


by Colleen Flaherty

While Clay Aiken may be better known for his career as a singer, he’s been advocating for students for well over a decade.

“I recognize that when you get into the public eye, you can either use the microphone to do better for yourself, or you can use it to do better for more people,” said Aiken in an interview with Education Votes.

Before his rise to stardom on American Idol, Clay Aiken was running a YMCA after school program when he was first given the chance to work in a classroom.

“The principal at the school knew I wanted to work with kids with special needs, so when she had a teacher in one of her special ed classrooms who was going on maternity leave, she wanted to know if I’d be willing to fill in for her, and I said yes.”

He ended up staying at the elementary school for the next two years. He eventually went on to become a qualified special education teacher, for much the same reason he is now running for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd District.

“The reason I did it is because I fell in love with these kids, and I recognized that they needed someone, an advocate for them. I thought it was an opportunity to work with some kids who needed help. So I guess to tie it into Congress, this was an opportunity for me to do the same thing. To be an advocate for not just students, but teachers, workers and the entire population of this state who are not effectively being advocated for.”


Two months after his time on American Idol in 2003, Aiken founded and continues to run the National Inclusion Project, formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which focuses on promoting the inclusion of children with disabilities with their nondisabled peers.

The foundation is still going strong in 35 states across the country. He has been an ambassadorship for education programs for UNICEF since 2004, and in 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Aiken to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

While the foundation is still going strong in 35 states across the country, Aiken hopes that, if elected, his time in Congress will give him a chance to fight for more services for special needs students, including those covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“As a teacher, a former educator myself, I think I have a loud enough mouth to make sure that people are listening. Education is, I say a political football because it’s an issue that everyone supports. Everyone wants better educational opportunities. Folks recognize how important educators are, but folks don’t quite recognize how much they’re being abused.“

Aiken points to the overuse of testing in the classroom as one product of poor education policy, creating a model of “teaching to the test.”

“That type of high stakes testing is deleterious to the educational environment for students, and it’s deleterious to the work environment for teachers. They can’t be creative. They can’t do what they came to work to do. Teachers did not sign up to be teachers because they wanted to get rich. They signed up to do it because they wanted to help kids and better their opportunities in life and teach ‘em. When they teach to the test, they can’t do what they signed up to do.”

As for many educators who may feel the effects of being a “political football,” Aiken just has one message for them.

“Continue to be loud. Teachers spend so much time advocating for their kids, but they could spend a lot more time advocating for themselves. Teachers are on the ground more than any other group, and they need to speak up.”

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Lopsided U.S. House District 2 is Fertile Ground for Democratic Primary Contenders

Lopsided U.S. House District 2 is fertile ground for Democratic primary contenders


April 20, 2014

It’s a lopsided U of a district that has candidates posing for selfies in a frozen yogurt bar in Asheboro, meeting in a steakhouse in Southern Pines, swinging by a Salvation Army store in Fayetteville, touring a factory in Dunn, showing up at a Baptist church in Fuquay-Varina or a sandwich shop in Cary.

Covering all or parts of nine counties, the 2nd Congressional District, if nothing else, is a cross-section of the old and the new in North Carolina – fitting, in a way, for the main two contenders in the Democratic primary.

One, Keith Crisco, 70, is firmly in the tradition of North Carolina’s pro-business Democrats. Raised on a farm, he became a successful businessman and local politician before being named the state’s commerce secretary under Gov. Bev Perdue.

The other, Clay Aiken, 35, is also a native North Carolinian, a special education teacher who became rich and famous as a pop singer and has returned home as a philanthropist and candidate for federal office.

Both men – along with Toni Morris, a Fayetteville counselor who has not campaigned as extensively nor reported raising any money yet – hope to be the nominee to challenge U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn, in the November general election.

Over the past two months leading up to the primary election, Aiken and Crisco have spent long hours on the road, passing each other at events as they gauge their chances in the squiggly 2nd District.

Different needs

“You call it a district, and I call it a science project,” Crisco said in a recent interview, referring to its amorphous shape. “It’s really an accumulation of a lot of small towns with quite different objectives. Pinehurst is different than Dunn, and Fayetteville is certainly different than Asheboro in demographics, in industrial profile. It’s a wonderful district. It is a profile of the state.”

It’s also a district that the Republican-led General Assembly drew to make it as safe as possible for GOP candidates in 2012. Mitt Romney won almost 60 percent of the vote there in 2012, an election year that saw easy margins of victory by most statewide Republican candidates. Ellmers is favored to defeat primary challenger Frank Roche of Cary and win re-election.

“I think I know why they drew these lines the way they did,” Aiken said in an interview last week. “But if you think about the fact that House districts are supposed to be small so that everyone has the same interests, everyone has the same needs, that’s certainly not the case in this district. So the congressperson representing the district really has to be present a lot more. There are a lot of different viewpoints and a lot of different needs in the district.”

Andy Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University, says Ellmers appears safe, although she could be harmed if there is a backlash against the Republican legislature. Yet, he said, that kind of sentiment would be more likely in urban areas, and there isn’t much of that in the 2nd district.

“But it’s a pretty interesting Democratic primary despite that,” Taylor said. “Normally, when it’s going to be difficult for a candidate to win a race, the primary is subdued because the value of the nomination isn’t seen as particularly high. In this case it’s between an experienced and fairly well-known political official, and a politically inexperienced but very, very well-known newcomer to politics.”

Candidates in a Democratic primary also have to do well with African-American voters, Taylor said. While there are fewer of them in the 2nd district, they might be typically conservative rural dwellers, he said, particularly on social issues. Aiken is openly gay and seen as part of the entertainment industry.

“It will be interesting to see how that plays out for Aiken,” Taylor said. “I’m not sure it’s a negative, but it might be.”

The fame factor

For Aiken, being famous is both an advantage and a liability.

“You may recognize me from my guest appearance on ‘30 Rock,’ ” Aiken told the several dozen party loyalists gathered last week at the Pittsboro Roadhouse for a forum sponsored by the Lee and Chatham Democrats, who mostly reacted with silence.

“That was a joke,” he added.

Aiken’s joke was part modesty – his fame went far beyond a single TV appearance, after the “American Idol” runner-up went on to a recording and Broadway career. It was also his way of acknowledging that people know him because he was an entertainer, not because he has proven himself in politics.

More often than not, the people he meets on the campaign trail are excited by his celebrity and enthusiastic to pose with him for photographs. But, he said, people also want to talk about their concerns.

“I’m perfectly open to the fact that a lot of the enthusiasm is because they’ve seen me on TV before,” Aiken said. “But once I get past that initial reaction from folks, it’s been really good.

“I mean, people are tired of the same things I’m tired of. So having the name recognition, having them want to take a picture with me, that works. It’s not going to get me elected, and it shouldn’t. But it gets me in the room and it gets people talking about issues.”

What Aiken hopes will get him elected are independent beliefs built around the idea that Democrats don’t have all the answers and Republicans aren’t all wrong. Government has a role, but sometimes he sees it as more limited than traditional Democrats do.

Asked at the Pittsboro Democratic event what he would do to redistribute wealth, Aiken had a firm answer: “I don’t want to redistribute anyone’s wealth. I want to make it possible to move from lower class to middle class to upper class.” But, he said, that takes government investment in jobs.

“History shows trickle-down doesn’t work,” he said. “I believe in trickle-up.”

He’s proud of the fact that he spent an hour with the nonpartisan Cook Report in Washington, D.C. earlier this month, which prompted the publication to hedge its prediction that Ellmers is the odds-on favorite.

“Over the years, the Cook Political Report has interviewed hundreds if not thousands of congressional candidates, and it’s easy to enter some of these meetings with preconceived notions of how people might act or think given their backgrounds,” Cook’s David Wasserman wrote. “But Aiken took us by surprise, quickly washing away any notion he’s another superficial, stage-managed Hollywood star dabbling into politics as a new hobby.”

Authority figure

Crisco tried out his own Hollywood line at the Pittsboro event, when asked how he would work across party lines.

“Talk about relationships,” he said, “Kevin Bacon has nothing on me.”

The reference to the pop culture game of seeing how many actors can be tied to Bacon was meant to emphasize Crisco’s work as commerce secretary making connections with businesses across the state and nation. He says he is on a first-name basis with half the consultants in the country who can deliver jobs.

Crisco’s joke didn’t get any better reception than Aiken’s, but that’s about all they have in common when it comes to public speaking. Where Aiken is animated, funny and articulate, Crisco is slow, quiet and authoritative.

Crisco is in a position to emphasize the topic that seems to be uppermost on voters’ minds – jobs – having started his own textile business and then serving as commerce secretary and on local economic stimulus enterprises.

“I was well known in the business community,” he said. “I was not as well known, perhaps, in the everyday. So we got our name out, and been received well, emphasizing my experience. I can hit the ground running. I’m a guy who understands some of the history. I’ve done things. I have a background that can be productive in Washington.”

He has accumulated a long list of endorsements from business and political leaders in the Triad, along with much of Perdue’s old cabinet.

At all his campaign stops, Crisco says his experience makes him far more qualified to be in Congress than Ellmers.

“It’s not an entry-level job,” he says. “She got in on a quirk.”

Adding up the votes

Beating Ellmers is the whole point, of course, and everyone agrees that will be hard to do.

“There is still residual discontent, particularly in the tea party wing, with Ellmers,” professor Taylor said. “If (House Speaker Thom) Tillis is the nominee in the Senate and has problems, she might get connected to him. It’s not impossible, obviously, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Crisco says he’s figured out the math that shows how he can win, and it goes like this:

Ellmers received more votes in Randolph than in any other county, winning 70 percent of the vote there. That’s where Crisco has lived for 36 years, raised a family, served on the school board and city council. He says he can win over the business community. If he can swing over those conservative and independent voters, his thinking goes, he can beat the incumbent.

“That’s my advantage,” Crisco said. “My opponents are good candidates. They are attractive candidates. But I don’t think they have the broad-based support of the many, many sub groups that I would, and that’s the difference. That’s how you win. At the end of the day, it’s the most votes.”

Aiken adds votes up differently. He notes that the portions of six counties that are in the current district voted for a Democrat for Congress in the 2008 general election. And since then, he says, conservatives have become dissatisfied with Ellmers. That’s certainly the signal sent by the candidacy of Roche, who has attacked her from the right.

“This district is not as red as some folks would like you to believe,” Aiken said. “Republicans are up for grabs, but we need the turnout.”

Aiken’s campaign is using a risky strategy to get those voters out. As of the middle of this month, he hadn’t bought any TV ads or put up signs. His strategists say he already has “near universal” name recognition, and so they have been holding off on commercials, possibly waiting until the final days.

Crisco, meanwhile, has spent many tens of thousands of dollars for both signs and three rounds of TV ads. Crisco has raised almost $450,000, but that includes a $247,000 loan to himself. Aiken is also raising money but trails Crisco by about $233,000 in the first three months of the year.

“I’ve always said I’m not going to throw a lot of money into this because I’m not trying to buy a seat,” Aiken said. “If what I’m saying doesn’t engage people enough to want to help, then I’m probably not representing them anyway, right?”

Taylor said there’s a danger in not raising a lot of money, other than not having enough of it to spend on campaigning: It makes it seem like the candidate isn’t serious.

“Whether that impression is accurate or not, by not doing very much (fundraising) it just reinforces it,” Taylor said.

Read more here: http://www.newsobser...l#storylink=cpy



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Aiken for New Voters

Aiken for new voters

April 21, 2014 | by Thomas Mills


Last week, here on PoliticsNC,Matt Phillippi made the case that Democrat Keith Crisco is the better candidate to face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in the race for North Carolina’s Second Congressional District. Matt argues that Crisco can pull moderate to conservative voters in the rural district that his primary opponent, former American Idol star Clay Aiken, could not. Crisco’s model, though, assumes a traditional turnout, something national Democrats are hoping to change.

In yesterday’s Washington Post, Dan Balz explains that to hold onto the Senate, Democrats are hoping to change the midterm electorate. In a nutshell, they want to make it younger and browner. Getting those voters to the polls, though, is a monumental task.

A candidate like Clay Aiken is much more likely to appeal the voters Democrats want to see on Election Day than Keith Crisco. As today’s profile of the race in the News & Observerpoints out, “Where Aiken is animated, funny and articulate, Crisco is slow, quiet and authoritative.” In reaching and motivating voters, Aiken could be a draw. A vote for Crisco would be more of a deliberative decision.

In addition, pollster Stan Greenberg and Democracy Corps say that the key to changing the electorate is unmarried women. To energize them, Democrats need to focus on a more populist message. Instead of talking about the economic recovery, Democrats should be talking about economic disparity, especially as it impacts women.

Aiken is a better messenger to deliver that message. Raised by a single mom,

that plays well with women and those still struggling in the economy. With his ability to connect to audiences, he offers the type of emotional appeal necessary to motivate voters, particularly those who feel left out of the recovery.

For either Democrat to win, they will have to steal the election and will need a break, such as change in the national mood or a gaffe by the Congresswoman. Crisco, though, would steal it by winning traditionally conservative voters. Aiken would steal it by changing the electorate in such a way that he helps Democrats up and down the ballot.

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North Carolina Associaton of Educators Encorses Clay Aiken in NC-02

North Carolina Association of Educators Endorses Clay Aiken in NC-02


April 22, 2014

RALEIGH, NC – The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), the state’s largest education association, today announced its endorsement of Clay Aiken in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District.

"Nobody understands better than a public school educator what it takes to deliver high-quality instruction that is sensitive to the needs of individual students and accountable to taxpayers," said NCAE President Rodney Ellis. "Clay Aiken understands how state and federal policies should work together to support public schools, and we need him in Congress to carry that message."

Aiken, a former Wake County Public Schools educator, said he’s proud to receive the support of North Carolina’s teachers.

“Having the support of the NCAE and public school teachers means so much to our campaign – and to me personally,” Aiken said.

“In my own education and through my work in a classroom, I saw the impact that teachers can have. My teachers inspired me to want to become a special education teacher, to earn a degree in education and, later, to start the National Inclusion Project. Now my goal is to be a strong advocate in Congress for teachers and public schools.”

Aiken spent a year and a half as an educator in a special education classroom at Brentwood Elementary School in Raleigh. In 2003, he received a bachelor’s degree in special education from UNC Charlotte. In 2003 he also cofounded The National Inclusion Project, a non-profit for children with disabilities. The organization now sponsors programs in 35 states.

The NEA included an interview with Aiken on their Education Votes blog last week. Read the article HERE.

For more information on Aiken’s stances on education issues, visit his Web site at www.clayaiken.com.

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Clay Aiken is Back on TV

Clay Aiken Is Back on TV (Updated)

By Emily CahnPosted at 1:57 p.m. today


Aiken is running for Congress in North Carolina. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 2:22 p.m. | “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken, who is running for a North Carolina House seat as a Democrat, launched his first TV ad Tuesday — a bio spot highlighting his difficult childhood and his recent help for children with autism.

“I’m running for Congress, and I approve this message because every child deserves a chance,” Aiken says in the ad, released two weeks ahead of the state’s May 6 primaries.

Clay Aiken Releases First Campaign Ad

“American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken, who is running for a North Carolina House seat as a Democrat, launched his first TV ad Tuesday — a bio spot...


The 30-second ad is airing on broadcast in Raleigh, according to a Democratic source tracking media buys in North Carolina. It is largely a mash-up of Aiken’s announcement video from when he launched his campaign in February. Aiken’s ad is backed by a $40,000 buy and will air on the major networks and cable, according to his campaign.

Aiken will face former North Carolina Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and mental health counselor Toni Morris in a Democratic primary in the 2nd District. If no candidate garners at least 40 percent of the vote, the race will head to a July 15 runoff.

The winner of the primary will likely face GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in an uphill race for this Republican-leaning, horseshoe-shaped district, which includes the outskirts of Raleigh, parts of Fayetteville and the Fort Bragg military base. Mitt Romney carried the district by 16 points in 2012.

Ellmers faces a primary from radio show host Frank Roche, but he has raised little cash and garnered little traction for his bid.

Aiken reported raising $233,000 in the first quarter and had $125,000 in cash on hand as of March 31. On April 21, Aiken hosted a fundraiser with comedian Kathy Griffin and “American Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe, among others.

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

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Clay Aiken

April 23, 2014

Elections » Candidate Questionnaires

Clay Aiken

Candidate for U.S. House

Name as it Appears on the Ballot: Clay Aiken

Full legal name, if different: Clayton Holmes Aiken

Date of Birth: 11/30/1978

Campaign Web Site: www.clayaiken.com

Occupation & Employer: Self employed

Work Phone: 919-297-8466

Twitter handle, if applicable: @clayfornc

1. If elected to the House, what is your highest priority for the next Congress? Please discuss what you would do to help it be achieved.

My highest priority will be to take on the dysfunction that is paralyzing Washington and hurting the American people. We have to break the gridlock in Washington in order to create jobs, strengthen the economy and give each child in America access to a good education and the opportunity to succeed. The American people are suffering because Members of Congress refuse to compromise and work across party lines to get things done.

As a Congressman, I will fight for our workers, veterans, students, educators and every person in my district whether they voted for me or not. But our Representatives in Washington can’t accomplish anything unless they stop arguing and start working together to take action on the important issues affecting our country.

2. Some House candidates favor term limits and pledge, if elected, to limit the number of terms they will seek? Is that a good idea? Will you, if elected, impose terms limits on yourself?

My goal is to persuade the voters to impose term limits on the incumbent Congresswoman. I don’t believe we should have career politicians, and I’m not trying to be one.

3. As a result of Citizens United and related factors, so-called “dark money” is pouring into American political campaigns without voters knowing where it came from. Do you favor or oppose measures to require that contributors be identified when their money is used to pay for political ads and other activities?

I support more transparency in our campaign finance laws. There is too much money in politics these days. If wealthy political contributors are allowed to spend exorbitant sums of money in our elections, the American public should at least be able to track where the money is coming from.

4. The American economy is not producing enough jobs for everyone who wants one, especially not enough jobs that pay enough to support a family. Conservative critics say the reason is too much federal spending which crowds out private investment. Critics on the left say there’s not enough public investment in job-producing sectors, while private capital is flowing to other countries. Where do you come down on this issue?

When American citizens take out loans to send themselves or their children to college, they think of it as an investment in their future that will continue to pay off years down the road. When we invest in our economy and the American worker, we’re taking out a loan that will continue to pay off for years to come.

Investments like an infrastructure bank will provide jobs and perform much-needed repairs and maintenance on bridges, highways and airports. Too many companies send our jobs overseas. And even worse, they are rewarded for doing so. We need to support legislation and programs that focus on providing funding, resources, training and jobs for the people back home.

5. Do you support increasing the federal minimum wage? If so, to what amount? And should it be indexed for inflation?

Yes. I support raising the minimum wage and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Combined, a minimum wage hike and the expansion of the EITC for all workers making less than $50,000 a year will move more Americans above the poverty line and into the middle class. I support increasing the minimum wage to an amount that provides a livable wage for Americans. I do not think solely indexing the minimum wage for inflation is the most effective option for promoting a livable wage for our workers.

6. On the Affordable Care Act, what should the next Congress do? Repeal it? Change it? If so, how?

Democrats need to acknowledge that the American people have serious problems with parts of ACA, and those need to be fixed. But we must not repeal the valuable and important parts of ACA that protect Americans.

Supporters of ACA regularly discuss popular provisions of the law like allowing children to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26 and preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions. There are many other provisions that are rarely discussed but receive wide approval from the American public. Things like requiring hospitals to tell a patient how much they’re being charged for treatment and preventing doctors from being paid by pharmaceutical companies to prescribe certain medicines receive a lot of support from the public but are rarely mentioned as essential provisions that should be preserved.

But there are deficiencies in the health care law that need to be addressed. We need to do more to broaden the pool of those signing up and encourage more young, healthy Americans to enroll. There’s currently a mandated 3:1 ratio of most-expensive to least-expensive plans. This artificially increases the cost of plans for young and healthy people. I’d be interested in discussing a proposal to change the ratio to 5:1 to encourage more young and healthy people to enroll.

7. Should undocumented immigrants be offered a path to citizenship? If so, what requirements would you impose? How should the law treat undocumented young adults and children who’ve grown up in the U.S. after being brought here by their parents?

I am a staunch supporter of the DREAM Act, and I support the bill that passed the U.S. Senate last year with bipartisan support. I believe we should give undocumented immigrants legal recognitions similar to those of green card status while they pursue a path to full citizenship.

8. Do you think climate change is a serious, even urgent problem? Do you think human beings are causing it? What environmental policies should the U.S. adopt to combat climate change, if any?

Climate change is real, and we have to reduce man-made carbon emissions. I support increasing emissions standards for automobiles and moving away from the use of coal by utilities.

9. Is it time to pass a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to protect the rights of LGBTQ people in the workplace?


10. Should union organizing be facilitated by changes to labor laws, including the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (ECRA)?

The process for certifying unions to represent workers has become too contentious and subject to manipulation, and I would vote for measures to streamline that process.

11. Do you support or oppose increasing tax rates on the wealthy, either to reduce federal debt or as part of a package to raise money for public investments and/or cut taxes for the middle-class?

I believe it is fair to ask more of the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. They have benefited disproportionately from state and federal tax cuts and loopholes unavailable to many middle- and working-class Americans. They need to step up and do more to fund projects that create jobs, improve public education and reduce the federal deficit.

12.What do you think of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s idea of expanding Social Security benefits as private pensions become less and less common?

Social Security benefits are a vital part of our commitment to seniors, and we must protect and expand these benefits. With employer pensions becoming less common and the average American receiving less income to put into retirement savings, we must explore options to expand Social Security to ensure we protect hardworking Americans after retirement.

This is a perfect example of an issue where both parties need to come together and develop a bipartisan, comprehensive plan to ensure the long-term solvency of Social Security, not only for today’s retirees and near-retirees, but also for generations to come. Among the components that should be considered are a change in the way that inflation (called “chained CPI”) is calculated, progressive reforms to the payroll tax, and protections for low-income families and the elderly. Even the Bowles-Simpson plan, which would sharply cut benefits, called for revenue-raising reforms to the payroll tax. I would strongly oppose any effort to solve the long-term shortfall in Social Security by cutting benefits alone.

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Ellmers and Aiken in U.S. House 2

April 23, 2014

Elections » Our Endorsements

Ellmers and Aiken in U.S. House 2

Republican Renee Ellmers, the incumbent, is preferable to her tea-party challenger, Frank Roche. That's not saying much. Ellmers is best known for insisting that, though she opposed the federal government providing health insurance to ordinary citizens, she was taking it for herself, as a member of Congress, because otherwise health insurance would be so expensive. Later, when the Republicans shut down the government, she wanted to be paid anyway because while other federal employees might have to go without, she needed her check. That was so dumb Ellmers took it back a day later.

Ellmers has said a sensible thing or two about immigration reform, probably because businesses in her district—farms, especially—rely on undocumented labor. Strident opposition to reform—and to the Federal Reserve—is the backbone of Roche's challenge.


This district was drawn by Republicans to elect a Republican—the Democrat nominee will start at a big disadvantage. But it's not insurmountable if the Democrat is as well known and well-liked as Clay Aiken, the Raleigh native who burst into national prominence a decade ago on TV's American Idol. Aiken proved to be an excellent singer. He was also a credit to Raleigh's reputation for having nice people.

Before he was Clay Aiken the star, Aiken was a special education teacher. As a star, Aiken raised money and awareness for special-needs children through the Bubel/Aiken Foundation—Diane Bubel, the mother of an autistic child he tutored, convinced him to try out for Idol—later renamed the National Inclusion Project. He's been a UNICEF ambassador and a gay rights activist in show-business groups and the Human Rights Campaign. Aiken is gay. He's serious about politics, and he's mounted a strong campaign, especially with younger Democrats. He's endorsed by the N.C. Association of Educators.

Aiken's chief opponent, Keith Crisco, is 70—literally twice Aiken's age. Crisco is a smart, successful businessman who employs 200 people in his Asheboro textile company. He was Gov. Bev Perdue's secretary of commerce. But Crisco has pledged, if elected, to serve just three terms in Congress, an acknowledgement that his age is against him as a first-time candidate for the House.

Democrats in N.C. need new candidates with a fresh appeal. Aiken fills that bill. Aiken's name on the ticket will be especially helpful in the part of this district that's in Wake County, where other Democrats running will need a strong turnout to defeat Republican incumbents.

Toni Morris, was the nominee in this district two years ago and lost to Congresswoman Ellmers by 57-43 percent. She is a private therapist who is active in the Junior League of Fayetteville.

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Name recognition doesn't guarantee singer Clay Aiken, a Democrat, a seat in Congress from NC

Name recognition doesn't guarantee singer Clay Aiken, a Democrat, a seat in Congress from NC

Associated Press

April 27, 2014

By EMERY P. DALESIO, Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Singer-songwriter Clay Aiken doesn't have a problem with name recognition. But that doesn't mean voters in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District will send the "American Idol" star to Washington to represent them in Congress.

Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers has represented the district for two terms and would like to make it three. The tea party favorite has a good shot at doing so.

The GOP-controlled state legislature gave Republicans the advantage when they redrew congressional districts in 2011. A veteran House Democrat who barely survived in 2012 opted to retire at the end of his term, while others in President Barack Obama's party face an uphill battle — even a well-known personality like Aiken.

North Carolina offers clues as to why Democrats have little chance to retake control of the House from Republicans in the 2014 elections. An unpopular president in his sixth year in office combined with a divisive health care law are a drag on Democrats and energize core Republican voters in what are traditionally low-turnout midterm elections.

Ellmers, a 50-year-old nurse first elected in the tea party wave of 2010, captured 56 percent of the 2012 GOP primary and the general election vote in her district. That year, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won nearly 6 in 10 votes in the district and narrowly defeated Obama statewide.

So precisely drawn were the state's new congressional districts, and so unpopular is Obama in the state that Rep. Mike McIntyre in December dropped his re-election plans. McIntyre represented North Carolina's 7th Congressional District for nine terms and is the only Democrat in Congress who has never voted for the Affordable Care Act, Obama's health care law.

But North Carolina's rightward shift hasn't stopped Aiken and two other Democrats from competing ahead of the May 6 primary for the right to challenge Ellmers in November. National Democrats and their supporters are expected to pour money into the top-of-the-ticket race to defend the seat held by Sen. Kay Hagan and the party's six-seat Senate majority.

Also running in the 2nd District's Democratic primary are textile entrepreneur Keith Crisco and Tony Morris, a licensed family counselor. Crisco and Aiken are touting their credentials as centrists.

"I don't care what party they're in," Aiken says of voters in the central North Carolina district, "I'll talk to whoever."

Aiken believes he can tap into voters' dissatisfaction with Congress. And he said reporters are the only people asking whether being a gay man could impede his campaign to represent such a conservative district.


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North Carolina Second Congressional District Democratic candidates debate at ABC11

North Carolina Second Congressional District Democratic candidates debate at ABC11

Updated at 04:02 PM today

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The three Democrats hoping to unseat Republican incumbent Representative Renee Ellmers in North Carolina's Second Congressional District debated in the ABC11 Durham studios Friday afternoon.

Clay Aiken, Keith Crisco and Toni Morris are all seeking the Democratic nomination in the May 6 primary.

Clay Aiken

Born and raised in North Carolina, Aiken is known to almost everyone as the American Idol singing contest runner up in 2003. But in addition to his recordings and acting, he is also the co-founder of The National Inclusion Project - a non-profit dedicated to promoting the inclusion of children with disabilities in activities with their non-disabled peers.

In 2004, he was appointed a national ambassador for UNICEF and traveled to Indonesia to raise awareness of the need to restore education quickly for the children who survived the tsunami.

In 2006, Aiken was appointed to the presidential committee for people with intellectual disabilities by President George W. Bush.

It is Aiken's first run for public office.

Keith Crisco

Keith Crisco was also born and raised in North Carolina. He graduated from Pfeiffer University with a BA in mathematics and physics and received a master of business administration from Harvard University.

In 1970 and 71, he served as a White House fellow with a position of Assistant to the US Secretary of Commerce. In 1978, Crisco became the president of Stedman Elastics in Asheboro. He has served on the Asheboro City Council.

In 2009, he was appointed as Secretary of Commerce for North Carolina and served until 2013. Crisco is also a member of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health Advisory Council.

He has also served as board chair for Bennett College and the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research.

Toni Morris

Toni Morris is a licensed professional counselor who provides services to children, adolescents and adults. She received her bachelor's degree in sociology from Rutgers University.

She has master's degree in mental health counseling from Webster University and is currently working on her PhD dissertation in educational psychology at Walden University.

Morris is the membership chair for the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Black Leadership Caucus, as well as a member of the Fayetteville-Cumberland County Human Relations Commission.

Morris also ran for the Second District Democratic nomination in 2012. She is a licensed professional counselor who provides services to children, adolescents and adults.

The Debate

From the beginning of Friday's debate, all three candidates focused on the dysfunction in Washington.

"We need to put aside partisan attacks and start focusing on the needs of the people in the districts we serve," Aiken offered.

The trio was asked about a frequent topic in Washington partisan bickering: the Affordable Care Act.

"We need to give it time to work. The benefit of it is we have many more people covered now who were not covered before," said Morris.

Aiken said the tenants of the law are sound, but he'd like to see it go further to help small businesses.

Crisco said some form of healthcare reform is essential, as healthcare costs currently absorb 20 percent of the gross national product.

"We need to move forwards and own this act and make it work for our citizens," he said.

On the issue of immigration reform, Aiken said he supports the Dream Act and believes the idea of shipping every illegal immigrant home would be too expensive, not fiscally responsible, and would damage the economy. He said he supports some kind of path to citizenship combined with a strong border.

"We need to do a better job of implementing the policies we have in place," said Morris - saying the work visa program should work more smoothly.

On the issue of minimum wage, all three candidates said they're in favor of raising it to $10.10 an hour. Aiken pointed out the increase would only take a person working 40 hours a week to just over the federal poverty level.

Crisco said we can afford it.

"We can be competitive in a world economy with that increase," he said.

Morris said she understands the concerns of small business about the increase, but said if Congress was doing its job creating jobs, then the improving economy would solve the problem.

All three candidates said they support greater gun control. Morris said she's tired of seeing headlines about mass killings in schools and on military bases.

Aiken said he's from a family of gun owners, and supports the right of responsible people to own guns that is protected in the Constitution.

"Gun controls do not infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners," he said.

All three candidates were asked if they win the nomination, could they rally both Democrats and Republicans in the mostly Republican 2nd District to defeat Ellmers.

"I am the only Democrat who can win this seat," offered Crisco - citing his bipartisan record.

Aiken said Ellmers is part of the problem in Washington and voters in the district can see that.

"We are all Americans and North Carolinians who want to see action in Washington," he said.

Friday's debate will be broadcast Sunday at 10 a.m. on ABC11.

The primary is May 6. Representative Ellmers faces challenger Frank Roche for the Republican nomination.

(Copyright ©2014 WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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reuters.com (and many other media outlets)

'American Idol' runner-up Clay Aiken winning political respect in N. Carolina

'American Idol' runner-up Clay Aiken winning political respect in N. Carolina

Fri, May 2 2014

By Colleen Jenkins

CARY N.C. (Reuters) - "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken readily signs autographs and poses for selfies with voters in his bid for a North Carolina congressional seat, but tries hard to keep his pitch at campaign stops focused on political issues.

"I have done my very best not to sing," said Aiken, 35. "Because I think there's a challenge ... to get people to not see me as a singer but instead as someone who is capable and wants to fight for them."

The entertainer has gained respect as he seeks the Democratic nomination in his home state's 2nd congressional district next Tuesday. In April, the Washington-based Cook Political Report admitted surprise after Aiken proved to be well-versed on political affairs, "washing away any notion he's another superficial, stage-managed Hollywood star dabbling in politics as a new hobby."

Even so, political experts say the first-time candidate is in an uphill, perhaps futile, battle to win the primary and then unseat the incumbent in a district North Carolina's Republican-led legislature re-drew to favor their party.

U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers, 50, a former nurse, beat a moderate Democrat for the seat during the Republicans' national electoral sweep in 2010 and two years later won her second term with 56 percent of the vote.

In mid-April, her campaign had nearly six times more cash on hand than Aiken's, finance reports show, and most analysts predict she will be re-elected in November, barring any serious gaffes or a better-than-expected turnout for Democrats.

"(Aiken) can do everything right and still basically end up having no chance because of factors beyond his control," said Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

But Aiken, who lives in Cary and taught special education in North Carolina before his 2003 "Idol" appearance launched his singing career, remains unconvinced that the unwieldy U-shaped district is too conservative for a Democrat to win.

He has spent three months telling retirees in Pinehurst, military veterans in Fayetteville, and cattle farmers in Siler City why he is the one best positioned to defeat a congresswoman who he says has ignored the needs of her constituents.


Aiken showed strengths beyond the recognition factor this week at a retirement community in Cary, where he spoke with engaging ease about immigration, Russia, education and fracking.

"We make people enthusiastic," he said. "If my name is not on the ballot (after the primary), then I worry people won't pay attention."

Aiken's claims that the congresswoman has spent too much time in Washington and ignored voters are "ridiculous," said Ellmers' campaign spokeswoman, Jessica Wood.

"While Clay Aiken is running around on the Colbert show, the congresswoman is doing the work of the people in the Second District," Wood said.

To challenge Ellmers, Aiken must first win the primary. There are no public polls to suggest how he will fare against his two Democratic opponents, but he has been far outspent by one of them.

Asheboro businessman Keith Crisco, 71, a former state commerce secretary, had loaned $530,000 to his $754,497 war chest as of April 16. He has run four television ads; Aiken has run one.

Aiken said he is not interested in buying a seat and his $286,659 fundraising total reported by mid-April showed no personal loans. His campaign said he has since put $50,000 into the race.

A third candidate, Fayetteville counselor Toni Morris, 49, has not reported any fundraising.

Crisco said his experience in business and public service offsets his lack of name recognition compared with Aiken, who also appeared in "The Celebrity Apprentice" on television and the spoof musical "Monty Python's Spamalot" on Broadway.

"You've got to be competent on the issues," Crisco said. "Just to get attention is not enough."

Aiken, who is openly gay, said his personal life has been raised only once by a voter in the state that two years ago voted to pass a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

"LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) issues ... are not why I'm running and they're not why people are voting," Aiken said in an interview.

A half dozen people interviewed by Reuters said Aiken had impressed them at candidate events, earning their vote or at least persuading them he was worth serious consideration.

"I was pleasantly surprised to hear real depth and commitment," said Karen Howard, 48, of Chapel Hill. "He brings an energy and passion that I haven't seen from the other candidates."

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; editing by Gunna Dickson)


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Aiken claims congressional foe Crisco created jobs - in Central America

Aiken claims congressional foe Crisco created jobs - in Central America

Posted by Craig Jarvis on May 2, 2014

Clay Aiken’s congressional campaign is biting back at opponent Keith Crisco with a pair of mailers slamming the textile businessman for owning foreign manufacturing plants. Crisco has been campaigning on a record of creating 120,000 jobs while he was Commerce secretary under Gov. Bev Perdue.

“Keith Crisco has his maps confused,” one mailer says, “because the jobs Crisco’s creating are in El Salvador, not North Carolina.”

In addition to two plants in Randolph County, Crisco’s Asheboro Elastics Corp. has two Central American manufacturing operations – in El Salvador and Honduras – as well as six distribution centers in Mexico, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

“Here in North Carolina, tens of thousands of families made their living in the textile industry before people like Keith Crisco moved production to countries where they could pay workers less than a living wage, do not have to follow American worker protection rules, and where employers like Crisco do not have to abide by our environmental standards,” one mailer says.

The mail pieces also criticize Crisco for supporting the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which it claims would put North Carolinians out of work. The mailers went out this week in advance of Tuesday’s primary election.

The Crisco camp’s reaction? Dirty politics!

“Keith Crisco has never shipped a single job overseas,” campaign spokesman Aaron Fiedler said in an emailed response. “In fact, in the last decade AEC’s workforce in North Carolina has nearly doubled. He is proud of the nearly 200 people he employs in good paying jobs right here in the Second District.”

The campaign called the mailers “smears” and says Aiken has gone back on his repeated promises not to attack his opponent.

“It looks like Clay Aiken’s pledge to ‘not go negative’ ended today,” Fiedler wrote on Thursday. “These mailers are false and defamatory and clearly show the desperation of the Aiken campaign just five days out from the primary.”

The Crisco campaign has spent a lot of money in the past couple of weeks on its own mailers and TV ads dubbing Aiken “No Show Clay” for his failure to attend any meetings of a national committee on people with disabilities that he had been appointed to.

In an interview earlier this year, Crisco his claim that he brought 120,000 new jobs to the state was a conservative estimate because companies must deliver something close to what they promise or else be penalized.

An Aiken spokesman claims those jobs were promised over a period of several years and don’t necessarily coincide with Crisco’s time in office. Also, job growth has lagged behind the state’s population growth to the extent that neither the Perdue or McCrory administrations can take credit for it, the spokesman said.

Crisco’s latest mailer, meanwhile, emphasizes jobs and the economy, with a parting shot at Aiken: “We don’t need another song and dance in Washington.”

Read more here: http://www.newsobser...r#storylink=cpy

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Clay Aiken's Star Power Put to the Test in North Carolina

Clay Aiken's star power put to the test in North Carolina

Posted byCNN's Dana Davidsen and Paul Steinhauser

(CNN) – Second place won't cut it this time.

North Carolina voters head to the polls Tuesday for the state's primary. And that means it's show time for Clay Aiken, the 2003 "American Idol" runner-up-turned Democratic congressional candidate.

Aiken announced his bid for the 2nd Congressional District in February, in the hopes of challenging incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers. Aiken faces two other Democrats vying for the Ellmer's seat - Keith Crisco, a textile entrepreneur, and Tony Morris, a licensed family counselor.

Despite his name recognition, if Aiken wins on Tuesday, his star power might not be enough to sway the Republican tilt in the district.

Ellmers, who's held the seat for two terms, is a tea party favorite, elected in the 2010 conservative grassroots wave that swept Republicans into the majority in the House.

She won re-election with 56% of the vote in 2012. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney beat President Barack Obama in the district by a 58-41 margin – an even wider margin than Romney bested Obama in the state overall, 50-48.

But Ellmers faces a primary challenge from conservative talk-radio host Frank Roche, thanks in part to her willingness to consider some immigration reform efforts.

On top of the state's recent election results, Aiken and fellow Democrats face a tide of an anti-all-things-Obama sentiment among voters.

Obama's health care law remains unpopular in North Carolina. That, coupled with Obama lackuster approval ratings (which are hovering in the low to mid 40's), could be a drag on Democratic candidates across the board in this year's midterm elections.

In short, North Carolina's 2nd District, which spans the central and eastern parts of the state, isn't friendly territory for a Democrat.

Still, some top non-partisan political handicappers have said if circumstances were different, Aiken might not be facing such an uphill battle.

"I think this will become the highest profile, non-competitive race in the country. If Aiken wasn't running as a Democrat in a Republican district in President Obama's second midterm, he might have a decent shot," Nathan Gonzales, deputy editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, told CNN after Aiken launched his bid in February.

"Being on American idol doesn't change the fact that he's a Democrat in a Republican district."

Throughout his bid, Aiken has contended that his personal story – growing up in a broken home fraught with domestic violence - qualifies him for Congress.

Aiken is openly gay. He came out in 2008, five years after gaining national notoriety on "American Idol," coming in second to Ruben Studdard in the show's second season.

In 2010, North Carolina voters passed a constitutional amendmen tbanning same-sex marriage.

Aiken has called the gay marriage debate "a settled issue in North Carolina," and has instead focused his campaign on jobs and the economy.

The general election is on November 4.

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Aiken, Crisco Race for Congress Heats Up

Aiken, Crisco race for Congress heats up

Posted: May 05, 2014 5:07 PM CDTUpdated: May 05, 2014 6:40 PM CDT

by Beau Minnick, WNCN News - email


It's the eve of the primary election on Tuesday, and one race that has been active the past couple weeks is the 2nd Congressional District.

That’s where former American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken is facing former Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco in the Democratic primary, where the winner will face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in the fall.

The ads have been intense in the district, which includes parts of southwest Wake County, sweeps down to Dunn and parts of Fayetteville and then includes a wide swath to the west, including Southern Pines, Sanford and Asheboro.

An Aiken ad proclaims, “I’m running for Congress and I approve this message because every child deserves a chance.”

A Crisco ad said Crisco “helped bring 120,000 jobs to our state.”

But the ads have taken a harsher tone as the election has approached.

A Crisco ad criticizes Aiken for not showing up for meetings of the Presidential Commission for People With Intellectual Disabilities.

“If he’s too busy for the president and special needs children, how can we count on Clay?” the ad says.

But Aiken, firing back, said of Crisco, “When you lobby for something that takes jobs out of this country, I don’t think you necessarily get to talk about your position as a jobs creator.”

Aaron Fiedler, communications director for Crisco, said, “Keith wouldn’t be running if he didn’t think he could win. He’s got the experience and the profile of the district. Renee Ellmers is not a popular figure with Democrats, with Republicans and independents in the 2nd District.”

With voters, it's clear Aiken has an advantage with name recognition thanks to his run on “American Idol” in 2003.

“That’s going to help,” said voter Michael Vineys. “It has to.”

But voter Mildred Callender said, “I really don’t understand why he’s running or why he wants to run.”

Both candidates are trying to get out their message hours before the polls open.

Fiedler said Crisco “employs 200 people here in Asheboro, something he’s very proud of.”

But Aiken said Crisco has “a lack of productivity in government. That’s what we’re talking about.”

Also running is Fayetteville counselor Toni Morris.

The district, though, has a heavy Republican majority, meaning any Democrat will have a tough task against Ellmers in the fall. Ellmers ousted Democratic incumbent Bob Etheridge in 2010. In 2012, she received 56 percent of the vote in beating Democrat Steve Wilkins.

Ellmers was dominant in Chatham, Harnett, Randolph and Moore counties and essentially split the vote in Wake County with Wilkins.

Despite the fact that there are many more Democrats in North Carolina than Republicans – roughly 2.8 million to 2 million – the GOP has a big advantage in Moore and Randolph counties, which aided Ellmers.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

There's a video at the link.

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Clay Aiken is a Top Contestant in North Carolina Primary

Clay Aiken Is a Top Contestant in North Carolina Primary

May 6, 2014, 6:15 AM ET

By Rebecca Ballhaus

A decade after finishing as runner-up on American Idol, singer Clay Aiken is vying for first place—this time in the Democratic primary for a House seat in North Carolina’s second district.

Mr. Aiken, 35 years old, faces a crowded field in Tuesday’s election, which pits him against the state’s former commerce secretary, Keith Crisco, and mental health counselor Toni Morris. And even if he wins, Mr. Aiken would face an uphill battle against the incumbent, Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers. Ms. Ellmers is in her second term in a district the Rothenberg Political Report rates as “safe Republican.” Republican Mitt Romney won 57% of the district in 2012.

The Idol star has touted a poll conducted by his own campaign that shows him with a 20-point lead over the other two candidates, but no independent polling has verified those results. Both the Aiken and Crisco campaigns have flooded the race with cash in recent weeks, but as of April 16, Mr. Aiken had about $72,000 more left to spend than his opponent, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Ms. Morris hasn’t filed recent reports with the FEC.

In a five-minute video launching his campaign in February, Mr. Aiken vowed to pump up job creation and improve the economy. He shied away from discussing his celebrity—referring to it only as a “golden ticket”—and instead discussed his difficult early childhood, in which his mother was a victim of domestic abuse and his family struggled with money.

The Clay Aiken of the campaign trail has adopted a more mature, conservative appearance than in his Idol days. But one vestige of his stardom remains: His hair is always perfectly gelled.

The modern-day Cinderella story of an American Idol runner-up turned congressman may seem like a long shot—particularly given the district’s conservative tilt—but Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman warned critics not to write Mr. Aiken off. In an interview last month, “Aiken took us by surprise, quickly washing away any notion he’s another superficial, stage-managed Hollywood star dabbling into politics as a new hobby,” Mr. Wasserman wrote. “Aiken was not only polished and poised, but relaxed, free-wheeling, persuasive, and politically realistic.”

Ms. Ellmers, for her part, hasn’t appeared concerned about Mr. Aiken’s potential challenge. In an interview with WMAL radio following the Aiken campaign’s launch, she speculated that the singer had tired of his entertainment career. “As we know he doesn’t always fare all that well,” she said. “He was a runner up.”

The congresswoman also faces a primary challenger: radio host Frank Roche, a favorite of tea-party Republicans. She was re-elected in 2012 with 56% of the vote, but has since been criticized for advocating some immigration overhaul efforts.

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NC Primary with Singer Clay Aiken Still Close

NC primary with singer Clay Aiken still close

By Associated Press, Published: May 6 | Updated: Wednesday, May 7, 3:43 PM

RALEIGH, N.C. — Former “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken held a slight edge over textile entrepreneur Keith Crisco in a congressional primary election Wednesday, with officials working to count every last ballot before declaring a winner.

There were less than 400 votes separating the Democratic Party candidates in the Republican-leaning 2nd Congressional District. The winner faces Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers — who was first elected in the tea party wave of 2010 — in November.


(Gerry Broome/ Associated Press ) - Clay Aiken speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in Holly Springs, N.C., Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Aiken is seeking the Democratic nomination for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District.

Both Aiken and Crisco, once the state’s top business recruiter under Gov. Beverly Perdue, have cast themselves as centrists. Both will have to overcome the district’s strong bloc of evangelical Christian voters who tend to vote Republican. Aiken has said previously that he doesn’t believe the fact he is gay will affect whether people vote for him.

The state elections board on Wednesday showed the latest unofficial results giving Aiken the 40 percent of the tally that he needs to avoid a runoff election in July and a margin big enough that Crisco can’t request a recount.

Aiken was carefully watching the numbers, spokeswoman Tucker Middleton said.

“It’s close, but we’re confident,” she said.

But almost 400 absentee ballots issued had not been returned, according to data provided Wednesday by the state elections board. Absentee ballots and provisional ballots — those cast by voters who may not be properly registered — won’t be tallied until Tuesday, state elections board spokesman Josh Lawson said.

It was not yet clear how many provisional ballots were pending a decision on whether they were properly cast, he said.

Crisco planned to wait until at least Thursday to consider a next step, spokesman Aaron Fiedler said in an email.

“This election is still very tight,” Crisco said in a statement.


Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Counting Continues in Clay Aiken's Nail-Biting Primary

Catalina Camia, USA TODAY3:22 p.m. EDT May 7, 2014


(Photo: Gerry Broome, AP)

Singer Clay Aiken has gone from
American Idol
runner-up to nail-biting candidate, on the brink of being nominated for Congress.

Votes continued to be counted Wednesday in North Carolina, where Aiken holds a slim lead over Keith Crisco in the Democratic primary for the 2nd District.

Aiken, who is making his first bid for elected office, currently has a 369-vote edge over Crisco, a former state Commerce secretary. A recount can be requested if the difference between the candidates is 1% or less, and right now Aiken is a little over that mark.

State Board of Elections officials say they will count all absentee ballots that were postmarked by Tuesday, as well as any provisional ballots that are determined to be eligible. In addition, the nine counties in the district have until May 13 to conduct their official vote canvass and submit them to the state board.

"We need to tabulate our results," said Josh Lawson, a spokesman for the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Aiken, who appeared on
American Idol
in 2003, told his supporters late Tuesday that he was confident he'd be facing GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in the Nov. 4 general election. Toni Morris, a licensed professional counselor, is running a distant third to Aiken and Crisco.

Crisco, who served in the administration of Gov. Bev Perdue, wants all the votes counted.

"This election is still very tight," he said in a statement. "I want the elections' officials to have an opportunity to tally the votes and provide a report on their canvass activities to allow all the campaigns a chance to see the final numbers."

Spokesman Aaron Fiedler said the Crisco campaign would contact the elections boards in the district's nine counties to get their vote tallies and "regroup" on Thursday.

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Aiken for the Win

Aiken for the Win

Gary Pearce posted on May 08, 2014 15:22

I’ve been in politics longer than Clay Aiken has been alive (38 years vs. 35), but he took me to school this week.

Everything I’ve learned tells me that if 1) you’re massively outspent by your opponent and 2) he runs three or four ads to your one and 3) one of those is a negative attack ad that you can’t afford to answer, then (QED) you lose.

But Aiken won. (No, the final count isn’t done. But it’s over.)

How? Well, some people say it’s just name recognition and personal popularity. Or maybe theColbert Bump. Or all the Clay fans.

But there may be something else here – and a lesson for us all.

A couple of analysts have said the campaign relied solely on name recognition. Not true. In the final weeks, short of money, the campaign had one big asset: Clay Aiken and his voice.

Not his singing voice. But a voice that showed he knew the issues and the people in his district. A voice that is distinctly different from the stale, bitter rhetoric of other politicians. And, above all, a positive voice in a negative din. Amid the ugly glut of attack ads in the final days, you heard one positive voice: Clay Aiken’s.

He also talked to people all over the district. He went on Colbert and MSNBC (true, venues that weren’t available to other politicians). He had a microphone, and he used his voice.

And there was one other thing: In an anti-politics age, Aiken was the anti-politician.

Don’t underestimate him again. I sure won’t.

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Interesting blog, from The New Civil Rights Movement

Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Clay Aiken's Quest for Congress

Everything You Need To Know To Enjoy Clay Aiken’s Quest For Congress



If Clay Aiken’s narrow lead from Tuesday’s Democratic Primary holds up, we are about to be treated to one of the most interesting congressional races in the country. Here’s everything you need to know to enjoy the heck out of it from afar.

district-2.jpg?resize=150%2C60First of all, Clay is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for North Carolina’s District 2. That’s the nine turquoise counties in the center of the state. It stretches from Wake County in the east to Guilford County in the west and it’s strange U shape is because it was gerrymandered to lean Republican. District 2 went for Mitt Romney by 16 points.

Of course, Clay has the celebrity thing going for him, and anecdotally, his appearances are reported to be drawing crowds. Clay has been pressing the flesh and talking to citizens, not hiding behind body guards or campaign staff. Most appearances end with Clay posing for selfies with anyone who wants a souvenir.

Celebrity also means Clay knows other celebrities, who, as the election approaches, can do magic for a get-out-the-vote effort, The celebrities bring the press. Their very presence create crowds. And they remind voters who don’t follow politics and who have a habit of skipping non-presidential years, that there’s an election going on.

If Clay Aiken hangs on to be the Democratic candidate for District 2, he will be facing the incumbent congresswoman, Renee Ellmers.

Rep. Ellmers is a rising star in the Republican firmament, and John Boehner is said to have been grooming her for a leadership position to relieve his “dearth of Republican women” problem. She’s been “regular right” under Speaker Boehner’s tutelage, taking positions that are sure to have irritated the Tea Party crowd that helped put her in office in 2010. So Tea Party support this time around is a question mark.

You may remember an episode last January in which Brigadier General Martin Schweitzer was disciplined for an email he wrote as a colonel calling a visiting congresswoman “smoking hot” and reporting how many times he masturbated thinking about her? That congresswoman was Renee Ellmers, which in my book, should gain her some of the female solidarity vote.

Rep. Ellmers is a former nurse, and has nurses firmly behind her. Clay Aiken has become the champion of North Carolina’s teachers. Teachers are up in arms about proposed legislation that would affect their job security, and promotions, and they haven’t had a raise in years. They will turn out.

Then of course there’s the gay issue. Just waiting to see if Renee Ellmers goes, or doesn’t go there is worth the price of a ticket. North Carolina passed a same-sex marriage ban by 22 points just two short years ago, and Rep. Ellmers is on record with the whole “one man, one woman” crapola.

That leaves money. It is expected that both candidates will be awash in it. Political pundits think the North Carolina senate race between incumbent Democrat Kay Hagen and Thom Tillis could determine which party rules the senate, and that guarantees the state national attention. Out-of-state money will flow.

So get comfortable. This should be fun.

Oh, one last thing. If you live in North Carolina, please vote.

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Will Clay Aiken Be a Winner, or a Runner Up Again?


Will Clay Aiken be a winner, or a runner up again?


Democratic nominee Clay Aiken takes a pictures with a constituent after a campaign forum in Cary, North Carolina, April 28, 2014. REUTERS/COLLEEN JENKINS

Which is more agonizing to wait for: "American Idol" results or election outcomes?

Clay Aiken, the 2002 "American Idol" runner up and current congressional candidate will eventually find out as he awaits word on whether or not he will be able to challenge Republican incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., this November.

The Democratic primary in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District is still too close to call, with both Aiken and textile entrepreneur Keith Crisco both claiming about 40 percent of the vote.

Aiken has a said in a statement. "I want the elections officials to have an opportunity to tally the votes and provide a report on their canvass activities to allow all the campaigns a chance to see the final numbers. This has been a great campaign and I am very appreciative of my supporters and the hard work that the county boards of elections are doing at this time."

Aiken formally announced his bid in February after weeks of exploration and conversations with Democratic officials. He highlighted his hardscrabble upbringing in the district -- which lies between the cities of Greensboro, Raleigh and Fayetteville - and told voters that his star turn on the popular singing show in 2002 was a far cry from his childhood with a single mother who'd fled his abusive father.

"I've been fortunate in my life. And if you only know the part of my story that begins with the golden ticket, something that still seems unbelievable to me even to this day, you might wonder what would qualify me to run," he said in a video announcing his candidacy.

Both Aiken and Crisco ran as centrists in the heavily Republican district, although the Raleigh News-Observer reports that Crisco had closer ties North Carolina's Democratic Party establishment, having served as Commerce Secretary under former Gov. Bev Perdue. He was also endorsed by many state government officials, city and county politicians. Aiken, by contrast, campaigned as the fresh face who could shake up partisan politics in Washington, the News-Observer reported, and was backed by veteran Democratic figures, labor, teacher and civil justice PACs.

Crisco, relying on his own personal wealth from the textile industry, outspent Aiken by more than 3-to-1, the News-Observer reported. Aiken received far more attention from national media, although he was buried at home by TV ads, direct mail pieces and signage from the Crisco campaign.

The Republican incumbent, Ellmers, was first elected in the 2010 tea party wave. She handily defeated her challenger in the Republican primary.

Ellmers was last re-elected with 56 percent of the vote in 2012, and her district tilts strongly to the right.

"This district would be difficult for any Democrat to win," explained CBS News Election Director Anthony Salvanto. "It's a heavily Republican district. President Obama got just 42 percent of the vote there in 2012."

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