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Aiken Getting Mixed Reviews for Fundraising Efforts

August 24, 2014 | by Chris Johnson

Aiken getting mixed reviews for fundraising efforts

Clay Aiken has received critical and popular acclaim for his music career following his runner-up performance on “American Idol,” but he’s getting mixed reviews for his fundraising efforts as he seeks to win a seat in Congress.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports from June 30, Aiken has raised nearly $687,000 for his bid to represent North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district in the U.S. House and has $209,000 in cash on hand. By comparison, his opponent, incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) has raised $1.3 million for her campaign and has $405,000 in her coffers.

The effort to unseat Ellmers from the Republican-majority district outside of Raleigh was always going to be an uphill fight for Aiken, but one political analyst says the gay singer’s aspirations are hampered further by his performance as a fundraiser.

Stuart Rothenburg, editor of the Rothenburg Political Report, said the amount Aiken has raised is “low, it’s not horrendous, it’s low,” but makes his challenge even more difficult.

“When you look at his money, he doesn’t compare to these serious candidates,” Rothenburg said. “You can’t run a media campaign on that. He needs to have four or five times more in cash on hand on June 30. It just adds to the overwhelming evidence that he’s not a serious threat.”

Other congressional candidates who are considered more competitive are faring significantly better than Aiken. Richard Tisei, the gay Republican seeking to oust Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), has raised more than $1.2 million and has $820,000 in cash on hand. Stacy Appel, a Democrat who’s running in Iowa’s 3rd congressional district, has raised nearly $1.2 million and has $725,000 in the bank.

Rothenberg said he doesn’t know why Aiken hasn’t raised more money, especially given his name recognition, but pointed to a number of factors that could be in play.

“A lot of these candidates spend hours on the phone raising money, and they have to be very disciplined, they have to have good fundraising folks to force them to stay on the phone, to give them good lists,” Rothenberg said. “I don’t know whether he’s doing that. At another level, it’s a very difficult district, and maybe he’s having a hard time convincing people he can win.”

Aiken secured the Democratic nomination to run in North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district, by narrowly winning a primary against his opponent, former North Carolina Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco, who died suddenly in a fall before a recount could be tabulated.

During redistricting following the 2010 census, North Carolina Republicans changed the district almost entirely so that it includes no part of Raleigh and comprises Randolph County, which Mitt Romney won by 75 percent in 2012 and has consistently voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1940, according to Real Clear Politics. The Washington Blade could find no polls on the race between Aiken and Ellmers.

It should be noted that Aiken hasn’t received an endorsement from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorses LGBT candidates with a realistic chance of winning. However, he has received an endorsement from the Human Rights Campaign.

Tucker Middleton, an Aiken spokesperson, disputed the notion that the campaign was afflicted by poor fundraising. In the second quarter, Middleton noted, Aiken raised $450,000 compared to the $396,000 raised by Ellmers.

Middleton also pointed to the number of individual donors who contributed to Aiken’s campaign, which he said was higher than the number of those who gave to Ellmers.

“We’ve raised over $580,000 from individual contributors since Clay announced his candidacy on Feb. 5, 2014,” Middleton said.

“Contributions from individual donors make up 86 percent of our campaign fundraising. In contrast, less than a quarter of our opponent’s fundraising comes from individual donors.”

Notably, although Aiken’s net worth has been estimated to between $5 million and $6 million, campaign finance reports show that he hasn’t contributed a dime of his own money to his congressional campaign.

That stands in contrast to another gay millionaire running for Congress, Sean Eldridge, who’s pursuing a bid for New York’s 19th congressional district. Eldridge, who’s married to Facebook co-founder and owner of “The New Republic” Chris Hughes, has self-funded much of his campaign. The candidate has spent nearly $1.3 million of own money on his electoral bid, according to the most campaign finance reports, which accounts for half the $3 million he’s raised.

But not all analysts share the view that Aiken has fallen short in terms of fundraising.

Thomas Mills, a political analyst and editor of PoliticsNC, said raising $700,000 for a congressional race “is nothing to sneeze at.”

“He had what was a pretty competitive primary where he spent everything he had, so he had to start over in May,” Mills said. “Having $200,000 is not doing that terribly.”

Mills predicted Aiken will raise the bulk the of his money in September and October and by the end of his campaign will likely reach close to $1.5 million.

Still, Mills acknowledged the Democratic donor base in North Carolina is more interested in re-electing Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), who’s in a competitive race to retain her seat, instead of funding a long-shot Democratic congressional candidate.

“I think he’s running in an environment where the interest in a race like his is not that high, even though he’s an interesting candidate,” Mills said. “But I still think he’s going to have enough. If he’s sitting on $200,000 cash on hand, he raises another $500,000 or $600,000 in the last two months, he’s going to have enough to at least give this woman a run for her money. She’s going to have to spend money to save that seat.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said the Human Rights Campaign has yet to endorse Aiken. The Blade regrets the error.

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bluenc.com

Clay for North Carolina NC2 & Lisa Baker (NC 36) listen & discuss policy with open minded GOP & unaffiliated voters

Clay for North Carolina NC2 & Lisa Baker (NC 36) listen & discuss policy with open minded GOP & unaffiliated voters

Submitted by NC Forward American on Sun, 08/24/2014 - 1:56am

As a busy, but aware and concerned mom living in NC, I have my heart in many good and continued awareness initiatives this year.

2014 being one of the most important mid term elections since 2010 where we have the ability to make it a turning point to come together with common ground, because in one way or another all policy being passed effects all families. It was not too long ago where I was a voting Republican by virtue of being raised in an active, but moderate GOP public school household.

Being laid off with forty others from a Goldman Sach's funded energy tech startup the day before the 2008 Presidential Election kicked off an eye opening that has snowballed ever since and I started voting accordingly. The first year my kids were in preschool in the fall of 2012, I was canvassing as a Republican for our President to win a second time, and I rocked that "Republicans for Obama" t-shirt hard while having real conversations with Apex, NC voters. It was not until the beginning of 2013 when I took the leap and changed parties to become a democrat in order to help organize against the blatant partisanship and extreme right wing obstructionism happening nationwide, but particularly in my own district of NC2.

Over the years in learning more about my neighbors and friends and where we fall on important policy issues, even if you don't want to discuss them with me, I knew it was worth a shot in having at least 20 open minded Republican & Unaffiliated friends join us for a meet & greet with Clay for North Carolina www.clayaiken.com running against the infamous Rep. Renee Ellmers & Lisa Baker for NC 36 www.lisabaker4house.com, running against Rep. Nelson Dollar. We discussed the topics of jobs/economy, public schools and education overall, partisanship & how everything is not so "red & blue", constituents concerns from pediatric cancer research to gun reform and even marriage equality among those Unaffiliated's joining us, all sharing their direct concerns and personal experiences.

Clay & Lisa listened to each of them and provided their own perspectives and ideas for moving us forward. Clay talked about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as a President Ronald Reagan initiative and all of sudden in recent years has it come under fire and as many of us know, scrapped in our state by way of our right wing NCGA majority. Clay talked about how important it is for middle class families who earn to support their families being one of the best initiatives for us/them to get a step up in an economy still looking to gain ground, in a state where the policy being passed is not making it easy. Lisa talked about how important public schools have been to her family and her sons, and blatant cuts across the board with initiatives to privatize in the background. We talked about the negative and unnecessary steps to fast track the approval of fracking and the right to have access to clean water, which is a non partisan issue and effects all NC families.

There is an optimistic hope in me that many friends will take time to meet or learn more about these candidates and really start thinking about the best person running to serve you, and your family & friends. To be heard and listened to, and to also take part in conversations where "politics" really isn't so bad when you get down to the issues at heart and how we need to come together on them. I do hope that a few others in NC2, NC36 and all of our districts in NC will think about quickly organizing similar gatherings with those R&U's friends you know you have and the Democratic candidates you know who would like to be brought into the fold with some grown up discussion and fellowship on being a good, informed citizen. Obviously include your democratic friends and get them involved in these campaigns in upcoming weeks, but also spend some time having quick conversations with "apolitical/checked out/R or U friends & neighbors. Offer to provide some good snacks and insight to friends you have more in common with than you may think!

Email Cornelia@clayaiken.com or April@lisabaker4house.com to directly help the above candidates with this idea or a similar one on how to volunteer with these campaigns. You will be doing an easy & good action that will help make a difference in 2014 when we really do need it! Pictures from the meet & greet this week can be found on @ForwardAmerican on twitter, as well as much more in regards to what is happening in NC.

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usnewsuniversitydirectory.com

Clay Aiken Supports Efforts to Ease the Military-to-Civilian Transition

Clay Aiken Supports Efforts to Ease the Military-to-Civilian Transition

By Rebecca Strong

Posted August 25, 2014 11:00 AM

By now, most people are well aware that Clay Aiken has a voice. The former "American Idol" contestant isn't just using it to croon, though - he's also spreading the word about the challenges veterans face. Aiken, a Democrat, is facing Republican Renee Ellmers for North Carolina's Second Congressional District seat, and a core part of his campaign has focused on increasing support for those who have served in the military.

This subject is a personal one for Aiken.

The singer told WTVD-TV that his brother, a Marine, completed two tours in Iraq. When he returned, he struggled to secure a job, which Aiken attributes to the fact that his military training didn't translate easily to college curricula or the civilian workforce. Fortunately, Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) in North Carolina has made a concerted effort to ease this transition for the soldiers coming out of Fort Bragg.

A Model for Making a Difference

Over the past two years, the school has enrolled 3,000 veterans or more - the highest rate of any state college or university, according to WTVD-TV. The institution also opened an All-American Veterans Center earlier this summer, which offers services such as counseling, coaching, assistance with job placement and certification of military experience for college credit. Veterans and servicemembers who are hoping to continue their education can search FTCC's new online database to determine how their training may meet the requirements for an associate's degree, the Fayetteville Observer reports.

While touring community colleges across North Carolina, the singer stopped at FTCC to see the school's new Veterans Center. Aiken applauded the center's efforts, commenting that it could serve as an example for what should be established across the country, particularly in areas with considerable military communities.

Still, Aiken says there is much work to be done to bring attention to available veteran resources and the accessibility of mental health referrals. He stressed that servicemembers should be better educated about the full scope of benefits that can be available to them.

"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, as quoted by WTVD-TV. "I think the federal government has an obligation. I think all of us have an obligation to do a better job of supporting people."

Getting Vets Back in the Classroom

FTCC isn't the only institution that has made these matters a top priority. The famously military-friendly Middlesex Community College, for example, has a dedicated Veterans Resource Center that assists vets in achieving their aspirations, both educational and professional. Here, they can seek out information about particular programs, gain access to college resources and find out crucial information regarding their eligibility for services sponsored by the government, state and community, according to a school press release. Then, once service members have decided what kind of academic program they wish to pursue, they can select from a wide range of daytime, evening, weekend or online options.

Meanwhile, other schools are doing their best to ensure veterans' educational success. Starting this fall, Washtenaw Community College is offering a two-credit course to current students who are veterans or currently serving in the military, the Ann Arbor Journal reports. Students will learn how to choose and prepare themselves for a career, as well as identify what training will be necessary for success in that field.

"Through this course, veterans will have the opportunity to learn about resources at WCC and in the community, become more knowledgeable about employment trends, and build a professional network," said Cristina Buzas, a college student advisor at WCC, according to the Ann Arbor Journal. "We hope this class will benefit our veterans as they move forward in their career pursuits."

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sfgate.com

Clay Aiken Campaigns in San Francisco

Clay Aiken campaigns in San Francisco

Posted on Tuesday, August 26 at 8:39pm | By Beth Spotswood

American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice runner-up Clay Aiken has grown accustomed to coming in second on reality television, but he hopes to come in first with voters of North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. The singer is running for Congress in his home state, and challenging Palin-endorsed incumbent Renee Ellmers for a seat in the United States House of Representatives.

Tuesday evening, San Francisco power-couples Armistead Maupin and Chris Turner, and David Perry and Alfredo Casudo, hosted a fundraising event for Aiken at Catch, a seafood restaurant in the Castro District. Having read a plug for this event in Leah Garchick’s column, I begged to attend. Thanks to Leah, and ultimately Maupin, I was allowed in. Thirty or so of us gathered at Catch, and Aiken dutifully made the rounds. Nearby, a friend asked for a photo with Clay. “I do selfies!” announced Aiken. “And we hashtag them #selfieswithclay.”

Come hell or high water, I was getting a selfie with Clay. But first, former political powerhouse Carole Migden interrupted, announced she had to leave 4 seconds after arriving, and had her photo taken with Clay. It was not a selfie.

Clay Aiken is the Democratic candidate for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District because he feels strongly his home turf is poorly represented by Ellmers, and because the other Democrat running died.

If Aiken is elected, he’ll be the first openly-gay Congressperson representing the Deep South.

His opponent Renee Ellmers is a Tea Party-backed Republican, endorsed by a collection of horrible people, and says dumb things like, ” male Republicans need to ‘bring it down to a woman’s level’ to get the women’s vote.”

Basically, North Carolina’s 2nd District is choosing between a pro-gun, anti-choice, anti-marraige equality, anti-Obamacare, anti-environment incumbent named Renee Ellders, or celebrity and gay dad Clay Aiken.

I asked Aiken if his campaign had a theme-song. “No, but if we did, it’d be ‘Walk Away Renee‘.”

Clay Aiken is, for lack of a better phrase, surprisingly normal. Aiken’s speech to the crowd at Catch lasted 15 minutes without missing a beat on education, interest-free student loans, veterans support, his pre-Idol past working with disabled children, and why he’s seeking a seat in Congress now. Disgusted with partisan politics, Clay Aiken made articulate, well-rounded points. I don’t mean to sound shocked, but this is the guy who got beat by Arsenio Hall on the Celebrity Apprentice.

Making a direct ask for San Francisco cash to help fun Aiken’s North Carolina campaign, Maupin put it bluntly. “He’s not running as a television personality. He’s not running as a gay man. He’s running as Clay Aiken with some good ideas.”

You can learn more about Aiken’s bid for Congress and donate to his campaign here on his website.

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www.wncn.com

Race between Aiken, Ellmers for 2nd District heating up

Race between Aiken, Ellmers for 2nd District heating up

Posted: Sep 05, 2014 4:54 PM CDTUpdated: Sep 05, 2014 4:55 PM CDT

by Beau Minnick, WNCN News - email

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The race between "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken and GOP imcumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers for the 2nd Congressional District is heating up.

CARY, N.C. -

The race between "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken and GOP incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers for the 2nd Congressional District is heating up.

The Senate race between House Speaker Thom Tillis and Sen. Kay Hagan has over shadowed the campaigns of Ellmers and Aiken so far.

Ads about the Senate race have been all over televisions in the state fewer ads exists from Aiken and Ellmers.

Aiken said he expects the number of ads to increase now that Labor Day has passed.

He said he has been meeting with and listening to the voters in the district.

Aiken stressed the importance of funding and maintaining Fort Bragg. The post faces the loss of the 440th airlift wing.

“This is an opportunity to send a message to Washington that says, ‘We're not OK with people who just listen to what their party leaders tell them to do,'” Aiken said. “I don't care if you are Republican or Democrat, just listening to what your party leaders tell you to do and not doing what's right for the people in your district is unacceptable.”

Aiken said he is trying to get Ellmers to debate.

WNCN attempted to interview Ellmers Friday but she had to cancel.

A spokeswoman for Ellmers said no decision have been made concerning a debate.

Ellmers camp said she has been active in trying to keep the 440th airlift wing at Fort Bragg by lobbying Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

“Fort Bragg and our military community are vital to the Second District and North Carolina and their well-being and readiness is a top priority for Congresswoman Ellmers in Washington. She is a tireless advocate for the communities that make up the Second District,” said Ellmers campaign spokeswoman Jessica Wood in a statement.

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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indyweek.com

Clay Aiken Pledges to Stand with Workers

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2014

Clay Aiken pledges to stand with workers

Posted by Aaron Lake Smith on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 1:08 PM

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This morning, at North Carolina's annual state AFL-CIO convention in Raleigh, 2nd district congressional hopeful Clay Aiken said he would stand with workers.

"People in Congress do not seem to understand—what's goodfor workers is good for everybody," he said at the endof a 15 minute speech which received an enthusiastic response from union delegates from all over the state.

The American Idol star is running against Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers for the 2nd District U.S. Congressional seat. He touted his union credentials (Aiken is a card-carrying member of the North Carolina Association of Educators) and said he knew what it was like to struggle, having watched his mother live paycheck to paycheck.

Last week, Aiken paid a visit to Tar Heel, North Carolina to meet with the workers of UFCW Local 1208 for the second time. UFCW Local 1208 won a union at the massive Smithfield Pork factory in 2008 and have recently been fighting another campaign at nearby Mountaire poultry plant.

"A lot of people in North Carolina are not being heard. People in Congress are pointing their fingers at the other side, but not presenting solutions."

Aiken explained that he came to politics in 2003 when he realized he had a "microphone and platform" and was in a place to "speak up for people who weren't being heard."

Before becoming a star, Aiken worked with children with disabilities. Almost by accident, he founded the nonprofit National Inclusion Project, which works in 39 states with the purpose of integrating children with disabilities into activities with non-disabled peers.

North Carolina AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Mary Be McMillan introduced Aiken by saying, "He saw his mother struggle. Clay knows what it's like to live on the edge. He knows the value of a union card. He's going to fight for workers and make sure we can raise the minimum wage."

North Carolina's Second District encompasses the western part of the Triangle including Cary, and parts of Fayetteville, Asheboro and Siler City. It is a tough district for a Democrat, but the GOP redistricting scheme made it even tougher, gerrymandering the district further in favor of Republicans. The Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers looks solid, and its an uphill battle for Aiken, whose primary opponent Keith Criscoe died while the counts were coming in. Still, there's a possibility that Aiken, with his star name and folksy, populist, outsider message, could take the race.

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washingtonpost.com

‘American Idol’ made Clay Aiken a star. But he knows it won’t make him a congressman.

‘American Idol’ made Clay Aiken a star. But he knows it won’t make him a congressman.

By Ben Terris September 18 at 12:56 PM

LILLINGTON, N.C. — Clay Aiken was warned not to go into the pig barn.

“You won’t be able to get the stench off of you,” advised the farmer as the former “American Idol” runner-up squelched through the mud.

But Aiken, now a Democratic congressional candidate, was resolute. Earlier this year, he made the decision to trade whatever glamour remained from his singing days for the town halls and farm tours of the campaign trail.

Nearing the barn, Aiken gently kicks dirt off his laceless wingtips. “Oh, I’m smelling it now,” he says.

In 2003, more than 38 million people tuned in for the “Idol” finale, and 12 million of them voted for Aiken. That feels like a long time ago. Gone are the sold-out stadiums, performances at the World Series and a single atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Gone even are the following days of “Celebrity Apprentice” or guest spots as some version of himself on “Scrubs,” “30 Rock” and “Law and Order: SVU” (which he says he did two years ago to stay on his Screen Actors Guild health insurance).

After coming in second on two reality shows, Aiken, now 35, likes to say the third time’s the charm. But this contest may be the most difficult of the three. The 2nd District of North Carolina is an amorphous, gerrymandered blob of mostly Republican voters west of Raleigh that gave just 41 percent of the vote to President Obama in 2012. By all accounts, Aiken’s got an uphill climb.

The challenge is to figure out the best way to harness his famous name while also finding a way to be taken seriously as a congressional candidate. One of the great ironies in the life of Clay Aiken is that when he first auditioned for “American Idol,” the judges weren’t sure about sending him through because the beanpole with Coke-bottle glasses didn’t look like a pop star. And now that he’s running for Congress, he has to deal with the fact that for many people, a pop star is all they’ll ever see.

2014-02-05T143332Z_01_TOR341_RTRIDSP_3_USA-AIKEN.jpg?uuid=5553xDquEeS9-95BBFRKNw

After Aiken’s runner-up turn on "American Idol,” he launched a performing career that took him to the American Music Awards in 2003, pictured, to stadiums and to Broadway. (Jim Ruymen/Reuters)

Fans unhappy with his political turn can blame Rosie O’Donnell.

“She told me we are all just waiting for obscurity,so I should do it while I can. I should do it when I can make a difference,” Aiken says. “I have this microphone, I should use it.”

He had been toying with the idea before that, had even chatted about it with Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. It was going to be a tough race, but obscurity waits for no one.

Naturally, this campaign comes as a shock both for people who haven’t thought about Aiken in a decade and those who were watching him on tour up until 2012. But Aiken says it’s “much more organic than a lot of people think it is.” It’s not like he fell off the “American Idol” stage into the political arena. In the past 11 years, he has traveled to places like Afghanistan and Somalia with UNICEF and was appointed to the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities by George W. Bush in 2006. And yet, the race has already been rockier than expected. Aiken won the Democratic primary by a vote of just 40.86 percent to 39.49 percent.

Aiken’s victory makes him the only current North Carolina candidate for Congress who has graced the cover of both People magazine and Rolling Stone. But it’s not clear that his celebrity gives him an edge. Yes, it means when there are a bunch of yard signs printed in Kansas, a “Claymate” will be willing to drive them to North Carolina for free, just to be helpful. Yes, it means that when he went to a Rotary Club meeting he was surprised with an award that he got seemingly just for showing up. And yes, it means he gets national press regardless of the status of the race. But what it hasn’t meant is instant credibility or money.

Though he has picked up the pace in the fundraising battle against two-term incumbent and former nurse Renee L. Ellmers, reporting in July had Aiken with about $209,000 cash on hand to Ellmers’s $405,000. One of Aiken’s consultants put it this way: “It’s tough because the people in the district all assume he has these big Hollywood connections so they don’t want to donate. But the truth is he isn’t that big a deal in Hollywood, so he can’t raise that much there.”

Fellow “Idol” alums Ruben Studdard (who defeated Aiken for the top prize) and Fantasia Barrino will be at a fundraiser for Aiken in Charlotte on Tuesday, and Studdard cut a radio ad for him. It hasn’t been easy, however, to turn those connections into money for a congressional coffer.

“I think Clay will tell you, it’s been a lot more difficult than I expected,” says Eric Cannon, who helps the campaign with fundraising.

Merlin_16470010.jpg?uuid=-Sug8jquEeS9-95BBFRKNwAiken made his personal life public in a 2008 People magazine cover. That same year, Aiken also took his career to Broadway with a role in the musical “Spamalot.” (Anonymous/People via AP)

Merlin_12286069.jpg?uuid=oKXpSnWeEeOTiQnvmUQGXg(Joan Marcus/AP)

When Clay Aiken was on “American Idol,” he avoided talking about his difficult upbringing. For his congressional campaign, he opens with it.

“I was 1 year old, and my mother knocked on that door with only a diaper bag, the clothes on our backs and me in her arms,” he says in a five-minute, direct-to-camera ad shot in a one-bedroom house he and his mother once lived in. “She needed a place to stay where she could escape from my father.” His father was violent, racist and a drunk. To this day, Aiken doesn’t drink.

“We become the person we are not just because of the positive examples in our lives but by recognizing what we don’t want to be,” he tells me.

In addition to humanizing Aiken, the ad roots him in North Carolina. There have been plenty of celebrities, from lists A through C, who have made their way into elected politics. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger went from acting careers into executive offices, Jim Bunning and Heath Shuler left behind a life in sports to serve in Congress, and today there is a congressman from Wisconsin who got his start in the public eye on MTV’s “The Real World.” But Aiken knows that to be successful means looking more Carolina and less Hollywood.

The fact is, Aiken has lived almost his entire life here. He was born in Raleigh, sang in the local boys’ choir and went to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. As a student there, he took a part-time job working with a boy with autism. That boy’s mother persuaded Aiken to audition for “American Idol.” Judging by his estimated net worth, it was a $6 million decision.

Aiken says he has 92 percent name recognition in the district. But voters might not recognize the new Aiken. On the stump, there’s no talking about “Idol,” no reminiscing about famous friends and certainly no singing.

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At the Lee Regional Fair in Sanford, N.C., Aiken’s name was announced over the PA and a throng of fans gathered to take selfies in exchange for campaign stickers. Here, Aiken poses with Jocelyn Phillips, 12, her sister Jordan Phillips, 9, and their mother, Stacy Phillips. (Ted Richardson/For The Washington Post)

Aiken has spent dozens of hours driving his purple Lincoln around the district. He only listens to classical music these days, he says, because he can’t fill his head with any more words.

His hair, once blond, has returned to its natural ruddy state. He now sports a five-o’clock shadow with flecks of white, and, yes, he’s gained a little weight.

“Let’s see if you can write this whole story without mentioning how fat I’ve gotten,” Aiken says. When he was on “Idol,” he tried to do the same type of thing, making fun of his large ears before the judges could. Now, he spends a lot of time talking about his slowly growing gut.

It may not be the best quality in a performer or a politician, but Aiken has always been very sensitive. A fan of the Myers Briggs personality test (he has his employees take it after they’ve been hired), Aiken says his results have him as an introverted, sensitive person moved by people’s stories. (For those in the know, he’s an INFJ.)

This means that despite being in the public eye there are certain things he is very private about. If he were in a relationship, for example, he would not talk about it. (“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in one though,” he says. “I tell people I’m ‘in dry dock.’ ”) He also does not talk about his son, Parker. Aiken became a father in 2008 after he and his best friend, Jaymes Foster, conceived via in vitro fertilization. Parker lives with his mother in Los Angeles but recently spent the summer with Aiken.

“I chose a life in the public; he did not,” the candidate says. And whether it comes naturally or not, his choice to lead a public life has left Aiken well-prepared for retail politics.

During a steamy mid-September weekend two months before the election, Aiken stopped at a VFW, where he impressed volunteers at a car show with his knowledge of Veterans Affairs programs and which community colleges give credit for military involvement. He talked about the need to secure our borders with a woman at a street festival and name-checked the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation and Republican Sen. Richard Burr and former senator ­Jesse Helms in a local television interview (it’s important for Aiken to make clear that he is a moderate Democrat).

It’s not necessarily that Aiken has an encyclopedic knowledge of the issues — though the Cook Political Report, a hard-to-

impress bunch, said he was ­“better-versed and more in-depth than plenty of state legislators we have met” — it’s that he’s an incredibly good listener.

“Oprah said something to me years ago, one of the first times I met her,” Aiken says, aware that stories like these don’t necessarily help his cause as just a regular Joe. “She said being a good talk show host isn’t about being a good talker, it’s about being good at listening. It’s a misnomer. I think a lot of politicians think being a good one is knowing the right thing to say. I think it’s knowing when to shut the hell up.”

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The Lee County High School cheerleaders took a photo break with Aiken during a high school football game. (Ted Richardson/For The Washington Post)

On the drive over to a lupus charity walk on our second day together, Aiken told me that if he could have any X-Men superpower, it would be the ability to control the weather. Now, he might be willing to kill for it because just moments after we arrive it starts pouring, and we get under a small picnic tent with a rabid fan and a preacher’s wife.

“Can I get your vote in November?” Aiken asks the preacher’s wife.

“I’ll be voting in November,” she responds.

“That’s not what I asked,” Aiken says with a laugh.

“You were wonderful on ‘American Idol.’ You have a beautiful voice,” she says.

“Well tell me, what issues do you vote on? Why can’t I get your vote?” he says.

“I vote on morality,” she says while texting her friend. I’m standing behind her and catch a glimpse of her screen: “Because he’s gay! LOL,” she writes.

Aiken probably wouldn’t have been able to convince her anyway, but the entire process is made much more difficult by one of his fans, Sylvia, who is clinging to his arm, asking him repeatedly if he will get on stage and sing. She’s older, with short white hair, a fanny pack, and a heart painted on her cheek. Aiken isn’t singing these days; he’s trying to get out of that box in an effort to be taken seriously as a candidate.

“Please, just make some music,” she says.

“I’m actually a little afraid to be this close to you,” he says.

“Are we going to go somewhere together?” she asks, yanking at his arm. “I don’t care where.”

“We really should go so we can make our next event,” Aiken says, stepping out into the rain. He has no umbrella. He has plenty of time to dry off, however. The next event isn’t for three hours.

While Sylvia is an extreme case, Aiken’s experience as the country’s most famous congressional candidate is filled with these types of interactions. At a county fair, his name is announced over the PA, and a throng of fans gathers to take selfies in exchange for campaign stickers. Later, at a high school football game, cheerleaders break from their routine to pose with him.

The vast majority of his fans like him for his singing, not his politics. But Aiken wants them to know that that guy is gone.

“There is no going back to singing as a profession really,” Aiken says after his visit to the farm. “Most people think that politics is a crap hole. . . . Once you walk into the pig barn that is politics, it’s hard to get the smell out of your clothes.”

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At a farm in Lillington, N.C., Aiken checks out the hogs with Emma Thibodeaux, 3. (Ted Richardson/For The Washington Post)

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vocativ.com

Who Goes to a Clay Aiken Political Fundraiser? We Did...

Who Goes to a Clay Aiken Political Fundraiser? We Did…

Campaigning for Congress in North Carolina, the former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken woos New York City's elite

Author: Mike Spies Posted: 09/18/14 13:58 EDT

The invitation for the private Clay Aiken fundraiser featured a smiling picture of the former American Idol star dressed in a tie, his teeth so pearly, they could cause a car accident. Aiken is running for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd District against Renee Ellmers, an arch-conservative incumbent who rode the 2010 Tea Party wave into office. She is not a particularly savvy politician; during wonky budget talks in July, she commanded her male House colleagues to “bring it down to a woman’s level.” But the 2nd District is squarely Republican, and Ellmers is favored to win.

With the general election less than two months away, if Aiken is going to stand a chance at becoming the first openly gay member of Congress from the Deep South, he’ll need all the money he can get. According to the most recent campaign finance reports from June 30, Aiken has raised around $700,000 for his bid, while Ellmers’ campaign has netted $1.3 million. As it happens, some of the money Aiken needs will come from New York City, where he has an ardent following among the city’s gay power brokers.

Around 7 p.m. this Monday, I arrive at the home of Donald Dye in downtown Manhattan. Dye is a wealthy, middle-aged banker who resembles the enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad. His spacious duplex apartment is tastefully decorated with works by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Dye tells me he’s expecting a crowd of 60 tonight, some of whom will write checks for $500 (“friend”), $1,000 (“sponsor”) or $2,500 (“co-host”).

“I’m opportunistically involved in politics,” he says, holding a drink, his button-up shirt open at the chest. “Every campaign is local. Every campaign is national.” He suggests I head upstairs for a drink. “In my experience, the party always moves upstairs,” he says.

The guests are uniformly attractive and svelte, almost a parody of chic. I step out onto a porch and encounter Guto Bittencourt, a young Brazilian opera singer wearing thick-framed glasses, a skinny tie and a gray blazer. He’s talking to a blond woman who looks like Ivanka Trump.

“We were at this castle last week,” Bittencourt says. “It was amazing.”

Another man steps outside. “Did you hear who was at the party here last week?” he asks. “Miss Universe 2008.”

Back inside, John Cassese, the owner of a production company, sits on a brown leather couch. He scans the gathering and smiles fondly. “I moved to New York in ’79 to hide,” he says, scratching his head of gray hair. “And now gay people are on the forefront in every shape and form. I never thought I’d live to see it. If I have the means to support people like Clay, I want to.” Just then, Christine Quinn, the former Democratic mayoral candidate and Michael Bloomberg protégé, walks up the stairs. Cassese excuses himself to say hi—the two are old friends. “You look so good,” he says.

A short while later, Clay Aiken enters the room. He’s dressed in a blue suit, and his red hair is swept over the top of his head, as if he just got out of a convertible. Tonight is his second fundraiser of the week: A party was held for him the previous evening in Washington, D.C. He goes to the bar to get a drink and a pretty, middle-aged woman stops him.

“I love your voice!” she says.

“Thank you!”

Around 8:30, Dye quiets down the room and introduces Aiken. The Raleigh native has run a difficult race. He barely won the Democratic primary and has garnered little attention from national Democrats, who are more interested, as far as North Carolina goes, in helping keep Sen. Kay Hagan in office. But as he takes the floor, he seems remarkably comfortable in his new role. He trumpets his pet issue, education reform, and takes some shots at Ellmers, saying she’s killing jobs in his district (especially at the area’s military base, Fort Bragg) and needs to be kicked out of office before she causes more damage. “I encourage you,” he says, “add another zero to your check.” He smiles broadly. “I believe the elevators are locked, so you can’t leave until you do.” Everyone laughs.

After Aiken finishes, one of his handlers, a man in his 30s, heads out to the porch. Edward Wycoff Williams, author and political pundit, follows him outside. “Darling, I’ve got to go,” Williams says. “I’m going to book Clay for CNN and Al Jazeera. I’m thinking Don Lemon would be great.” Beside him stands a tall African-American man. Williams looks him up and down and grins. “It’s good to see beautiful black people,” he says.

On my way to the bar, I bump into Mitchell Gold, a well-tanned furniture manufacturer who’s apparently famous. I confess I’ve never heard of him.

“Are you gay?” he asks.

“No,” I say.

“Then I guess it makes sense. I have a $150 million business. Just check out our website.” Before he leaves, someone asks, “Mitch, can I have a check?” (Gold was a “co-host.”)

As Aiken works the room, people angle for his attention. Allen Roskoff, a prominent gay activist, tells me he’s excited about Aiken as a candidate, but not because he’s gay. “He’d be a great Congress member,” he says. “Christine Quinn is gay, and I wouldn’t have voted for her with a gun to my head. She would have been an awful mayor.”

Aiken disappears outside, and as I follow him, I bump into Barbara Ellsworth Robinson, a philanthropist who has appeared on The Real Housewives of New York. She admits she’s a little drunk and takes a seat on the arm of a chair. “Sometimes you just need to support what’s right,” she says. “Human rights are worth fighting for. It’s important to have someone in Congress who’s open-minded. Would I picket? Like outside? Never. But I have a very wealthy husband, and money talks.”

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washingtonpost.com

Clay Aiken: Celebs exposed in nude pics ‘deserve what they get’

Clay Aiken: Celebs exposed in nude pics ‘deserve what they get’

By Emily Heil September 18 at 2:41 PM

Clay Aiken, the American Idol runner-up turned congressional candidate in North Carolina, doesn’t feel much sympathy for celebrities whose personal nude photos were leaked on the internet.

“Anybody who takes inappropriate pictures of themselves deserves exactly what they get,” Aiken said in an interview with our colleague Ben Terris, who just wrote an excellent profile of Aiken.

That’s not to say that the former pop singer condones the release by unknown hackers of the cache of nude photos, including some of celebrities Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Avril Lavigne, Lea Michele, McKayla Maroney and Ariana Grande.

“Of course whoever [stole and released the photos] should be hogtied,” he added. “And it’s unfortunate that we don’t have Internet security right now or the laws in place to protect people from pirating that stuff.”

Good thing he’s running for Congress then?

And the wannabe lawmaker has a suggestion for those tempted to snap pics of their naughty bits: “I’ve got a mirror if I want to check something out,” Aiken said.

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wral.com

Ellmers, Aiken agree to 2nd District debate

Ellmers, Aiken agree to 2nd District debate

Posted 10:00 a.m. today

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By Matthew Burns

RALEIGH, N.C. — Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and her Democratic challenger, pop singer Clay Aiken, have agreed to debate next month.

The North Carolina Bankers Association, in partnership with WRAL parent Capitol Broadcasting Co., will host the Oct. 6 debate at the association's Management Team Conference in Pinehurst.

WRAL News anchor David Crabtree will moderate the one-hour debate, which will be taped in front of delegates attending the conference.

WRAL will air the debate on television and online at 7 p.m. Oct. 6. The debate will also air on WRAZ Fox 50 at 11 p.m. Oct. 6, and it will be available for on-demand viewing on WRAL.com through Election Day.

"We believe this highly anticipated, first televised debate between these two candidates will have much of our state watching very closely," Bankers Association President and Chief Executive Thad Woodard said in a statement.

Ellmers is seeking her third term representing the 2nd District, which stretches from Cumberland County to Randolph County and includes part of the Triangle. Aiken, who gained fame on "American Idol," defeated former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco in the May primary for the Democratic nomination.

Read more at http://www.wral.com/ellmers-aiken-agree-to-2nd-district-debate/13992431/#QgiSsOMLPDeaO2VP.99

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nytimes.com

Clay Aiken Returns to T.V. -- as a Candidate

Clay Aiken Returns to T.V. — As a Candidate

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Clay Aiken will debate Representative Renee Ellmers of North Carolina next month.
Credit Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Sure, the guy is capable of going on national T.V., standing amid a choir of purple-robed gospel singers and belting out a melismatic cover of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

But now Clay Aiken, the pop singer and former “American Idol” contestant, will have a chance to prove his chops in a different kind of performance: the first televised debate in his race against Representative Renee Ellmers of North Carolina.

The North Carolina Bankers Association announced on Tuesday that it would host the debate between Mr. Aiken, a Democrat, and Ms. Ellmers, a two-term Republican, on Oct. 6 at 11:30 a.m. in Pinehurst.

Mr. Aiken, who released a number of pop albums after finishing second on “American Idol” in 2003, narrowly won a Democratic primary in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District in May. The Raleigh News & Observer described Mr. Aiken as a “long-shot candidate” in the district, a conservative chunk of the state west of Raleigh, the state capital.

Mr. Aiken, a North Carolina native, is openly gay, and the Ellmers campaign has already accused him of exhibiting “San Francisco” values. Mr. Aiken, meanwhile, appears to be positioning himself to the right of Ms. Ellmers on some topics, like defense spending.

The dynamic between the candidates seems to have the potential to produce enough drama to be worthy of daytime T.V.

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newsobserver.com

Aiken makes non-partisanship appeal in attempt to win Congressional seat

Aiken makes non-partisanship appeal in attempt to win Congressional seat

BY LYNN BONNER

lbonner@newsobserver.com

September 23, 2014 Updated 47 minutes ago

CAMERON — Clay Aiken is sitting in the back of a small wine shop surrounded by women, talking about constituent services.

He reels off the names of North Carolina politicians whom, he says, excel at it, Reps. Walter Jones and Howard Coble, Sen. Richard Burr – Republicans all. But the late Jesse Helms was best, he says.

The Democrat and former “American Idol” contestant is emphasizing pragmatism over politics and district interests over partisanship as he runs for Congress in the 2nd District against two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn.

On this day he’s meeting with military spouses – some of whom are not even eligible to vote for him. Aiken, dressed casually in a green shirt opened at the collar, mostly listens. But when he talks, he demonstrates his knowledge of national issues affecting the district including defense spending and sequestration, the automatic budget cut of 2013.

An analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report wrote a glowing assessment of Aiken’s political acumen before the May primary saying, “He spoke passionately and fluently on a range of issues, from trade promotion authority to No Child Left Behind to continuous coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.”

Despite that assessment the Cook Report now has the district in the “strong Republican” category.

That the lopsided U-shaped district was cobbled together to make it easier for a Republican candidate to win is not lost on Aiken.

Several times during the roundtable with the military spouses, Aiken notes that the legislature abandoned the idea of keeping communities of interest together when it created congressional districts. Instead the 2nd District’s representative must keep in mind the needs of the Wake County suburbs, the military interests of Cumberland, and the agricultural and manufacturing interests of counties to the west of Asheboro.

Celebrity not enough

It has been 11 years since Aiken, who grew up in Raleigh and attended Leesville High School, came in second on “American Idol.” Since then there have been best-selling albums, an appearance on Broadway in “Spamalot,” a stint on “Celebrity Apprentice” and guest spots on other shows.

His celebrity status has drawn attention attention to the race. He had a pre-primary appearance on the “Colbert Report,” and a British documentary film crew is following the race. He’s backed by people well-known in Democratic circles, including former Ambassador Jeanette Hyde of Raleigh and former state Transportation Secretary Gene Conti.

But political analysts say the odds are against him in the conservative district.

In 2008 and 2012, when Barack Obama’s voter turnout machine was going full-blast, the 2nd District overwhelmingly chose the Republican presidential ticket.

In 2008, when Obama narrowly won the state, voters in the district chose Republican candidate John McCain by more than 11 percentage points. Republican Mitt Romney won the district two years ago by more than 15 percentage points but had a much narrower statewide win, carrying North Carolina 50 percent to 48 percent.

Joe Stewart, executive director of the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, a non-partisan group that does political research and analysis, said Aiken had three problems:

• His name recognition doesn’t seem to be giving him advantage, as evidenced in his small, 1.4 percentage-point margin of victory in the primary.

• So far, he hasn’t raised the kind of money needed to fund a massive ad campaign.

Though Aiken’s held fundraisers in the last few months, the most recent finance reports from June show he’d raised $679, 218 and had about $202,000 in the bank.

Ellmers had raised $1.3 million and had about $405,000 in hand, according to the latest report.

• The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee does not have the race on its target list for special attention and money, an indication that Democratic strategists have figured Ellmers is likely to win.

“These districts are drawn in such a way that the party out of favor in that district has very little chance of winning,” said John Davis, a Raleigh political analyst. “There’s really nothing that Ellmers has done that’s so terrible that she’s not going to get all those Republican votes.”

Greg Martin, an unaffiliated voter from Cary, said he plans to vote for Aiken, but doubted the Democrat could win.

“There is enough bias that Clay Aiken probably won’t be elected,” said Martin, as he left a Cary bakery last week. “The fact that he’s openly gay will preclude a lot of voters from voting for him.”

Aiken came out in September, 2008, in a People Magazine article, after fathering a child with a close friend in the music-industry.

Martin, 60, said he’ll vote for Aiken because “he’s not a Republican. I don’t care what his sexual preferences are.”

Opportunity in unaffiliated voters

Aiken has a different assessment of his chances. The Democratic candidate who challenged Ellmers two years ago came close to winning Cumberland County though he had little campaign money, Aiken said.

Ellmers’ 2012 challenger, Steve Wilkins, was a retired military officer with the Special Forces who won 17 of 42 precincts in Cumberland, doing well in areas close to Fort Bragg.

Aiken also sees opportunities in voter-rich Wake, and in the more rural counties where more voters are registering as unaffiliated. More than 29 percent of voters in the district are unaffiliated, people who don’t pick candidates by party label, he said.

Critical of Ellmers

Aiken knows his celebrity status brings out the curious and the fans to his campaign stops.

But he talks about his background in education – he was a special education major at UNC-Charlotte and worked with autistic children before “Idol” – more than he does his singing career. He smiles slightly – but doesn’t respond – when someone suggests he give a concert.

“I’ve said to folks, ‘When I get to Congress, my job is going to be to come listen to you and represent you and speak for the needs that you have. If I haven’t done more for you than Renee Ellmers has done in the last four, then don’t vote for me next time. Vote me out.’ ”

Aiken says Ellmers is more interested in holding leadership roles than in the district’s well-being. Specifically, he faults Ellmers for voting for a sequester-level budget early last year, and said she did not act swiftly to stop deactivation of the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg, a move Fayetteville officials say would be a harsh blow to the local economy.

“If you are the congresswoman whose responsibility is to the 2nd District, that is all your responsibility is. Full stop, And it is not to anywhere else in the country,” Aiken said.

Ellmers focused on women

Ellmers said Aiken was wrong and that she worked to keep the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg along with the rest of the delegation.

“I don’t think Mr. Aiken has any proof to back up his claims,” she said.

Ellmers said she is focusing on women’s issues in her campaign, including job creation and heath care. Ellmers won her first race focusing on her opposition to the Affordable Care Act, or as she calls it Obamacare.

That’s still the No. 1 issue, she said. Cuts in Medicare home health funding hit women particularly hard, Ellmers said.

In a recent interview with Larry King, Ellmers said Congress is “more than just a game show.”

“Well you know I think he is a very talented individual,” she said. “I think God has blessed him with a beautiful voice. He is an entertainer. But you know serving the people of District 2 North Carolina is more than just a game show. And you have to show up and you have to be accountable. And that’s what I’m trying to do for the people of District 2.”

Aiken won the appreciation of the military wives and girlfriends who turned out to tell him about the challenges their families face.

“I find your respect for opposing parties and candidates – I find that kind of refreshing,” said Rachel Hsiao, 31, of Lillington. Hsiao, a lawyer, moved to North Carolina from California recently to be with her boyfriend.

“So many politicians are big talkers,” she said. “They talk about grassroots. Rarely do they come into the community.”

Hsiao and several others who had extensive exchanges with Aiken aren’t registered to vote in North Carolina.

Aiken said it didn’t matter – that the point was to learn about issues, not stump for votes. The families are residents who need representation, he said, no matter where the adults are registered.

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fayobserver.com

U.S. House Distric 2 Candidates Aiken, Ellmers Agree to Debate Oct. 6 in Pinehurst

U.S. House District 2 candidates Aiken, Ellmers agree to debate Oct. 6 in Pinehurst

By Paige Rentz Staff writer | September 24, 2014

Rep. Renee Ellmers will face Clay Aiken, who is vying for her seat in U.S. House District 2, in a televised debate next month.

Hosted by the North Carolina Bankers Association, the Oct. 6 debate will be televised by WRAL and moderated by news anchor David Crabtree at the association's Management Team Conference at the Pinehurst Resort.

"We're excited the voters of the 2nd District will finally have a chance to hear from both candidates," said Tucker Middleton, communications director for the Aiken campaign. "We would love for this to be the first debate of many."

Aiken, the well-known entertainer and Cary Democrat, began calling for Ellmers, the two-term Harnett County Republican, to agree to a debate in July.

At the time, Ellmers' campaign said it was considering invitations but hadn't made decisions about whether to accept.

Patrick Sebastian, a senior adviser to the Ellmers campaign, said Tuesday this debate appealed to them because it's neutral and would be televised districtwide.

"This debate will provide voters with an opportunity to see the choice they have in November," Sebastian said in a news release. "Renee Ellmers, who is a pragmatic and proven leader for North Carolina, or an out-of-touch liberal entertainer in Clay Aiken."

Middleton said the debate's free-flowing format with no time limits should enable "folks to hear a really good conversation. ... People are tired of hearing scripted answers in debates."

The debate is not open to the general public, but it will air at 7 p.m. on WRAL-TV and stream at the same time on WRAL.com, and re-air at 11 p.m. on WRAZ-TV. It also will be available on demand on WRAL.com through Election Day.

"We believe this highly anticipated, first televised debate between these two candidates will have much of our state watching very closely," Thad Woodard, president and CEO of the North Carolina Bankers Association, said in a release. "We are proud to sponsor this important exchange. We are grateful for the partnership with WRAL and Capitol Broadcasting to make this event a reality."

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

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thegavoice.com

Gay Atlanta Men Teaming Up for Clay Aiken Fundraiser

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(photo courtesy Clay Aiken for Congress)

Gay Atlanta men teaming up for Clay Aiken fundraiser

Patrick Saunders September 24, 2014

Openly gay former “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken’s surprising run for Congress in North Carolina will include a pitstop in Atlanta for a fundraiser on Oct. 8.

The “Atlanta For Clay” event will be hosted by Jesse Cannon, an Emory physician; Reese McCranie, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport communications director (and former aide to Mayor Kasim Reed); Andy McKinnon, a retired Ford Motor Co. executive very active in local politics; Jonathan Russell, director of development at Emory Vaccine Center; T Cooper, a successful novelist and screenwriter and a friend of Aiken’s; Ken Britt, retired executive director of Alston & Bird and a longtime political activist; and Glen Paul Freedman, chair of both the Georgia Equality Board and the Atlanta Pride Committee. The event will take place at Cannon’s Midtown home.

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Aiken, who came in second to Ruben Studdard in the 2003 season of the now fast-fading Fox singing competition, had some success as a recording artist following the show and has managed to stay in the public eye over the years despite dwindling record sales.

He came out in 2008 in a People Magazine cover story after years of denials about his sexual orientation. He has since mixed in a role on Broadway in “Spamalot” along with several guest appearances on TV, including his appearance on the 2012 season of “Celebrity Apprentice”—where he again was runner-up, this time to Arsenio Hall.

Aiken announced his run for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District in February and squeaked out a win in the Democratic primary in May. He’ll face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in the general election on Nov. 4—and it’s not going to be easy. It’s a heavily Republican district and Ellmers is beating him two-to-one in fundraising as of July.

But the “American Idol” alum isn’t new to political activism, having served two years on President George W. Bush’s Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. He’s also spoken out on LGBT rights issues and traveled to places like Somalia and Afghanistan with UNICEF.

Aiken made news recently for his response to a question from the Washington Post about the nude celebrity photo hacks, saying “Anybody who takes inappropriate pictures of themselves deserves exactly what they get.”

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myfox8.com

Clay Aiken Campaigns for Congressional Seat in Asheboro

Clay Aiken campaigns for congressional seat in Asheboro

POSTED 10:39 PM, SEPTEMBER 25, 2014, BY KIM WYNNE

ASHEBORO, N.C. — Democratic Congressional candidate Clay Aiken spoke to Randolph County Tea Party members Thursday less than two months before the Nov. 4 midterm elections.

The former American Idol star is running against GOP incumbent Renee Ellmers who has won the second district which covers most of Randolph and Alamance Counties for the past two terms.

Although the district is mostly known to favor conservative candidates, Aiken thinks voters will see past party lines.

“I think it’s insulting to imply that they are always voting for a party versus always voting for a person or a policy,” Aiken said.

“The second district is a population of independent minded voters.”

Aiken addressed issues he plans on tackling head on if elected like jobs, education and helping veterans transition into civilian life.

“We’ve got the strongest military in the world and then we abandon them once we have no use for them anymore,” he said. “That’s an embarrassment.”

Aiken and Ellmers will have their first debate in Pinehurst on Oct. 6.

Ellmers will also talk with Randolph County Tea Party members on Oct. 9.

Video at the link as well!

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leizaweidle.com (blog)

What Keeps Us Up at Night

What keeps us up at night

09/24/2014

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Play

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Tis the season of learning what's important to our elected officials and candidate hopefuls. Last week, while the Guardians ad Litem in Wake County were enjoying our monthly supper club, Governor McCrory stopped quickly to offer greetings and appreciation for the work we do on behalf of foster children. (Ok, ok. I waved him over as he was passing through Sitti Restaurant and asked for a picture - it's a timing thing).

This morning, while attending the Cary Chamber forum at Prestonwood County Club, I knew Clay Aiken would help me take a selfie. He also took the time to read my Friends of Wake County Guardian ad Litem Program tag and thank me for helping foster children.

The most telling question from this morning's Chamber forum came from the moderator who asked each of the candidates to describe what keeps them up at night. Here are the responses:

  • U. S. Congressman David Price (District 4) said the foreign policy issues keep him awake.
  • U.S. Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (District 2) is awake worrying about the issues in Syria. "Enemies don't fear us. Allies don't trust us."
  • Brenda Cleary (District 13 Congressional Candidate) worries about the aging of America.
  • Clay Aiken (District 2 Congressional Candidate) said it's the finger pointing and blame with no solutions that worries him. "It's time to get activated."

I am kept awake worrying about the growing number of foster children in Wake County - 643 as of last Wednesday.

Many have such simple wishes - a warm coat, a computer, to go to a brother's birthday party. The harder wish to grant is for the children who want a sense of belonging, a home with people who will love them just for being who they are.

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newsobserver.com

Debating Debates in the 2nd Congressional District

Debating debates in the 2nd Congressional District

Posted by Lynn Bonner on September 24, 2014

It’s political debating season, but for candidates in the 2nd Congressional District, the season may be a short one.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Dunn Republican, and Democratic challenger Clay Aiken have agreed to a televised debate Oct. 6 that will air on WRAL.

Other stations have tried for months to get their own Ellmers/Aiken debates scheduled, but with no luck. Station reps say they have not been able to get the Ellmers camp on board.

Aiken said recently he was eager for televised debates.

Ellmers said she was happy to debate Oct. 6, but she also has other work to do.

“It’s a matter of taking care of my constituents,” she said. “Debates are wonderful tools. I think things can be overdone.”

Mark Falgout at WTVD said he’s been trying since July to get the Ellmers campaign to agree to a debate on the ABC-owned station. They haven’t yet, but Falgout said he was going to keep trying.

“The Aiken people agreed,” he said. “I have not been able to get the Ellmers people to give us a date or even say they’d be willing to do something with us.”

Time Warner Cable News 14 got a similar response.

The station contacted the campaigns about a debate in August, and the Aiken camp accepted early, Walker Campbell, assistant news editor, said in an email.

On Sept. 8, Time Warner Cable sent emails to the campaigns listing five potential dates between Oct. 20 and Oct. 31, he wrote. On Sept. 9, the Ellmers campaign said she would not participate.

On Sept. 12, Tim Boyum, “Capital Tonight” anchor, told the campaigns the station had chosen Oct. 22 “and stressed our willingness to to still have Congresswoman Ellmers take part if they changed their mind – that space would be left at the table if she decided as late as that day to come and take part,” Campbell wrote.

On Sept. 16, an Ellmers campaign staffer wrote that she won’t be there and asked what would happen if she didn’t attend, Campbell said.

The station is hosting a half-hour Q&A forum with Aiken on Oct. 22, to be televised at 7 p.m.

“We are still hopeful that Congresswoman Ellmers will change her mind and take part,” Campbell wrote. “We are prepared to expand the show to an hour-long debate if she does attend.”

The NBC-affiliate said they haven’t asked the candidates for a debate.

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nytimes.com

Clay Aiken Takes Lessons from "American Idol" to the Campaign Trail

Clay Aiken Takes Lessons From ‘American Idol’ to the Campaign Trail

SEPT. 26, 2014

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Clay Aiken CreditChristian Oth for The New York Times

The former-TV star talks to Jim Rutenberg about getting into politics, Keith Crisco’s death and why he won’t sing on the campaign

trail.

You’re running for Congress as a Democrat in a Republican-leaning part of North Carolina. What made you take the leap?
I’d always been interested in politics. I had some friends who were far more connected in Washington than I am — or was, or am still — who suggested that I should run, and I said, Well, you know, I kind of like the job I’m doing. But then they showed me some numbers, and until then I didn’t know how competitive the district could be.

Twenty-four million votes were cast in the final round of “American Idol.” Why aren’t you running for something bigger?
Well, they get to vote twice. And that was 11 years ago.

What did you gain from being on reality TV that may have prepared you for the political process?
I think 11 years in the public eye has prepared me for some of the peripheral stuff that happens within a political campaign. I’m more prepared for some of the attention.

Your primary opponent, Keith Crisco, a former state commerce secretary, died while the votes were being counted in a very close contest. How did you react to that news?
I felt a lot of remorse, because I had respect for him. We always got along in person, but we had this somewhat contentious primary, and he passed away before we could bring closure to that. I still have a hard time talking about it. I’m glad we didn’t go negative. I don’t have that regret.

When “American Idol” was new, it really struck a chord with the public. Why do you think that is?
It showed real people making their dreams come true. You had me, this skinny dork from North Carolina. You had this big black man from Alabama, Ruben Studdard. Neither of us really would have been expected to be in that position. I think that in subsequent years, contestants became a little too polished, and people don’t like the show as much anymore for that reason. One could argue that we see that same trend now in politics.

If you look at Washington and all of its problems, what could it learn from a show like “American Idol”?
I think it would be a much better place as a country if both parties said: “Here are our ideas. Which ones do you like? And then once you’ve chosen, let’s come together and figure out how to make it work.” Every once in a while, you have to sing a duet — that’s the first time I’ve ever said that, and I’ll probably never say it again.

You won’t sing on the campaign trail. Are you worried that people will think you’re a lightweight?
I do recognize that there is a challenge in getting people to see me as a candidate, as a public servant, as a leader. To a lot of people, I’m still that 24-year-old from “Idol.” So many folks tell me, “Oh, wow, you’re a lot older than I thought you were.”

You seem to want to avoid the “Idol” history, but it’s what brought you here.
If I had not been on “Idol,” chances are I wouldn’t be able to run in this race, and I understand that. But I got probably 70 percent of my votes on the show from North Carolina. So these folks who I’m trying to represent put me here.

If you knew that you could win by making one ad that was just a song, would you do it?
If it was a sure thing, yeah, I would do that.

What song would you choose?
You’re talking about hypotheticals that are clearly not going to happen. Well, I would hope that the same poll that said singing would make me win would have the foresight to actually ask which song as well.

Do you think Obama has been a good president?
I think every president is on a sliding scale somewhere. There are certainly areas where I disagree with him.

Do you want him to come campaign for you?
I don’t need that. We’re doing well.

You’re good at staying on message.
Years of being told: “When you get on that talk-show couch, make sure to plug your album.” That’s why.

INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED.

A version of this interview appears in print on September 28, 2014, on page MM12 of the Sunday Magazine with the headline: ‘Every Once in a While, You Have to Sing a Duet’.

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My First Grader Knows Better Than That!

My first grader knows better than that!

09/25/2014

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photos from the Cary Chamber of Commerce's Eye Opener Breakfast and Congressional Candidates Forum at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary.

Educators talk about something called the "teachable moment." A student says something, something unexpected happens, or more commonly something happens in the world beyond the classroom that gets students engaged and talking. In social studies, there are a lot of these simply because the government is in the news constantly and the really great teachers have the ears of jazz musicians and Superman's x-ray vision for both recognizing the "teachable moment" and playing the next note that's going to deepen the class's understanding or more accurately engage them in something that takes them deeper. fwiw, the really exciting thing about getting the class out into the community is you sometimes get a semester's worth of teachable moments in a single field trip. It's just that it's a far less controlled environment than the classroom and I sometimes picture myself as a guy with a net on a stick in the butterfly house at the nature center. Which ones do you start with? When there are this many, how do you get the time to look over what's in the net without missing even better ones out there?

Thanks again to the Cary Chamber of Commerce, the entire class got to attend their Congressional Candidates' Forum at Prestonwood Country Club in their "ballroom". The ballroom was so huge, I realized that except for Versailles, I'd only set foot in "ball closets" before this. As it happened, they wound up with four candidates (three Democrats and one Republican) for the three Congressional districts that include parts of Cary (why the heck does Cary have 3 Congressional districts when a Congressional District has 710,000 people in it?). Two sitting members of Congress showed. David Price has represented District 4 for most of the last 20 years. Clay Aiken mentioned that Representative Price had once spoken to his 8th grade class. The experience showed in a good way along with the fact that Rep. Price was a Duke Professor. When answering questions, he was the one candidate who talked fluently and in detail about specific bills, committees, etc. Renee Ellmers has been the District 2 representative for 2 terms and was in the difficult position of being the only Republican at the event. Clay Aiken, her opponent, has the highest name recognition and the least political experience.Brenda Cleary, who like Renee Ellmers has a background as a nurse, is the Democratic candidate in District 13.

In an hours worth of questions and answers, somehow none of the candidates mentioned the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but virtually every answer wound up touching on the matter on most people's minds - What are they going to do about Congress being so dysfunctional? the pattern was pretty simple. Rep. Ellmers as the Republican found various ways to mention President Obama in some negative light and the three Democrats managed not to say the President's name much even though the President is the head of their party.

Early on, Clay Aiken was a little unsteady and somewhat vague (possibly on purpose) with his answers. I found myself wondering if he was ready for this and I was looking for ways to bring it up with my students later. Somehow yet another answer had turned into Renee Ellmers' pledging to stop President Obama in particular and all unnecessary forms of Federal regulation in general. Aiken then responded, "You know I have a son who's in first grade and he's already learned that you don't things done by pointing fingers and blaming everyone else."

There was a sudden shift of energy in the room and Rep. Ellmers eyes widened at this miniature "There you go again" moment. The I want to work with everyone if I get to Congress is hardly new or unique to Clay Aiken. In fact, it's one of his campaign mantras and even the most intransigent politicians on either side give at least lip service to being open to working with the other side. On that TV show candidate Aiken treats like the name "Voldemort", the judges had a habit of critiquing singers' performances for being 'pitchy', but I've always argued that the thing that makes pop music pop is less about pitch than being on beat (which sometimes means just ahead of our behind the actual beat) or having the "time" right. In this case, "My first grader knows better...." was timed just right. Suddenly, Clay Aiken's odds of winning in a District that's now 52% Republican seemed a lot better. It's worth a mention that the question he was nominally answering didn't have a lot to do directly with Congressional gridlock.

In fact, when we got back to Hopewell, I asked my students which one of the candidates seemed to give the most detailed answer, I was thinking David Price. Instead, they all said Clay Aiken. At first I thought it was the celebrity thing, but it was the one line about first graders that resonated for them.

On reality singing competitions, they sometimes talk about performers finding their "voice". The same thing happens in politics. Even though we're playing Jeopardy in Civics this quarter, I happen to think that discovering one's voice and learning to use it effectively is the most important thing a Civics teacher can bring to a classroom. Even now that I'm teaching it, I still have to look up the details of the 12th amendment any time I talk about it.

If a teachable moment happened at the forum. That was the big one. Still, I need to say there was a second big one that the main audience didn't get to stay for. After the forum, the candidates generously stayed around and spent time with my students. No one was as generous with her time as Renee Ellmers. Her aide, Mac McKinney helped with that as well. My class got to use their voices by asking her individual questions. A couple of them also got interviewed by NPR.

Rep. Ellmers answered every one of these questions from a group not old enough to vote. Interestingly, as she answered the questions she slipped in examples of how she had in fact worked with Rep. Price on matters of local interest like high speed rail for the county. She had a moment too and the students, even though they may lean more Democratic, found themselves having to admit that Rep Ellmers took them seriously, treated them respectfully, and never acted for a moment as if she had better things to do. My guess is that she's a formidable campaigner in a person to person setting and my guess is that some of that skill comes from her having been a nurse for many years. fwiw, Clay Aiken had some skills of his own. When he did our photo with us, he suggested that he do a "selfie" with us. As someone who grew up with telephones that had cords and dials, I felt way older than any of the characters in "Spamalot."

Anyway, two huge teachable moment jumped into my net as a teacher. My class might have seen a neophyte politician find his voice in a setting that didn't involve either the opinions of either Simon Cowell or Donald Trump. They may also have seen their Congresswoman show skills she used to beat an incumbent in what was then a Democratic district and get re-elected at least once. As always seems to be the case, there are different ways to achieve the same goal, just as there are multiple ways to learn to find your own voice in the world and multiple forms for it.

It's just that I don't know how to get to that next note or how to see the secret moment that fully unleashes the power of what we happened to witness. In the meantime, there's a televised debate on October 6, that we might try to attend just to see how both candidates deal with the "How serious am i about working with the opposition" thing. My guess is that Mr. Aiken may find some place to use his line about his first grader and Rep. Ellmers will have her response ready.

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Broadway Community Steps Up in Support of Clay Aiken Congressional Bid

Broadway Community Steps Up in Support of Clay Aiken Congressional Bid

By Adam Hetrick

26 Sep 2014

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Clay Aiken

Tony Award winners Betty Buckley,Christine Ebersole, Beth Leavel and producer Jordan Roth are among the Broadway luminaries who are rallying to help support Clay Aiken in his North Carolina congressional run.

Aiken, who is running on the Democratic ticket, became a household name in 2003 as runner up on "American Idol," and later appeared in the Broadway production of Spamalot in 2008.

The openly-gay performer turned his art into activism in recent years, taking on a UNICEF ambassadorship in 2004 as well as creating the National Inclusion Project and being appointed a two-year term on the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Aiken is currently running on the Democratic ticket in North Carolina's 2nd congressional district in his home state of North Carolina after winning the Democratic primary in May.

Members of the Broadway community will gather in New York City for an Oct. 1 fundraiser for Aiken's campaign.

"How exciting that a great voice on Broadway could become a great voice in Congress. We're all proud to support one of Broadway's own," Jujamcyn president and producer Jordan Roth said.

In addition to performances by Buckley (Cats, Sunset Boulevard), Ebersole (Grey Gardens, 42nd Street) and Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone), the evening will be attended by Disney Theatricals president Thomas Schumacher, Rosie O'Donnell, composer Frank Wildhorn, director-choreographer Jeff Calhoun, director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw, producers Wendy Orshan and Jeff Wilson, and Playbill President and CEO Philip Birsh.

To attend the 7 PM event, e-mail events@clayaiken.com.

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courier-tribune.com

Randolph TEA Party Hosts Clay Aiken

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Posted September 25, 2014 - 9:02pm

Randolph TEA Party hosts Clay Aiken

By J.D. Walker

jdwalker@courier-tribune.com

ASHEBORO — As part of the party’s commitment to introduce candidates to local voters, the Randolph TEA Party hosted a question-and-answer forum with Democratic candidate Clay Aiken Thursday. Aiken is running to unseat incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers in the District 2 seat.

Aiken spoke briefly about his background, including his time as a teacher of special needs students and a celebrity with “American Idol,” before opening the floor to questions. He said his ambition to represent District 2 is based on the same motivation that caused him to work with students. He said, in both instances, he saw a group of people who were not being served.

Aiken said he grew up admiring politicians like U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms and U.S. Rep. Howard Coble. He said he didn’t always agree with either man, but he always appreciated that people knew where both men stood on the issues. Both men were also available to their constituents and willing to listen, Aiken said.

“People aren’t getting that anymore,” he said.

Brian Lowe asked Aiken where he stood on the Second Amendment (gun rights). Aiken said he has several members of his family who own guns, including a cousin who owns a gun store. He said he doesn’t want to do anything that interferes with their right to own guns.

“I do want to make sure we keep guns out of the hands of people who use them irresponsibly,” he said.

Rashidi Everette asked Aikens what his priorities would be, if elected. Aiken said his priorities would be the priorities of District 2. He said, in his travels around the district, he has been told the top priorities are jobs and improving the economy; protecting and improving conditions for veterans; and education.

When John Nance asked Aiken his views on U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, Aiken turned the question around and asked Nance what he thought should be done. Nance said he feared U.S. policy today is akin to what the country did in the 1980s. He said the U.S. provided weapons to rebels in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. Those rebels eventually turned into Al Qaeda, he said.

Aiken said he is hesitant to send American troops to the Middle East.

“I don’t think we should use our men and women in the military like G.I. Joe toys,” he said.

However, Aiken said he didn’t want the U.S. to be the victim of another terrorist plot, adding some sources have indicated one terrorist group had plans to bomb sites in this country that were stopped by recent U.S. airstrikes.

Aiken said he believes the best approach is to encourage other Arab countries to step up to deal with terrorists in their region. But, he added, part of the solution may have to include helping rebel forces defeat ISIS.

Janet Pate asked Aiken to explain the campaign sign that leaned against the wall behind him during his presentation. The blue and red sign spelled out “RepublicAiken.”

Aiken said the district is made up of Democrats and Republicans. He said he knows people from both parties don’t always agree, but the person they elect should be willing to represent the district’s interests.

“I’m running to represent everyone,” he said.

The next Randolph TEA Party event will be held on Thursday, Oct. 9, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at The Exchange on South Fayetteville Street in Asheboro when U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers will speak with the group. The candidate forum will be free and open to the public.

- See more at: http://courier-tribu...h.Jc5O6aWo.dpuf

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NC-02: The Clay & Renee Show Comes to Town

NC-02: The Clay & Renee Show Comes To Town

by Brant Clifton

September 28, 2014

In about a week, we here in Pinehurst are being, um, “blessed” with an appearance from our two choices for the US House this November. Renee Ellmers and Clay Aiken will face off before a ballroom full of bankers (and a statewide TV audience) in a week at The Pinehurst Resort. Since the site of this momentous event is roughly one mile from Haymaker HQ, we may wander over to catch the action in person. *Who knows? This could top Lincoln-Douglas.*

It is mighty curious that Ellmers is agreeing to debate Aiken. She declined to even appear in the same room with her 2012 primary opponents or her general election opponents. In 2014, she declined to debate primary opponent Frank Roche. Ellmers is not that great at the ol’ debating game. Roche — a college lecturer and radio host — was quite capable of making a good impression during a debate. Clay Aiken — given his show business experience — has shown himself to be quite adept and charismatic in front of an audience.

It’s always an adventure when you put Ellmers in front of an audience or the media. (As examples, see THIS and THIS and THIS.)

Why do this? In politics, it’s considered a wise move for an incumbent – who is far ahead of an opponent — to avoid debating said underdog opponent. Sources familiar with both campaigns tell us a proposal for a second debate is even being considered. I am thinking that Ellmers has seen polling that shows this race with Aiken as way too close for comfort.

But it’s a yellow-dog GOP district. HOW could this thing be close? The answer: Ellmers has HUGE likability issues. Those issues are created and nurtured by things like screaming insults at your constituents and showing your face more often in Vegas and DC than you do in the district. I’ve come across plenty of people — still with fresh memories of Howard Coble’s excellent constituent service team — expressing frustration with the poor quality, or lack, of a response from Team Ellmers. Coble wasn’t all that conservative. He got a pass on that due to his responsiveness and attention to the district. Ellmers has been falling off the conservative wagon quite a bit lately. She might get a pass if she made an effort to (1) pay attention to her constituents or (2) even be nice.

Clay Aiken has views to the left of most people in the district. But, he’s likable. He’s worked hard on the campaign trail and has a respectable campaign treasury.

The weak top of the GOP ticket this year may not produce enough coattails to drag lower-level GOP candidates across the line. Lower-level campaigns will have to save themselves. A charm offensive — or even going through the motions to look conservative — may help pull Ellmers across the finish line.

NC-02: Twisted Sister, Dennis Wicker, and — RepublAIKENs ????

NC-02: Twisted Sister, Dennis Wicker, and — RepublAIKENs ????

by Brant Clifton

September 29, 2014

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We knew that Clay Aiken’s entry into the Second congressional district race was going to turn things into a circus. Speaking of circusTwisted Sister frontman Dee Snider (not to be confused with Raleigh-based GOP consultant Dee Stewart) has stepped out front to help Aiken raise moneyfor his race against Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers. He even took to Twitter to praise the American Idol:

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Snider and Aiken DO have some history together. They’ve both done ‘Celebrity Apprentice.‘ And they’ve even

Penn Jillette — a renowned libertarian — had words of praise for Aiken, as did former Idol judge Paula Abdul and Idol winner Ruben Studdard.

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Another — much more local — celebrity of sorts is also stepping out for Aiken. Former Lt. Gov. and long-time Second District resident Dennis Wicker is heading up a fundraising effort for Aiken.

The Second District is overwhelmingly Republican. So, it will take some fancy footwork on Aiken’s part to upset Ellmers. But Clay has been out aggressively campaigning. He’s even reached out to Tea Party groups in the district. His campaign’s latest marketing ploy includes yard signs that identify the property owner as a “RepublAiken.”

Clay Aiken and Renee Ellmers are scheduled to debate on October 6 in Pinehurst before a regional TV audience.

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Clay Aiken in Los Angeles for Sept. 30 Congressional Fundraiser

Clay Aiken in Los Angeles for Sept. 30 Congressional Fundraiser

Posted on 9/29/2014 7:04:00 PM by Karen Ocamb

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(Corrected) I don’t recall fans asking Republican congressional candidate Sonny Bono to sing at every campaign stop when he was running for Congress in Palm Springs in 1994. But like fellow Republicans Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan, the famed Sonny & Cher performer had no problem using his entertainment fame to get votes. Democratic entertainers, on the other hand, seem determined to prove they’re serious. Lots of people were disappointed, for instance, when SNL funny man Al Franken didn’t tell jokes at political gatherings after he won his Democratic senatorial seat from Minnesota.

Clay Aiken, who many remember as the American Idol runner-up, seems to be having a similar issue, with people wanting him to sing for votes. But given half a chance, Aiken reveals he is smart and knows his stuff. Aiken is a candidate for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd District. Supporters are holding a fundraiser for him on Tuesday, Sept. 30 from 6:00-8:00p at the home of Michael Corbett. (Go to this Facebook page for more info and tickets)

That Aiken is smart and a quick study was something he repeatedly proved on Celebrity Apprentice before Donald Trump chose the less-hard-working Arsenio Hall as the winner instead—a decision that rankled fans who thought Trump displayed more than a tinge of homophobia.

The Wall Street Journal noted an interview with Aiken by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman who warned critics not to write Aiken off. “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,” Wasserman wrote in the subscription-based newsletter. “Aiken was not only polished and poised, but relaxed, free-wheeling, persuasive, and politically realistic.”

Aiken had a hard-fought primary, which he uncomfortably won by default when his Democratic challenger died unexpectedly. which he narrowly won by 390 votes, thus avoiding a runoff. His primary opponent, former state secretary of commerce Keith Crisco, was expected to concede but died suddenly of heart disease the day before.

Aiken briefly suspended his campaign out of respect for Crisco—but has since come roaring back, hoping to defeat the Tea Party darling, incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers, who was re-elected in 2012 with 56% of the vote.

Reporting on an LGBT fundraiser for Aiken in New York, Mike Spies at Vocative wrote:

Aiken is running for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd District against Renee Ellmers, an arch-conservative incumbent who rode the 2010 Tea Party wave into office. She is not a particularly savvy politician; during wonky budget talks in July, she commanded her male House colleagues to “bring it down to a woman’s level.” But the 2nd District is squarely Republican, and Ellmers is favored to win.

On the other hand, the Democrats are pushing very hard to keep Kay Hagen’s Senate seat—a get-out-the-vote effort that could benefit Clay Aiken. Just imagine the history: a Southern state elects a gay man to Congress!

- See more at: http://www.frontiers...h.RMrOw4ly.dpuf

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Under the Dome blog: Former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker Delivers Fund-Raising Appeal for Aiken

Former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker delivers fund-raising appeal for Aiken

Posted by Lynn Bonner on September 29, 2014

Former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker made a video on behalf of Democratic congressional candidate Clay Aiken, asking viewers to contribute to Aiken’s campaign.

Wicker, who is from Sanford, backed Aiken’s opponent in the primary.

In the video, Wicker calls Aiken a consensus-builder who will “fight for the values we believe in,” education, the environment, and jobs.

Aiken, who rose to fame as an “American Idol” contestant, is running in the Republican-leaning 2nd Congressional District against two-term Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn. Aiken’s last fund-raising report showed him lagging Ellmers, though he has had fundraisers since then.

Wicker asks viewers to contribute any amount they can to Aiken’s campaign.

“It’s time for us to really step up and help him,” Wicker says. Wicker served two terms as lieutenant governor under former Gov. Jim Hunt.

Read more here: http://www.newsobser...1#storylink=cpy

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"American Idol" Star Clay Aiken Sings a Different Tune in Bid for Congress

'American Idol' star Clay Aiken sings a different tune in bid for Congress

Jeff Zeleny, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps5 hours ago

The Fine Print

More than a decade after Clay Aiken made his singing debut on the stage of “American Idol,” he is taking to the political stage, competing for a very different sort of title: U.S. Congressman.

Running as a Democrat in North Carolina’s 2nd District, Aiken is making the case to voters that his voice is good for more than just singing.

“What people don't recognize is that in the months and weeks following 'American Idol,' I worked to set up an organization for kids with disabilities, and for the last 11 years I've helped grow that organization from one that had programs in North Carolina to one that has programs in states across the country,” Aiken told “The Fine Print.”

In an effort to get voters to focus on him as a candidate rather than a singer, Aiken has put a stop on the singing – at least for now – as he travels across in his native North Carolina, where he faces an uphill battle as a Democrat running in a conservative district.

“I recognize that this box that people have me in is that of a singer,” Aiken said. “There's a whole bunch more to me than just being a singer, and we've done a great job of explaining that to folks. By singing I put myself back in the box, and that's not necessarily what we're trying to do here.”

During an appearance on “The Colbert Report,” Stephen Colbert tried to get Aiken to sing the national anthem with him, but he refused. “There's a very big difference [between] doing it in a mocking way and doing it seriously,” Aiken explained.

“The Colbert Report” aside, Aiken has made a few exceptions to his ban on campaign trail singing.

“There've been one or two times on the campaign trail, where it was organic – there was a band, and somebody else was singing – and I stepped up and sang just a little bit,” Aiken said.

Aiken said he’s running for Congress to fill what he sees as a “vacuum” of needed leadership in Washington. And in his home district, Aiken believes there is a sentiment of anger toward Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, who was elected in 2010.

“My mom used to joke that I was gonna go … to Hollywood, and 'go Hollywood.' And I clearly did not, I stayed about a year and a half and came home, and I'm the same person I was before,” Aiken said.

And though Aiken said he didn’t “go Hollywood,” he believes Ellmers has gone Washington.

For more of the interview with Aiken, and to hear if he will sing again if elected to Congress, check out this episode of “The Fine Print.”

ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Tom Thornton, Hank Disselkamp and Vicki Vennell contributed to this episode.

Video embedded at the link.

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