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July through September 2014

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July 4, 2014

fayobserver.com

Sen. Kay Hagan, Clay Aiken Among Political Visitors to Spring Lake on Friday

Sen. Kay Hagan, Clay Aiken among political visitors to Spring Lake Friday

By Paul Woolverton Staff writer

SPRING LAKE - Politics descended on Spring Lake's Main Street Fourth of July Festival on Friday, with appearances by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, U.S. House candidate Clay Aiken and a bevy of local politicos.

Hagan, a Democratic incumbent facing Republican N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis in the November election, had a ground team of a half-dozen or so working the crowd and vendors in this Democrat-friendly community well before her arrival about 3p.m. The Spring Lake Democratic Party also had a booth.

Activists asked people to fill out information cards and offered to register them to vote.

Tillis spent the Fourth of July with his family and had no public or political events scheduled, his spokesman said.

Hagan's appearance in Spring Lake was her third campaign stop of the day, with appearances earlier in Durham and Raleigh. As soon as her entourage entered the festival area, people pointed and clustered around. "Excuse me! Can we get a picture?" was a common request.

Ashley Maddox of Spring Lake and her 8-year-old daughter, Jahnice Boyer, posed with Hagan. Maddox told Hagan that she is shortly going to join the Army. The song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams played in the background.

"She talked about how much she loved this song," Maddox said. "I told her how beautiful she is - she was so tiny. And she said congratulations for going into the military. And I said she has my vote. I love Kay Hagan."

The hand-shaking and snapshot-taking continued over the next few blocks.

Kenneth Powell of Harnett County, a former Republican who said he became a Democrat two years ago, was determined to meet the senator.

"One of the things that really changed my mind for her was her support for President Obama and the Affordable Care Act," the president's health care program also known as Obamacare, Powell said.

As a Christian, Powell said, he found it unacceptable that Americans who paid for health insurance were getting dropped when they suffered catastrophic injuries.

"People are basically left to die, and that's why I just couldn't understand why people just were so against universal health care," he said. "I just couldn't understand it. And that's what changed my mind. Just all the hate towards helping their fellow man."

As Hagan's staff tried to get her to the car for her drive home to Greensboro, she veered toward a booth promoting Spring Lake's upcoming N.C. Halloween Half Marathon and 5K race.

"She was interested about the race and asked me a question about the timing - how the timing system works in races," said race organizer Jason Miller. (The answer: electronic equipment on the race site senses small chips that are attached to the runners' race number bibs.)

Miller said he moved to North Carolina about a month ago. Despite meeting Hagan, he said, he is undecided about whether he would vote for her. He did not know the names of Republican candidate Tillis or Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh.

Earlier Friday, Aiken, the Democratic challenger for Republican 2nd District Rep. Renee Ellmers, had a similar meet-and-greet, festival-goers said.

Ellmers' webpage, Facebook page and notices from her staff did not indicate she had any public events planned for the holiday.

Other candidates seen late Friday afternoon in Spring Lake included Democrat Billy Richardson, who is running for the state Senate seat held by Wesley Meredith; Democratic County Commissioner Charles Evans, seeking one of the commission's at-large seats; incumbent Democratic state House Rep. Marvin Lucas, who is unopposed; and Cheri Siler-Mack, who is running for District Court judge against J. Duane Gilliam Jr., in a nonpartisan election.

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dailyhaymaker.com

NC-02: Souped-up, well-prepped Clay Aiken takes to the airwaves in Moore

NC-02: Souped-up, well-prepped Clay Aiken takes to the airwaves in Moore

by Brant Clifton

July 9, 2014

ca.jpeg

Mr. American Idol got a rather warm welcome this morning in conservative Moore County on WEEB radio’s morning show. Steve Leader’s show is a must-visit destination for any politico seeking votes from bright-red Moore County. Steve and news director Al Mangum put the Democrat nominee for the 2nd congressional district under the microscope.

“Actions taken or not taken in the line of duty are fair game for criticism,” Clay Aiken told the hosts. “I am not going to get into talking about someone’s personal life. I don’t think anyone is all that interested in that kind of thing.”

The Democrat was critical of incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers’ lack of success in blocking the move of an airwing from Fort Bragg to Arkansas.

“She was late introducing the amendment to the defense bill that would have stopped the move,” Aiken told his hosts. “Something that important to this district and its economy – I would have been right on top of that. [...] It’s beyond me how anyone could say it’s more fiscally responsible to fly those planes in from Arkansas when we need them. If you’re going to have the home of the Army Airborne, you need to have some way for them to get airborne.”

The hosts asked Aiken how he would balance the conservative nature of this district with the pressures in DC to be loyal to his party.

“I don’t work for the Democrat Party,” Aiken said. “I work for the people of North Carolina, of this district. [...] I think Renee has forgotten that. I think she has paid much more attention to her party leaders in Washington than she has to the people back home.”

The hosts suggested that Aiken might be threatened by party leaders with bad committee assignments and a seat in the very back of the chamber.

“I wish them luck with that,” Aiken said. “People who know me know that no one has had much success in making me keep my mouth shut.”

Some other highlights / insights:

  • Likeability: Listening to this interview, it’s hard not to like Aiken as a person. (It’s actually pretty easy to dislike Renee Ellmers personally.) He has some good ideas about accessibility to constituents and placing the home folks ahead of party leadership. (I know. A lot of people say that while they’re running.)
  • Tempered. That is a word the Democrat used quite a bit to describe his stance on many issues. Aiken made his name as a singer, but it sounds like he will master “tap-dancing” and tightrope walking by the time the campaign is done. It’s clear he and his advisors recognize that they are trying to win in a very, very conservative district.
  • Gun Control. Aiken took middle-ground positions on issues like gun control, where he poo-pooed a lot of gun control legislation — but held out for some way to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminal classes.
  • Social Programs and Welfare. Aiken advocated for more ways to “incentivize” people to work rather than wait for a government check. He cited the earned income tax credit — in its Reagan era form – as a great idea that needs to come back.
  • Military Intervention. The Democrat was asked about the current situations in Iraq and Syria. “We have the best prepared, best trained military in the world. I don’t like the idea of sending them around the world in harm’s way like they’re toy soldiers.”
  • ObamaCare. Aiken says he sees a lot of problems with the law that need to be “fixed,” but balked at the idea of a repeal. He cited the example of a Sanford businessman struggling to adhere to the requirements of ObamaCare: “If we had put aside all of those repeal votes, and instead focused on fixing that law, this man and people like him would probably be in a lot better shape.”
  • Amnesty. Aiken seemed to be to the right of Ellmers on this issue. He cited securing the southern border as the top priority. Aiken made a comparison to the 1986 effort at amnesty: “If we don’t take this seriously now, we’ll be dealing with this again in 20 or 30 years.” But the candidate balked at the idea of deporting ALL illegals currently in the country — citing the “expense.”

Listen to the man for yourself by clicking on the link at the top of this article. Aiken and Ellmers face the voters in November.

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thepilot.com

Aiken Addresses NAACP on Education, Ellmers

Aiken Addresses NAACP on Education, Ellmers

John Lentz, staff writer Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or jlentz@thepilot.com​ | Updated

5 hours ago

Singer, actor and activist Clay Aiken, the Democratic nominee in the North Carolina 2nd congressional district election for 2014, spoke on the need for changes in education and in the current political climate when he addressed the Moore County NAACP during a Tuesday evening appearance.

The meeting was held in Little Hall on the campus of Sandhills Community College. Dressed casually in khaki pants, a blue shirt and loafers and carrying a book bag, Aiken, who rose to fame after placing second in the second season of the television program American Idol in 2003, seemed at ease in the collegiate atmosphere with his laid back, accessible style.

As a former special education teacher for children with autism, Aiken said he was concerned that state politicians were not giving teachers the respect they deserved.

"We've got to change the tone in Raleigh and not treat schools as if they were corporations," he said. "Teachers are not in this business to get rich, they are motivated by seeing their students succeed."

Aiken acknowledged that many teachers "do not advocate strongly enough" for themselves.

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and I will be a big, loud voice for teachers in this area and in the state," he said. "If I can do something about this situation, then I will have done my job."

As a Congressman, Aiken said he would "incentivize" students to become teachers in their home districts.

"I would encourage them to come back and teach in the county they grew up in," he said, "because it would give students the advantage of having teachers who understand what it's like to live in that county. Today, if they even stay in the state, they go from the rural areas to places like Wake and Durham Counties because the money's better."

Aiken said he would also address the "astronomical debt" that students accumulate through college loans.

"With an average debt of $29,000 per student, something has to change," he said. "I hate that students graduate with idealistic aspirations only to find themselves saddled with a debt that many can't pay off until they are 30 to 50 years old.

"My opponent (Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers) believes that the market should decide what the interest rates should be. I want to do away with these sky-high interest rates."

Asked if he would respond in kind if Ellmers' attacks become personal as the November election nears, Aiken said there was "nothing constructive or productive" in that approach.

"I don’t plan on being dirty or personal towards her, but I also can’t imagine her doing anything but that," he said. "She used those tactics against her opponent (Steve Wilkins) in 2012, but that is all she seems able to do."

One considerable difference between himself and Ellmers, Aiken said, is accessibility.

"Right now I am working out of Cary part time, getting our field plan together before the election," he said. "I spend a couple of days each week in some part of the district, meeting people and listening to supporters. As the Congressman for the 2nd District, I will be an advocate for this area. If something needs attention, you will not find anyone better able to do this than me."

Asked if he has seen evidence of Ellmers supporters switching to his side, Aiken said he witnesses that "every day."

"When you cross your arms and do nothing for the people, you get nowhere," he said. "I ask people what Renee Ellmers has done for people here, when have they seen her and how she has affected their lives in a positive way, but I don’t get much feedback. I would really like to know what she has done to improve people's lives."

Last March, Aiken told the Pilot that Ellmers "is not listening to people" in the 2nd District, which includes all Moore County.

“She’s gone up there to serve herself,” he said. “Her record will show that. Her record in and of itself should defeat her.”

Comments by Moore County NAACP President O'Linda Gillis preceded Aiken's speech when she stressed that the NAACP was a nonpartisan organization.

"We don’t endorse or support any political party," she said. "When Mr. Aiken's representatives contacted us and asked if he could speak to us, we also contacted Ms. Ellmers to invite her to speak as well. We received an email saying that she could not come, and although we asked for an alternative date, nothing was mentioned in the email.

"We will continue to reach out to her in follow-up communications."

Aiken won the Democratic primary held on May 6, 2014, and will face Ellmers in the general election on Nov. 4, 2014.

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atr.rollcall.com

Clay Aiken Steps Up Fundraising in Second Quarter

Clay Aiken Steps Up Fundraising in Second Quarter

By Emily Cahn Posted at 10:57 a.m. today

aiken3-0728032.jpg?resize=445%2C297

Aiken is running for Congress as a Democrat. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 12:20 p.m. | “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken announced raising $450,000 from April through June for his bid in North Carolina’s 2nd District — more than his Republican opponent, GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers.

The Democrat, who faces an uphill climb to defeat Ellmers and has not yet reported his second-quarter fundraising to the Federal Election Commission, did not release his cash-on-hand total as of June 30. But that haul is a sharp increase from what he raised in the first three months of the year. Aiken had just $74,000 in cash on hand as of April 16, a few weeks before the state’s May 6 primary.

At that point, Aiken was locked in a competitive Democratic primary with former North Carolina Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco, who died one week after the primary after falling outside his home.

Aiken is the Democratic nominee facing GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in this heavily Republican district, which winds its way from Asheboro down to Fayetteville and then up to the suburbs of Raleigh.

Ellmers raised $396,000 in the second quarter, including numbers from her pre-primary report, which covered April 1-16. She reported $405,000 in the bank as of June 30.

Mitt Romney carried the 2nd District with 58 percent in 2012, making it a tough district for a Democrat to be competitive. The race is rated Safe Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

OLD picture!!!! Hee.

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dailycaller.com

Medical Examiner Releases Details about Death of Clay Aiken Primary Opponent

Medical Examiner Releases Details About Death Of Clay Aiken Primary Opponent

Posted By Alex Pappas On 3:50 PM 07/14/2014 In | No Comments

Keith Crisco — who at the time of his shocking death was in a too-close-to call North Carolina Democratic congressional primary with former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken — died due to heart disease, according to the medical examiner’s report obtained by The Daily Caller.

Crisco, 71, died as he walked inside his home in Asheboro on May 12, according to the report. A week earlier, Crisco ran in the Democratic primary for the 2nd congressional district seat.

The race had not been called at the time of Crisco’s death, though Aiken was leading the former secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce by 369 votes.

The medical examiner report lists “hypertensive and arterioscleortic cardiovascular disease” as the probable cause of death. Crisco, according to the report, had a history of high blood pressure.

On the day of his death, Crisco told his wife he was going to do some errands in his vehicle. He returned home at about 1 p.m.

“His wife heard him arrive home,” the examiner wrote. “She heard him enter the door and heard him when he fell coming into the house. When she got to him, she said he was gasping for breath.”

Crisco, wearing a a blue shirt and khaki pants, fell near the front door.

The report labeled Crisco’s death natural and stated that the examiner did not find any abrasions or blood on the body.

Aiken, who temporarily suspended his campaign because of Crisco’s death, was subsequently declared the winner of the primary. He is set to face incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers in November.

“I am stunned and deeply saddened by Keith Crisco’s death,” Aiken said at the time. “Keith came from humble beginnings. No matter how high he rose – to Harvard, to the White House and to the Governor’s Cabinet – he never forgot where he came from.

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courier-tribune.com

Aiken is Back in Randolph County in Full Campaign Mode

Aiken is back in Randolph County in full campaign mode

By J.D. Walker jdwalker@courier-tribune.com

July 17, 2014 - 6:39pm

ASHEBORO — Congressional District 2 candidate Clay Aiken is becoming a familiar face in Randolph County with another visit to Asheboro’s downtown area and the Randolph County Democratic Headquarters on Church Street Thursday.

Aiken is the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers whom he will face in the Nov. 5 General Election. Aiken beat Asheboro businessman Keith Crisco, now deceased, for the Democratic slot in a narrow May 6 primary that resulted in a recount.

Aiken said in an interview Thursday that he is more comfortable now that the primary has passed. He said during the primary he always tried to be respectful of Crisco when he came to Crisco’s hometown. He said he felt Crisco took the same approach toward him when campaigning in Wake County.

Aiken said primaries have a way of pitting people against one another who don’t always have a difference of opinion on the issues – just different strategies on how to approach problems. Now that the primary is over, he is free to focus his attention on the differences he can offer voters over Ellmers.

Aiken said it is no secret that Ellmers is vulnerable. He said people tell him frequently that she has not been visible in her own district. Aiken said that should have been her main concern during the last four years she has been in office. Instead, he said, she has been focused on courting the Republican leadership in Washington for her own benefit.

“I don’t agree with (Rep.) Howard Coble on a lot of things, but he had the needs of his district in mind while he was in Washington,” he said. “With over 30 years in office, Howard could have been more involved with leadership. But he knew that his job was to work for his district. Why doesn’t Renee know that?”

Coble represented Randolph County in District 6 until after redistricting in 2000. At that time, district lines were redrawn, putting Randolph County in District 2. Some contend the lines were drawn to benefit Ellmers and others like her, to ensure she could be re-elected.

“That’s not right when either party does it,” Aiken said. “No district should be drawn safely. That’s not representative democracy.”

Aiken said he readily tells people he meets that he doesn’t have all the answers.

“But isn’t that part of the problem?” he said. “People get elected and go to Congress and they think they know everything. Then, they don’t budge.”

Elected officials have to be willing to work together, he said. That’s the way to address the issues he is hearing about on the campaign trail, he said.

People are still talking about jobs, but more and more, they are asking why this recovery is so much slower than past recoveries, Aiken said. He thinks part of the problem is that willful lack of cooperation.

“Each side has to stop blaming the other side,” he said. “People see that and they see it’s not working.”

Aiken said he is seeing an evolution in opinions on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a key piece of President Barack Obama’s legacy that Ellmers has voted dozens of times to repeal. That is a waste of time, Aiken said. ACA is the law of the land. Lawmakers should deal with it.

Aiken said business owners get it. He said he talked to one business owner two months ago who demanded to know what he (Aiken) would do to repeal the measure. Aiken said he met the business owner again recently. This time, the man wanted to know what could be done to amend the law.

Aiken said he thinks the law could be modified to redefine what businesses fall into the small business category. Or, perhaps in the case of people who own multiple businesses, the law could be changed to allow the owner to count each employee population separately by business.

“I don’t know what the solution is,” he said. “But the bottom line is, if we don’t figure this out, he’s going to still be hurting.”

On immigration and the situation on the border involving thousands of immigrant children, Aiken said he thinks it is unfair for people to claim the DREAM Act is the reason why so many children are fleeing their home countries to come to the U.S. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would give “conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment.”

It has never passed into law but has been the basis for Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Aiken said, first of all, the DREAM Act would not cover the children in this latest wave of immigration. Secondly, he said, the number of children flowing into South American countries and Mexico from the troubled areas are almost equal to the numbers coming to the U.S. Those countries don’t have a DREAM Act, Aiken said.

Aiken thinks the solution could be to get more funding to secure the borders. Then, the court systems need help in handling the flood of immigration cases. He said, right now, there are 245 judges handling 375,000 cases. They are currently scheduling cases into 2017.

As for the bigger issue of the 11 million illegal aliens in the country already, Aiken doesn’t believe the answer is to simply ship everyone back to their country of origin. The cost to do so would be staggering. He said one estimate he has heard hovers in the billions.

Plus, there are jobs in America that native-born citizens will not take, he said, especially in agriculture and some areas of manufacturing. Who would help farmers bring crops, he asked? Food prices would skyrocket, he said.

Another consideration frequently forgotten is the taxes illegal immigrants pay, including Social Security, sales taxes and property taxes.

“Deporting these people is not viable,” he said. “It would take billions out of the economy. I don’t have the solution, but we have to work on it together.”

As he talks with voters about these and other issues, Aiken said he is asking people two things. First, what has Ellmers done for you in the four years she has been in office? Then he asks voters to give him a chance.

“If, in 2016, I have not done any more for you than she has done in four years, vote me out,” he said.

Copyright ©Stephens Media LLC 2014. All rights reserved. • Privacy Policy

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fayobserver.com

Clay Aiken says people 'hungry' for politicians to listen to them

Clay Aiken says people 'hungry' for politicians to listen to them

By Paige Rentz Staff writer | Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 10:09 pm

For Clay Aiken, it's all about being there.

In a talk at Tuesday's meeting of the Cumberland County Democratic Men's Club, Aiken told local party members his campaign to unseat Rep. Renee Ellmers is about being present in the 2nd District and available to constituents.

"I'm in a different place every single day," he said. "We try to be in the district as much as we can be."

Aiken said after the meeting that he spends about two days a week out in the district's communities and has been to Fayetteville about a half-dozen times since the May 6 primary. Some nights, he said, he just drives to Siler City or Sanford for dinner to get to know the people and places of the 2nd District.

Aiken told local Democrats he was drawn into the race after the bad press North Carolina has received for its inefficient governance and the current gridlock at multiple levels of government.

"I jumped into the race in large part because I recognized I have a platform and a microphone, and I can speak to issues that matter to you all," Aiken said. "And I see that now as I go around the district. There are people who are tired of obstruction."

Aiken told of meeting a Sanford business owner who would have to provide his employees health insurance under the Affordable Care Act and wanted it repealed. He said they discussed the many provisions of the health reform, and parted still disagreeing about the law.

Aiken said a few months later he ran into the same man, who asked how the law can be tweaked since he now felt repeal is unlikely.

"He really understood at that point and pinpointed exactly what so many people ... all around the state and the country, and especially the 2nd District, are getting tired of: nothing getting done."

Aiken said he agreed with the man, telling him, "We have to sit down, and we've got to talk about how we're going to fix things."

Aiken said the 2nd District is one of the only districts in the state that has the potential to turn blue in November. He said a victory over Ellmers, a two-term Harnett County Republican, in the conservative-leaning district would send a message that politicians can't go to Washington, toe the party line and not work across the aisle.

"People in this state, in this area, in this district are hungry for someone to listen to them," Aiken said. "They want someone who's going to listen to people on the other side of the aisle. They want someone to be present."

Aiken noted after his talk that while he's a Democrat, he'll be accountable to all of his constituents.

"You can't sit at the end zones; you've got to be on the field," Aiken said. "You can't sit at the far right or the far left of the party and expect people to listen to you and embrace you as their representative if you don't embrace them back."

Staff writer Paige Rentz can be reached at rentzp@fayobserver.com or 486-2728.

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newsobserver.com

Clay Aiken outpaces Renee Ellmers in fundraising for NC's 2nd Congressional District

Clay Aiken outpaces Renee Ellmers in fundraising for NC's 2nd Congressional District

Posted by Craig Jarvis on July 22, 2014

Clay Aiken outpaced U.S. Rep Renee Ellmers in second-quarter campaign contributions, recently filed federal finance reports show.

The Democratic challenger and former pop singer raised more than $450,000 between April 1 and June 30. The Republican incumbent raised more than $396,000.

There are some other interesting comparisons in the numbers.

Aiken, who lives in Cary, has received almost $687,000 since he jumped into the race near the beginning of the year. Ellmers, of Dunn, has another year of fundraising to her advantage and reports receiving $1.3 million between January 2013 and June 2014.

Almost $1 million of Ellmers’ money comes from political committees and $300,000 from individuals during that year-and-a-half span. Aiken has brought in almost $590,000 from individuals – many from other states – this year, and just $21,000 from committees.

Aiken reports $209,000 cash on hand, while Ellmers has $405,000.

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thesnaponline.com

Aiken Campaigns in Asheboro

July 24, 2014

Aiken campaigns in Asheboro

By Larry Penkava, Editor of The Randolph Guide

CNHI

July 28, 2014 — Clay Aiken slipped into an Asheboro restaurant virtually unnoticed while campaigning in the city last Thursday.

The former American Idol runner-up who is running as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers for the District 2 Congressional seat, took time before his food arrived to talk about his campaign and what he hopes to accomplish if elected.

"It's going well," Aiken said. "I've got an opponent who is tone deaf."

He then referred to an Ellmers quote from a recent panel discussion about how Republicans should reach out to women: "Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level," and that male Republicans need to "bring it down to a woman's level."

"We've not done a good job reaching out in either party," Aiken said. "People are tired of politicians going to Washington" for personal reasons. "I'm going because I see a lot of people ignored — everybody in the Second District is ignored."

Aiken accused Ellmers of "doing what she feels necessary to get in the leadership. She's not in Randolph County, where people need access to her. The person in that seat needs to be present, attentive and available. I bet you wouldn't find many people in the district who have met her.

"I will be available for people to address their problems," said Aiken, "someone able to cut through red tape."

Aiken also blasted Ellmers for "not paying attention" when an omnibus bill in Congress included moving the 440th Airlift Wing at Pope Air Force Base to Arkansas. The move, he said, "would be devastating to the counties" surrounding Fort Bragg. "It's an irresponsible way to spend money. It should not have been in the bill."

He said that when Ellmers finally realized what was in the bill, she submitted a change, but it was too late to be included.

The day in Asheboro, Aiken said, included breakfast at Democratic headquarters and a tour of Randolph Hospital.

"I'm just trying to be around, talk to people on the streets, see what's important to them," he said. "I'll talk about anything."

He said he's been spending two days a week in the district with plans to increase it to four or more days as the November election nears.

Aiken had won the Democratic primary election against the late Keith Crisco of Asheboro, who died shortly afterward with intentions to concede, according to Crisco's manager. Aiken was asked to comment on Crisco.

"He was a shining example, unique to the old-school breed of public servants," said Aiken. By old-school, he said he meant politicians who worked "both sides of the aisle to improve people's lives. We don't have many like that anymore." He mentioned Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt and Howard Coble as examples of public servants.

"The way to improve lives is to work together," Aiken said. "Keith was in that category.

"People who have been in politics for years are frustrated ... that they can't get anything done," he said. "When I was growing up, that's how things were done. (President Bill) Clinton and (Speaker of the House Newt) Gingrich didn't get along but they worked together to balance the budget."

Aiken said he thinks people, including Republicans, are tired of Congress not doing anything. "You can't cater to (House Speaker) John Boehner and expect to get things done for Asheboro," he said. "Ellmers is not doing what she's supposed to be doing.

"The same goes for me," he said. "If in two years I'm not doing what I'm supposed to, get rid of me."

2014-07-24_0815_zps7b1f0dc2.png

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huffingtonpost.com (HuffPost Politics)

Deja Vu All Over Again: From Akin to Ellmers to Aiken

Déjà Vu All Over Again: From Akin to Ellmers to Aiken

by Jane Fonda

Posted: 07/24/2014 3:33 pm

n-RENEE-ELLMERS-large570.jpg

In 2012, then Senate candidate Todd Akin's statement that "legitimate rape" rarely causes pregnancy unleashed a storm of media controversy, and lost him the support of many in his party.

Flash forward to last week. North Carolina Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, who is running against Clay Aiken this November, urged the Republican Party, especially men in the party, to bring policy discussion "down to a woman's level."

"Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level," Ellmers said. "Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they've got some pie chart or graph behind them and they're talking about trillions of dollars and, you know, how the debt is awful and, you know... We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman's level and what everything that she is balancing in her life -- that's the way to go."

Clearly, Ellmers hasn't been paying attention to the negative reactions other politicians have incurred when they trivialized rape and reinforced gender stereotypes? Is she so naïve to believe that just because she was talking at a Republican gathering the Internet wouldn't let the world in on her statements? Doesn't she know there are women astronauts now and cabinet members, that women run Fortune 500 companies, that, in fact, women are presidents in a number of countries... maybe our own before too long. Not that we don't have a long way to go before full equality.

Sure women and men are different. Recent brain science is showing just how different. Women tend to have more emotional, psychological and fluid intelligence, pay attention to details more, are more willing to ask for feedback, to hold authority in a more collaborative, less top-down manner, to go to the doctor when their health seems challenged... which may be one reason we live longer than men -- a kind of intelligence the world really needs, in fact.

It's not that women are better than men, it's just that we're not having to constantly prove our masculinity. What bothers me is that Ellmers equates gender difference with inferiority -- men speak on a "higher" level and women can only understand on a "lower" level. Feels like she's trying to prove her masculinity.

Now to Todd Akin. Sure, Ellmer's comments have sparked some controversy, but definitely not as much as if a man were to make the same comment. But are we supposed to give Ellmers a pass just because she's a woman? As my friend Gloria Steinem wisely put it, "If Clay Aiken said women can't read pie charts, it might lose him the election. It should lose it for Renee Ellmers, too."

Where does that leave Clay Aiken? Todd Akin showed that out of touch politicians are vulnerable. It's déjà vu with Ellmers. Clay Aiken should take note.

Follow Jane Fonda on Twitter: www.twitter.com/janefonda

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timesunion.com

Renee Ellmers vs. Clay Aiken

Renee Ellmers v. Clay Aiken

Posted on July 24, 2014 | By Roger Green

Earlier this month, reporter Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner wrote “an article about the GOP’s poor messaging on the ‘war on women’ narrative. I posted some comments from Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., who said GOP men need to bring their messages ‘down to a woman’s level.’

“Ellmers called me a ‘liberal woman reporter’ and said I had taken her quote ‘completely out of context.’

“Below are her full comments from the event…, along with the audio of her segment. I have bolded the comments I used in my original post.” Having looked at the link, I feel Ellmers was treated fairly.

This story is still interesting to me because:

1) it IS the GOP war on women, being propagated by a woman

2) it is a classic “blame the press” ploy, which might work on a few, but not to anyone who bothered to read the transcript

Let me express my inherent bias here: all things being equal – and all things are NEVER equal, I’d be inclined to support a female candidate over a male candidate. In this case, though, if I were able to vote in the Congressional race for North Carolina’s Second District, I would support the male candidate.

That guy, BTW, is Clay Aiken, best known to me as the second-place contestant on an early season of American Idol; we even own one of his albums. You may have also seen him – I did not – on Celebrity Apprentice, where, I am told, he presented himself well.

Aiken had an odd row to the Democratic nomination. He had a tough primary fight with his opponent, 71-year-old Keith Crisco, back in May. Aiken won by a small margin, but Crisco had not yet conceded the race when Crisco suffered injuries from a fall at his home and died. Crisco associates say that he was about to concede the race to Aiken the next day.

It’ll be interesting to see what type of representative NC-2 wants, a two-term woman who appears to be over her head in Congress, or an openly gay man with a bit of entertainment fame. Last time out Ellmers won with 56% of the vote. As noted, my rooting interests are with the singer.

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hpe.com

Aiken Seeks to Close Money Gap with Ellmers

Aiken seeks to close money gap with Ellmers

Jul. 27, 2014 @ 05:05 PM

Paul B. Johnson

RANDOLPH COUNTY —

Democratic congressional hopeful Clay Aiken hopes that he can become an idol of campaign supporters as he seeks to compete in donations against second-term Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-2nd.

Aiken, who made his fame 10 years ago on the TV singing competition “American Idol,” reported earlier this month that his campaign raised more than $450,000 in the second fundraising quarter from April 1-June 30. Aiken, who announced his first try for elected office earlier this year, has brought national attention to what otherwise would be a low-profile congressional race in a district covering a large part of Randolph County. The vocal artist and educator who lives in Cary is the most well-recognized figure in the country this year challenging for a congressional seat.

The Aiken campaign reports that it has raised more than $580,000 from upward of 6,000 individual contributions since Aiken announced his candidacy Feb. 5.

“Americans and North Carolina voters are tired of a do-nothing Congress, and our campaign’s strong fundraising quarter shows that people are encouraged by Clay’s message of working across party lines to pass meaningful legislation to get our country moving again,” said Campaign Manager Ellen Zeng.

But Aiken still trails Ellmers in total campaign money with less than four months before voters settle the race in the Nov. 4 general election.

Ellmers, who was swept into office in 2010 as part of the conservative Tea Party wave, received $1.3 million through June 30, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Her campaign’s cash on hand for the upcoming stretch run of the campaign is $405,039.

Aiken’s campaign reports to the FEC that it received $686,813 through June 30, with $209,145 in cash on hand.

While the 2nd Congressional District has nearly the same number of Democratic and Republican registered voters, political analysts say it leans conservative. Six years ago, for example, the district went 56 percent for Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to 43 percent for Democratic President Barack Obama, with 1 percent Libertarian, though Obama carried the state in 2008.

Two years ago, Ellmers won her first re-election bid against Democratic challenger Steve Wilkins with 56 percent of the vote.

During his campaign swings through the 2nd Congressional District, Aiken has made at least two stops in Asheboro. Randolph County is the western edge of the district that stretches to Wake and Cumberland counties.

Ellmers recently received national attention of her own — in political circles — over comments she made earlier this month that critics said marginalized women. In remarks about how the Republican Party can better reach female voters, Ellmers said that the conversation should "bring it down to a woman's level" and that "men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level."

In response to criticism about the remarks, Ellmers said that her statement was taken out of context for partisan reasons by liberals seeking to attack her.

On his website, Aiken made reference to the controversy as part of challenging Ellmers to debate him.

“Much has been said about the remarks Renee Ellmers made recently at a conservative women’s panel. She said her words were taken out of context. I’m not going to judge whether or not that’s true. But I am going to point out one thing she said — and that’s her apparent desire to have an ‘open conversation,’” Aiken said.

Aiken said an open conversation should involve a debate between him and Ellmers before voters.

Ellmers’ remarks raise political eyebrows

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-2nd, has received national attention in political circles this month for remarks she made two weeks ago about men and women in politics. Critics have said her reference to men speaking “on a much higher level” were demeaning to women, but Ellmers has said her remarks weren’t dismissive and taken out of context.

Here’s a transcript of part of her remarks based on an audio recording:

“Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. You know, one of the things that has always been one of my frustrations — and I speak about this all the time – many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and, you know, how the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that. ...

“The biggest need that women have is more time. We all want more time in our lives. More time in the morning to get ready. More time in the evening to spend time with our families. All of these things – more time to move up that career path. It’s about time. And we have to make sure that women understand that we understand that. We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life – that’s the way to go.”

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I can't get the link to work (registration required), but I found this article at CV:

Civil Rights Legend Speaks In Lillington

By TOM WOERNER

Of the Record Staff

One of the most significant figures of the civil rights movement took a large crowd back in history at an event host­ed by an area mayor in Lillington Satur­day evening.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis was the guest of Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey at an event at the Lillington Community Cen­ter. Rep. Lewis outlined some of his ex­periences as he helped fight for equal treatment for fellow African-Ameri­cans in the turbulent 1960s.

Rep. Lewis was a leader of young people as a part of the Civil Rights Movement and was a member of the famous Freedom Riders movement.

The culmination of his involvement in the movement came as he spoke at the March on Washington, D.C., of 1963 when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

He said his first remembrances of civil rights awareness came when as a young child he asked his grandfather why there were segregated restroom facilities. He said he was told not to ob­ject to the policy in order to stay “out of trouble.”

He did not follow his grandfather’s advice as a young adult, getting arrest­ed multiple times for his participation in civil rights protests. He notably par­ticipated in protest events in Mississip­pi and Alabama which were largely conducted with the goal of desegregat­ing bus lines in the South.

Harnett County NAACP President Carolyn McDougal was pleased with how the event went and said those who attended left inspired.

“I thought it was awesome,” she said. “He talked to us about what we need to do to come together as people, regardless of race.”

Mrs. McDougal said Rep. Lewis drew standing ovations with remarks about some of those he interacted with during the Civil Rights Movement including Rosa Parks, Dr. King and others. Rep. Lewis is the last living speaker from the March on Washington event.

“He took us way back to the 1960s and I thought it was wonderful,” Mrs. McDougal said. “It was an inspirational evening.”

The Harnett County Democratic Party used the occasion of Rep. Lewis’ appearance to gain support for their candidates.

Democratic Party Chairperson Teresa Oudeh said the appearance was a good event.

“He showed so much humility,” Mrs. Oudeh said. “I was impressed by the way he shared such deep conversation. He is still sharing love after all these years.”

Dunn businesman Lewis Bell also said he enjoyed the appearance by the civil rights legend.

“I think it was just a great event for the people who came out,” Mr. Bell said.

County Commissioner’s candidate Steve Blackburn was at the event with his wife and said he enjoyed it.

“It was fantastic,” Mr. Blackburn said.

The event was well attended by Democratic candidates. Among those on hand were N.C. House candidate Susan Byerly, N.C. Senate candidate Joe Langley, U.S. House candidate Clay Aikenand U.S. Rep. David Price.

Rep. Lewis has represented Georgia in Congress since the 1980s and Rep. Price represents North Carolina’s fourth district which includes the central swath of Harnett County including Lillington.

Mrs. Oudeh said she was glad to see Democratic candidates and regular citizens.

“I am very impressed,” she said. “So many people coming out shows a lot of respect for Mr. Lewis.”

Though advertised as a guest appearance and not campaign related, Mr. Rey is rumored to have statewide political ambitions; however, this was not a fundraiser event for Mr. Rey.

2014-07-28_1925_zps876125b5.png

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carycitizen.com

Harold's Blog: Double Dose

The relevant Clay part:

Tuesday I had the honor and privilege of meeting and talking with Clay Aiken who is running for the Second Congressional District seat. If you think that Clay is just a singer with a golden ticket then you are sorely mistaken. I was extremely impressed with his knowledge of all the national issues and his district. What I also liked was his eagerness to work with both parties. In fact his logo starts with blue coloring and goes to red symbolizing this bipartisanship. Clay Aiken has a passion for helping people and doing what is right for his district regardless of party affiliation. I think he would represent Cary and his district well and be a breath of fresh air in Washington. I would invite anyone to check out his stance on issues and contact him. His campaign office is in downtown Cary and is staffed by smart, knowledgeable people.

harold-clay-aiken_zps5639320c.jpg

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indyweek.com

Renee Ellmers-Clay Aiken election campaign: Take one down, pass it around

MONDAY, JULY 28, 2014

CAPITAL POLITICS

Renee Ellmers-Clay Aiken election campaign: Take one down, pass it around

Posted by Bob Geary on Mon, Jul 28, 2014 at 1:46 PM

1406568829-vote2014image.jpg

It's July — still — and no time to be thinking about elections, which aren't until —

Bzzzt. My mailbox is overflowing with reminders that just 100 days remain … no, now it's 99 days … until Nov. 4, Election Day. Y'ouch.

So, let's begin our election season with Renee Ellmers, Republican incumbent, versus Clay Aiken, Democratic challenger, for the U.S. House of Representatives, 2nd District of N.C.

Remember the House? Hasn't done anything in years except try to repeal Obamacare and, now, get ready to sue President Obama. Is this where the term "clown car" came from?

In recent days, Congresswoman Ellmers made some news when she told a Republican audience that her mostly male political colleagues, when discussing policy questions, should "bring it down to a woman's level" if they want to be understood.

Somewhere in there was a point, I think. Although Ellmers delivered it with what I'm afraid is her all-too-common incoherence. More on this below.

1406569370-aiken-ramblers_copy.jpg

  • Wednesday, 6-8 pm, Southland Ballroom

Meanwhile, Clay Aiken, for whom I would undoubtedly vote, pollsters, "if the election were held today," is holding his own against Ellmers in terms of fundraising. He may — may — give her a run for her money in November, so to speak, notwithstanding the fact that the 2nd District is heavily gerrymandered in favor of the Republican candidate.

Aiken is putting together three of my favorite things in Raleigh Wednesday night at a fundraiser. One, it's at Southland Ballroom, which has replaced the Berkeley Cafe on my list of best music halls in Raleigh following the latter's decimation. Two, it features the Red Clay Ramblers, who will perform. I definitely :) them. Three, it's Clay Aiken, and as I've already explained, I lost all objectivity re: Clay when he was on "American Idol."

I also think he's acquitted himself well as a candidate thus far.

***

On the fundraising front, Ellmers has raised more than $1.3 million since her last election campaign and, as of the latest report on June 30, retained $412,000 in cash on hand. She spent some money fending off a primary challenge this year.

Aiken, who entered the campaign just six months ago, has raised $686,000 and, as of June 30, had $209,000 cash on hand. The Aiken campaign has made much of the fact that he outraised Ellmers in the April-June period and that most of his money has come from individual contributors as opposed to her reliance on money from special interest and political committees. As The News & Observerreported it:

Aiken, who lives in Cary, has received almost $687,000 since he jumped into the race near the beginning of the year. Ellmers, of Dunn, has another year of fundraising to her advantage and reports receiving $1.3 million between January 2013 and June 2014.

Almost $1 million of Ellmers’ money comes from political committees and $300,000 from individuals during that year-and-a-half span. Aiken has brought in almost $590,000 from individuals — many from other states — this year, and just $21,000 from committees.

As for Ellmers' ill-chosen remarks about women voters, I think what she was trying to say is that politicians too often talk about issues only in terms of numbers in a budget or bars on a graph, and they fail to relate what they're saying to the impact of a political decision on actual people. I think, further, Ellmers was trying to say that male politicians are more guilty of this than female politicians, and that women voters — because they're more likely to be "on the ground" running family budgets and raising children — are especially interested in whether what the politicians intend will address their needs.

I'd say that's not only true, it's an important message for Republicans, who are fixated on the size of the federal debt as if "ooh, $17 trillion" has some intrinsic (scary) importance — instead of being, as it is, a figure that may or may not be too large, or is perhaps not large enough, given the size of the national economy (also about $17 trillion) and our collective need for investments in education, health, infrastructure, etc.

Also true is that campaign advertising is a cesspool of lies and half-truths. If candidates — now I'm talking about Democrats — used their ads to explain issues and the need for such investments, and made the case to voters that money spent on public programs will boost the economy, create jobs and improve lives …

In a mid-term election, half or more of eligible adults will not vote. Given what they hear from candidates, why should they?

If that's what Ellmers meant to say, I'm with her.

But actually, it sounds more like what Aiken is saying.

Here's a thought: Aiken is challenging Ellmers to debate him.

That's an excellent idea — if they debate, she can explain for herself what she means, and so can he.

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fayobserver.com

People's Biz: Clay Aiken wants to debate Renee Ellmers on TV

People's Biz: Clay Aiken wants to debate Renee Ellmers on TV

By Paige Rentz | Posted: Friday, August 1, 2014 9:54 am

Clay Aiken wants a debate.

The entertainer-turned politician is challenging U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers for her District 2 seat.

The Cary Democrat has put out a call a for Ellmers, a Dunn Republican seeking her third term, to accept invitations the two campaigns have received to debate on local television stations.

“We owe it to the voters to speak openly about what we plan to do for the people of the Second District,” his challenge reads.

Tucker Middleton, Aiken’s campaign manager, said the campaign has received invitations from WTVD-Channel 11, in partnership with the Wake County League of Women Voters, Time Warner Cable News and WRAL-Channel 3. Some of the invitations were made weeks ago, she said.

Jessica Wood, Ellmers’ campaign manager, said the congresswoman’s campaign has received the invitations but has not made any formal decisions about debates yet.

Aiken has visited Fayetteville several times during his campaign, speaking to various groups. He was the “American Idol” runner-up in 2003.

“Voters in our district and around this country want to hear more about how folks in Washington are going to work together to solve our country’s problems,” Aiken writes in his debate challenge. “So far, they’ve gotten few — if any — answers from our representatives.”

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The Daily Record (no link because registration is required)

Aiken Wants Debate With Ellmers

By TOM WOERNER

Of The Record The candidate seeking the District 2 U.S. House of Representatives seat was in Harnett County Tuesday — meeting voters and local members of the media, but he had another meeting in mind — with incumbent Renee Ellmers in a debate to discuss the issues.

Former “American Idol” runnerup Clay Aiken, who is now a candidate for Congress, was in the local area after he attended an event to discuss military issues at Fort Bragg. He made multiple stops in Harnett County including The Daily Record and Sherry’s Bakery.

Mr. Aiken said he would accept an offer from a Raleigh media outlet to debate Mrs. Ellmers, who lives in Dunn when not representing the area in Washington. The incumbent has not said publicly whether or not she will accept the invitation.

Mr. Aiken said the public deserves to hear from the candidates in the race.

“They need to see us stand up next to each other and answer the same questions,” Mr. Aiken said. “Voters have the right to hear us.”

Mr. Aiken said he is ready to discuss multiple issues with the people and with his opponent.

One of those issues is federal funding to help Harnett County and other areas facing overcrowding because of military expansion. Schools in several locations around the county will open later this month with more students than available seats. He said Washington has a responsibility to help.

“If the military brings troops to the area and it causes overcrowding in the schools there should be federal money to help pay for a solution to the problem,” Mr. Aiken said, adding that is just one issue where the area is not being properly represented.

“People are tired of a do nothing Congress and Mrs. Ellmers is a prime example of that,” Mr. Aiken said. “People want to be listened to and that is not happening in the district right now.”

He said the current Congress does not want to work together.

“There are 535 people up there who are getting nothing done. Both sides need to start working together so we can make some progress. People need to be willing to compromise,” said Mr. Aiken.

There are 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives another 100 members of the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Aiken said he is learning the ropes of being a politician as he makes his way around the campaign trail in an attempt at his first elected office.

He said he is in it for one rea­son: to serve the people.

“I don’t need the notoriety, I got that on ‘American Idol.’ I wish I didn’t have it now,” he said. “It would be nice to go into a grocery store and not have someone recognize me immedi­ately. I am also not doing it for money, I don’t need it.”

He said he has people of all po­litical parties who are encourag­ing him.

“People of all parties are tired of the same old thing in Washing­ton,” he said. “People are fed up with nothing happening in Con­gress to make their life better.”

Mr. Aiken, a trained educator and musician, said he realizes he has a lot to learn but said he has definite opinions on the issues in­cluding the ongoing crisis on the Mexican border, and America’a role in the brutal war in Israel.

He said immigration needs to be addressed carefully, largely because of the significant role Hispanics play in the local econ­omy.

“We need to secure the bor­der and we need to provide the resources to do that,” Mr. Aiken said.

He said it is not feasible to send massive numbers of illegal aliens back to their native coun­try, which is often proposed by Republican lawmakers.

“Sending 11 million people back would cost millions of dol­lars, it is just not feasible” Mr. Aiken said “Those people pay sales taxes here and they pro­vide needed employment. We have to learn to deal with them here.”

He said the American role in Israel, where fighting the Hamas organization remains on­going, is a delicate issue. “We have a strong ally in Is­rael and we need to respect that relationship,” Mr. Aiken said. “We need to be there for our friend but our role should be limited. I would be hesitant to send American troops in there.”

Mr. Aiken earned the right to challenge Mrs. Ellmers with a narrow primary win over for­mer North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Keith Chrisco in May. Mr. Chrisco died in a fall shortly after the primary.

Mr. Aiken pointed out he is not a stranger to the local area. As a high school student, he performed several times at the Stewart Theatre with area sing­ers.

From the print version:

image_zps80383a7b.jpg

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fayobserver.com

People's Biz: #NC02 candidate Clay Aiken visits twice for military, veteran issues

People's Biz: #NC02 candidate Clay Aiken visits twice for military, veteran issues

Paul Woolverton | Posted: Friday, August 8, 2014 1:33 pm

Second Congressional District Democratic candidate Clay Aiken visited Fayetteville twice this week in his effort to unseat Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers.

On Tuesday, Aiken was one of a bevy of politicians who attended the N.C. Defense and Economic Development Trade Show at Fayetteville Technical Community College.

Although he is not an elected official, Aiken was invited on stage along with organizers, state and federal lawmakers and military members for a ribbon-cutting to ceremonially launch the event.

The vendors were impressive, Aiken said. One from Wilmington, South-Tek Systems intrigued him. It makes equipment for the Army and Marines that extracts nitrogen from the air to be injected into military rifle scopes and night vision goggles. The nitrogen keeps moisture out of the optics.

Aiken said he was surprised to learn from the vendor that the same technology is used in snack-food bags, such as packages of Doritos, to keep oxygen out. Food goes bad more quickly in the presence of oxygen.

And as he moved about the grounds, people frequently stopped the famous pop singer to pose for photos. Meanwhile, a young man with a video camera constantly followed him around. The man was a political tracker, someone hired to video record politicians in effort to capture them saying or doing something embarrassing or politically damaging.

Aiken said he is concerned about reports that the Army reduce will its forces at Fort Bragg. A force reduction would hurt the military’s ability to quickly strike anywhere in the world during a crisis, he said.

“It’s irresponsible to the nation’s readiness,” he said, and also would damage the economy in Fayetteville and the state.

Aiken said Ellmers moved too slowly in Congress in her efforts to halt plans to shut down of the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg.

In May, Ellmers, along with Democrats David Price and Mike McIntyre and Republican Richard Hudson, had an amendment in the House Armed Services Committee to save the wing. But the committee said they submitted it too late.

On Wednesday, Aiken was back in Fayetteville, this time for a roundtable discussion with a few dozen people of issues important to military communities and veterans.

He met with local elected officials, veterans and military spouses, spokeswoman Tucker Middleton said.

Based on that meeting, Aiken said on Friday, he thinks the federal government needs to provide more impact aid to Cumberland County.

Impact aid is money that Washington gives to local school districts where military family children are enrolled. This is to help pay for the costs of teaching those kids in light of the fact that their families usually pay fewer local school-supporting taxes than the civilian population.

Aiken also called for the federal government to do more to help soldiers who are leaving the military find jobs in the civilian world. And he wants it to work harder to help the homeless veterans in Cumberland County.

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bluenc.com

Rectangular Round Table

Rectangular Round Table

Submitted by Nancy Miller Martin on Fri, 08/08/2014 - 8:16pm

Clay Aiken held a round table discussion Wednesday with people who are concerned about what needs to be done for the young soldiers who get out of the military with no skills and no job. Oh, they know how to play war games, but we are talking about in the real world. Many of them have injuries or mental health issues and may not be able to be retrained. Many are homeless. We owe all of them, and everybody at that table knows that. There were two retired generals, two retired colonels, two union members who work at Fort Bragg, several elected officials, business owners, etc. It was an impressive group. Some people had very good ideas on how to train them for new skills when they are discharged. They had our backs for a long time, and now we need to have their's.

This meeting was Clay Aiken's idea and he wanted to know and understand everything that was said. He didn't mind asking questions to make sure he was hearing everything right. The officers are retired, so they were able to ask and answer questions honestly. They agreed that our current Congress member Renee Ellmers, has been absent in this district and they were all aware that she helped shut down the government, but she wanted her pay check. From Clay's past and the interest he has shown since he has been running for office, he will knock himself out trying to help. That's what he does.

A lot of people don't know that Clay does this kind of thing all the time. He wants to KNOW what people need and what we can do to help. At this particular meeting, those that have been with him since near the beginning were very proud, and those that are just getting to know him were very impressed. He just has to be elected, because we need him more than he needs us.

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uexpress.com (reprinting from The New Republic)

Wooing the Republaiken Vote: A Reality Star's Very Sincere Campaign

The New Republic

Wooing the Republaiken Vote: A Reality Star's Very Sincere Campaign

Aug 08, 2014 small_avatar.png

by The Staff of The New Republic

Last August, in between performances of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" at a summer-stock theater in Maine, Clay Aiken studied the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's demographic breakdown of North Carolina's second district. He concluded that, although challenging, the race was winnable. By the time he returned to his 9,000-square-foot mansion outside Raleigh that fall, the flame-haired former "American Idol" star was ready to run.

The first person Aiken called upon making his candidacy official was Jim Hunt, the former North Carolina governor and grand old man of Democratic politics in the state. One of his next calls was to Donald Trump. Aiken got to know The Donald a couple years earlier when he was a contestant on "The Celebrity Apprentice."

"He's very political," Aiken explains, "and if he had any disagreements with me, I wanted him to air them with me instead of on 'Fox and Friends.'" So far, Trump, whom Aiken likens to his Tea Party-supporting uncle ("I love him and he loves me and we don't agree on a whole lot"), has held his tongue.

Other famous friends of Aiken's have been more proactive in their support of his campaign. Arsenio Hall, who beat Aiken on "Celebrity Apprentice," got Paula Abdul, who once judged Aiken on "American Idol," to tweet her support. Ruben Studdard, who bested Aiken on "Idol," cut a radio ad for him during the Democratic primary. And Kathy Griffin, the comedian who for years made Aiken the butt of her jokes -- calling him "Miss Gayken" before he came out, then feigning disappointment about never getting to sleep with him once he did -- co-hosted a Los Angeles fund-raiser.

"I told her, 'You owe me commission, so it's time to pay up,'" Aiken says. Even the magician Penn Jillette, who, after competing against Aiken on "Celebrity Apprentice," suggested that he'd prefer waterboarding to talking to the singer, chipped in $500 to the campaign.

It's fair to say, then, that Aiken has the battle for C-list celebrity endorsements locked up. And, fortunately for him, his opponent, Renee Ellmers, is not overburdened with raw political talent. Since arriving in Congress in 2010, the former nurse has distinguished herself mostly by sticking her foot in her mouth: Just last month, she advised her male colleagues in the House to quit it already with the pie charts and graphs in budget debates and "bring it down to a woman's level." But Ellmers does have one big thing going for her. She's a Republican incumbent in a Republican district facing off against a Democratic challenger who's a gay former reality TV star -- or, as Ellmers' spokesperson has unsubtly described Aiken, "a performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco than Sanford." She is favored to win.

That has left Aiken working hard to convince voters he's more than just a piece of pop-cultural ephemera and, in fact, a legitimate product of the second district. Earlier this summer, I met Aiken for lunch at a dairy bar in the aforementioned Sanford after he'd spent the morning meeting with the mayor and reporters at the local newspaper. He was dressed for the occasion in a rough approximation of political casual, wearing a pink-and-green checked Oxford shirt and unlaced wingtips over white ankle socks. Now 35, Aiken has tamer hair and a thicker midsection than he did when he was one of People's "Sexiest Men Alive" a decade ago. He says he has gained 10 pounds in just the last few months. "Do you see how fat I'm getting?" he objected when the waitress asked whether he wanted dessert. Then he ordered the banana pudding.

Aiken is still easily recognizable, though, and his meal was continuously interrupted by autograph seekers.

"Don't Forget to Vote Nov. 4," he wrote above his signature every time. It was a message, he conceded, that people were still getting used to. "The first reaction from everybody is 'What the ...'" Aiken paused and theatrically mouthed the word. He continued, "We call it the 'What the Heck' mountain, except we may not call it that. That's the mountain we have to climb."

To that end, Aiken strives to be serious and sober while campaigning, even boring. He's not a "Duck Dynasty"-style quote machine. Nor is he running a hopeless race just for the cameras, like Thomas Ravenel on "Southern Charm." Aiken spends much of his time on the stump talking about his trips to Afghanistan and South Sudan as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF and his experiences as a special-education teacher -- the career path he was on before he auditioned for "Idol" on a lark. In fact, it can be hard to shut him up about education policy, a topic he seems to understand better than probably 400 of the 435 people in the House of Representatives.

In a profession where even losers are increasingly winners -- where long shots launch hopeless bids for the White House with the goal of landing a TV talk show and incumbent congressmen go down in defeat secure in the knowledge that a huge lobbying payday awaits them -- Aiken is the rare politician who's actually risking something.

When he revealed in 2008 that he's gay, Aiken estimates that he lost about 5 to 10 percent of his fans. Running for Congress, he believes, has taken a far greater toll. "The minute you go into politics, the minute you put an R or a D behind your name, you cut your fan base in half," he says. Aiken is concerned enough about money that, shortly before declaring his candidacy, he sold his mansion, at a substantial loss, and moved into a smaller rental house. "I'm not working right now, so I'm not going to pay a mortgage," he says. (On the plus side, he has been able to store the furniture that doesn't fit in his new place at campaign headquarters.)

Aiken's gamble seems even more profound when you consider the particulars of his race. To the extent national Democrats are paying attention to North Carolina this year, it's to help keep Sen. Kay Hagan in office. And by choosing to run from his current address rather than district-shop, he has consigned himself to inhospitable political terrain. Aiken acknowledges that parts of his home district are so red that Democrats "learn to put their campaign signs deep in the yard so that when someone shoots at them they don't hit the house."

To compensate, he has staked out moderate -- and sometimes vague -- positions on everything from Obamacare to gun control to immigration. There's almost no issue he doesn't look at through the prism of how conservatives might object. During a recent lunch meeting at a greasy spoon in Moore County, Aiken ate a ham and cheese omelet while he listened to a local Democrat pitch him on a more robust spay-and-neuter policy. Aiken was skeptical. "What about the people who say, 'Keep your damn hands off my dog -- and his nuts'?" he asked.

Of course, there's one thing about Aiken that might not sit that well with some conservatives, which is why, although Aiken is no longer in the closet, he doesn't talk about his sexuality unless asked -- and then reluctantly. "Certainly from a political standpoint it's not going to make it easier for me to run here," he told me. "But it's just not why I'm running. There are few if any LGBT issues which can be affected by a congressman from a federal level."

Instead, Aiken is focusing on local concerns, like trying to prevent the Pentagon from moving the 440th Air Wing from Fort Bragg to Arkansas. In true challenger fashion, he argues that Ellmers has "gone Washington" and forgotten about her district. "Jesse Helms spoiled this state when it came to being attentive, and people are used to a certain level of constituent services," Aiken says. "Renee just doesn't pay attention or show up, and people see that." Where Helms' constituent-services operation once converted Democrats into "Jessecrats," Aiken is hoping he can pull a similar trick by turning Republicans into what he calls "RepublAikens."

But What the Heck Mountain looms. When Aiken embarked on his campaign, he made a promise. It was as much to himself as to the voters, and he still feels it's the key to his political success and to starting the next stage of his life. He promised not to sing.

Keeping that pledge hasn't always been easy. When he appeared on "The Colbert Report" earlier this year, he declined the host's offer to do a duet of the "The Star-Spangled Banner." (To which Colbert replied, "Headline: Clay Aiken refuses to sing national anthem.") In July, Aiken participated in a women's issues forum at a restaurant and nightclub in Pinehurst. After the event, I watched him gently turn down an invitation from the establishment's heavily tattooed assistant manager to come back and do a gig some time. "I'm not singing anymore," Aiken explained. "You gotta change the dynamic."

But on a recent afternoon, as he sat in his campaign office in a plush red chair that once graced the game room in his old house, Aiken told me he had a confession to make. He had transgressed. It happened on a Friday night a few months earlier. He was stumping for votes at a senior-citizens center that was hosting a dance party. There was a live band. As he walked in, he was mobbed by septuagenarian women. He realized that, if he didn't sing for them, he'd "look like such a jerk."

So Aiken turned to the musicians and asked them to play "Unchained Melody," the Righteous Brothers classic he'd performed to great success on "Idol." As soon as he started up with "Ohhhh my love," "It was complete pandemonium." When the song was over, he tried to slip out the door, but one of the elderly women abandoned her date and asked Aiken to dance. Soon, other women were jockeying to cut in. "There were more fights on the dance floor than there are in Iraq right now," he recalled. Eventually, Aiken managed to oblige every request, sometimes dancing with two women at a time, their male companions standing by themselves against the wall. In the parking lot afterward, Aiken considered what his broken promise had wrought. "Well, I've got the vote of every woman in there," he told a campaign aide, "and every man in there wants to burn me in effigy."

Here is the New Republic Link:

Clay Aiken Won't Sing for Your Vote

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Clay Aiken to Perform at National Inclusion Project Champions Gala, 9/20

Clay Aiken to Perform at National Inclusion Project Champions Gala, 9/20

August 13

10:08 AM2014

by BWW News Desk

The National Inclusion Project and Co-founders Clay Aiken and Diane Bubel are proud to announce the Magic of a Smile Champions Gala to be held September 20 in Raleigh, N.C. celebrating Champions of Inclusion and ensuring that no child sits on the sidelines.

The 2014 Honorees will include Lowe's Home Improvement, Quincy and Gracie Latkovski of Louisville, Ky. and Richie Parker of Hendrick Motorsports for their outstanding commitment to inclusion in their families, communities and society.

"We are very excited to share the stories of these amazing honorees and hope they will inspire everyone to join us in making inclusion the expectation and not the exception," says Jerry Aiken, Executive Director.

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The National Inclusion Project and Co-founders Clay Aiken will entertain the guests in his one and only public performance of 2014. Throughout the evening, attendees will learn about the organization's successes throughout the past year and how they can help children with and without disabilities experience lifelong benefits. The funds raised from the event will be used to open doors for all children to be included together and experience all that life has to offer.

The Champions Gala will be held at the Raleigh Marriott City Center at 500 Fayetteville St in Raleigh, N.C. on September 20, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets on sale now through the National Inclusion Project website -http://www.inclusionproject.org/gala/ .

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They Know Clay Aiken in Northern Virginia

They know Clay Aiken in northern Virginia

Submitted by Nancy Miller Martin on Mon, 08/18/2014 - 5:33pm

Just got back from a five-day trip to NoVa/DC. I was there for a big birthday party that my son-in-law was giving for my daughter. One of their friends (my daughter had already told me that he was a Democrat) started talking to me. I had met him before and knew he was one of the favorites in the neighborhood......and everybody thinks he is super smart. He asked what district I was in in North Carolina. I told him District 2, and so he asked me who was running in the district, When I told him it was Clay Aiken, he gave me a big high five. Then he announced to everyone that I was supporting Clay Aiken who was an all around super star. Then he said. "and his opponent is Renee Ellmers who told the Congress that they needed to dumb down their message so women could understand. "District 2" meant nothing, but the names meant everything. He didn't have Renee's statement exactly right, but close enough. I knew he very aware. I wanted to pass the hat, but it wasn't my house or my party. Some of the neighbors were Republicans (yes, I behaved). I have this to say to them..If he is one of the favorites in the neighborhood and the smartest...why aren't you a Democrat?

On another note, he wanted to know if Clay ever sang anymore, and I told him that he did not, but he made an exception at a retirement center. I told him the story, and then he said, "What song did he sing?" He was very impressed. Makes me know he has kinda kept up with Clay Aiken.

Well, then what happened? Brad came and he started talking to him.

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2nd District candidate Clay Aiken makes campaign stop at Fayetteville Technical Community College

2nd District Candidate Clay Aiken Makes Campaign Stop at Fayetteville Technical Community College

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014 5:56 pm | Updated: 6:17 pm, Thu Aug 21, 2014.

By Paige Rentz Staff writer

Clay Aiken on Thursday continued his campaign for the 2nd Congressional District with a visit to Fayetteville Technical Community College.

Aiken joined FTCC President Larry Keen and veterans services coordinator Matt Thewes for a tour of the campus' All American Veterans Center. While there, Aiken emphasized the need for the federal government to do a better job helping members of the military transition from active duty to civilian life, saying there is a gap in services for many veterans.

"It's like jumping over a river from bank to bank," Aiken said, "and too many people have fallen in the water."

The Democrat looking to unseat Harnett County Republican Renee Ellmers said he wanted to see firsthand how FTCC is working to ease the transition with its new center.

Thewes said the transition gaps typically affect older veterans who may not have gone through more current military transition programs.

"They don't get the up-to-the-minute information and know everything," he said.

Other veterans can fall into the gap due to information overload during a major life transition, he said.

Thewes said many veterans face the issue that their training does not carry over into the civilian workforce. This is notable for veterans in the medical field.

"They're medics or combat medics in the military, and they do triage and blood pressures and blood draws ... but when they get out if they want to be a phlebotomist or X-ray tech, they have to go back to school to get that civilian license."

Aiken said that's something he saw when his brother, a former Marine, returned to civilian life.

"He struggled in some ways to make sure that what he was trained to do in the Marines translated into credit in college," Aiken said.

FTCC has implemented a database at its military website, faytechmil.com, that allows veterans and members of the military to search by their rank and see how their military training can fulfill requirements for an associate's degree.

Aiken said the program is a model for other community colleges across the country, particularly in military-heavy communities in the state.

"Fayetteville Tech is doing a lot of the work for the soldiers making that transition easier," he said.

Aiken was scheduled to remain in Fayetteville Thursday evening for a fundraiser at SkyView on Hay.

Ellmers announced Thursday that she will be at Fayetteville Tech next week, where she will host a roundtable discussion on mental health crises.

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AIKEN TOURS VETERANS CENTER, TALKS MILITARY TRANSITION

AIKEN TOURS VETERANS CENTER, TALKS MILITARY TRANSITION

By Nicole Carr

Thursday, August 21, 2014

FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) --

In a statewide tour of community colleges, Clay Aiken spent Thursday morning at Fayetteville Technical Community College, focusing much of the time in the institution's All-American Veterans Center.

Aiken, a Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Much of his summer has included military-focused campaign stops in the Sandhills, including a recent roundtable discussion in Fayetteville and a defense trade show at FTCC.

"My brother was a Marine and he spent two tours in Iraq, came back, and struggled in some ways to find a job," Aiken said. "(He) struggled in some ways to make sure what he'd been trained to do in the Marines translated into credit in college and Fayetteville Tech is doing a lot of the work for soldiers coming out of Fort Bragg for them, and making sure they can make those transitions."

FTCC has enrolled at least 3,000 veterans since 2012, posting the highest veteran enrollment among state colleges and universities. Earlier this summer, it opened the All-American Veterans Center, which focuses on the transition from active duty service to the civilian workforce through counseling, coaching and job placement. It also certifies military experience for college credit.

Alongside FTCC President Dr. J. Larry Keen, and the Center's veterans services coordinator, Matt Thewes, Aiken asked about mental health referrals, and publicity of veteran resources. He said language barriers between civilians and service members should be broken to ensure smoother transitions into the workforce. Aiken also noted the need to educate military members about their full scope of benefits coming out of the service.

"When you're done with active duty the DOD sort of hands you off to the VA and there are a lot of people who fall through cracks there," he said. "I think the federal government has an obligation. I think all of us have an obligation to do a better job of supporting people."

Aiken commended the center's operations, noting it's a model for what he believes should be duplicated in institutions across the state and country with large military communities.

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5 Easy Things That Members of Congress Could Be Doing for Our Military and Veterans, but Aren't, by Clay Aiken

5 Easy Things That Members of Congress Could Be Doing for Our Military and Veterans, But Aren't

Posted: 08/22/2014 9:23 am

Too many times these days, our veterans are getting caught up in the childish games in Congress. That's unacceptable.

I'm running for Congress in North Carolina's Second District. We're fortunate to be home to over 50,000 active duty soldiers, their families, and thousands of veterans. These folks have been severely impacted by reckless votes in Washington like the government shutdown and sequestration cuts.

Washington has become an embarrassment. It seems as if politicians can find a way to make every issue partisan and polarizing. Protecting and serving our military and veterans shouldn't be.

I've used my voice to sing for years, but it's time to use my voice to speak up for thousands whose voices aren't being heard. So in an attempt to be part of the solution in Washington, here are five simple, practical things that I think Congress could be doing to improve the lives of our nation's heroes, but because they refuse to work together, they simply aren't.

1. Eliminating veteran homelessness

Soldiers shouldn't return home to find themselves on the streets, but that's an all too common reality for many veterans.

On a given night in January 2013, there were 57,849 homeless veterans across the United States. In North Carolina alone there were 1,123 homeless veterans.

In a tough economy, it can be hard enough to find and hold down a job. Transitioning out of the military can be more difficult than transitioning into it. And the psychological effects of war can exacerbate problems as well.

Congress needs to permanently authorize the National Center for Homelessness Among Veterans and fully fund the Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. These programs sponsor veteran shelters, job training and professional development services, health and substance abuse treatment, and career counseling and job placement services. By partnering with community organizations, these programs require only minimal resources from the federal government and can make a monumental difference in the lives of tens of thousands of veterans a year.

2. Expanding Veterans Treatment Courts

Veterans often face difficulties transitioning into civilian life. Unfortunately, that can sometimes lead them into criminal behavior.

Veterans Treatment Courts focus on rehabilitation when mental health and substance abuse problems prompted criminal activity. These courts are modeled after successful drug courts.

In North Carolina, we opened our first Veterans Treatment Court in Harnett County in 2013. But these courts need to be more accessible to all of our veterans.

Congress needs to move on passing H.R. 2187 - Servicemember Assistance for Lawful Understanding Treatment and Education Act, which was reintroduced in the U.S. House in May 2013 by Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA-07). It's time to take action on providing veterans the justice they deserve.

3. Encouraging the hiring of veterans

Encouraging companies to hire veterans and supporting veteran entrepreneurship should be a no-brainer. Our veterans leave the armed forces equipped with leadership and specialized skills and a sense of duty that can't be taught in a classroom.

Yet for the fourth year in a row, post-9/11 veterans are unemployed at higher rates than non-veterans. My brother returned from serving in Iraq a few years ago only to job search for over a year.

Organizations like Hire a Hero do a great job at giving veterans the resources they need to job hunt, but our federal government should do its part.

Congress must make permanent the Returning Heroes Tax Credit, which provides incentives of up to $5,600 for companies hiring veterans. Congress must also make permanent the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit, which can mean $9,600 in tax credits for hiring long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities. Congress let both bills expire on December 31, 2013 -- just another example of how Congress is doing nothing and how it's hurting people. If Congress would get to work, our veterans would too.

4. Ensuring veterans receive benefits

Congress needs to take action to assure veterans get all the benefits they deserve.

Current laws delay or prohibit many disabled veterans from collecting their VA disability compensation if they also receive retirement pay, even though they fought and worked to earn both benefits. Surviving families of our fallen soldiers are also many times being denied benefits under current law. We also need to eliminate the Widow's Tax so that spouses of our fallen soldiers are getting the compensation they deserve.

Congress should pass H.R. 333 - Disabled Veterans Tax Termination Act and H.R. 32 - Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act to assure veterans and their families get all the benefits they deserve. These bipartisan bills have been stuck in committee since January 2013 -- it's time to take action on making them law.

5. Educating military children

Counties with many federal properties such as military installations collect less property tax, and that leads to far fewer dollars to spend on things like public education.

In recent years, Harnett County, NC, has faced a major problem with overcrowded schools due to an influx in military families moving on to post in the area and the inability to keep pace due to a low tax base from which to draw school funds.

In 1950, the federal government instituted Impact Aid to help offset these lost tax dollars. Impact Aid benefits 21,000 children of military personnel in North Carolina.

But Impact Aid has not been fully funded since 1969, and it took an additional 5 percent cut in 2013 due to sequestration.

Simply increasing funding is not enough -- these students need stronger support systems. And that means more teachers and counselors in these schools to support children impacted by frequent moves and the absence of parents serving overseas.

Congress actually needs to get to work to expand Impact Aid and provide additional support systems to the schools that educate the children of our nation's heroes.

There are countless other things we could and should be doing for our military and veterans. These are just a few places we should start. The men and women of the military, both active duty and veterans, offered their lives to protect our freedoms. They are giving and have given their best. We owe them better. And if representatives of both parties would just work together, Congress could do so much more to support those who sacrificed to support us.

You can learn more about where Clay Aiken stands on military and veterans' issues on his website, www.clayaiken.com

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