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PHOTO CALL: Christine Ebersole, Jordan Roth, Betty Buckley, Beth Leavel and More Step Up in Support of Clay Aiken Congressional Bid


PHOTO CALL: Christine Ebersole, Jordan Roth, Betty Buckley, Beth Leavel and More Step Up in Support of Clay Aiken Congressional Bid

By Matthew Blank

02 Oct 2014

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

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.

"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.

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American Idol star turned politician Clay Aiken trails in N.C. district

American Idol star turned politician Clay Aiken trails in N.C. district


Former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken, an actor and multi-platinum artist, has been trying his hand at something new throughout 2014 — North Carolina politics.

And he’s faced an uphill battle in a congressional contest where the odds are stacked against him.

Aiken, a Democrat, is running against Republican incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers for the seat representing the state’s 2nd Congressional District, a sprawling area that encompasses Asheboro, Fort Bragg, Pinehurst and parts of Cary.

The two candidates will debate in Pinehurst on Monday, less than a month before Election Day, in what many analysts consider to be one of Aiken’s last chances to convince voters he’s the better candidate.

Aiken and Ellmers, a two-term incumbent, are campaigning in a notoriously right-leaning district — and Aiken’s claim to fame likely won’t be enough to win him the seat.“When people see him, they’re curious about him because he’s a celebrity, but they’re impressed with how smart he is,” said Democratic analyst Gary Pearce.

“Right now, he’s trailing,” said Ferrel Guillory, UNC professor of journalism and director of the Program on Public Life. “He’s got to make a good showing in the debate.”

A poll released Tuesday by the right-leaning Civitas Institute found Ellmers in the lead, with 47 percent of the district saying they will vote for Ellmers, while 39 percent say they’ll vote for Aiken.

Ellmers is a very personable figure among voters in her district, said Kathryn Walker, chairwoman of UNC College Republicans.

“She’s a mom, she comes from a working background, and I think she’s really relatable,” she said. “People in Congress have a stereotype of being out of touch, and I don’t think that she is.”

Ellmers gained national media attention for comments she made during a panel discussion in July about women lawmakers.

“We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level — and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go,” she said, according to the Washingon Examiner.

In a statement to left-leaning blog ThinkProgress, Ellmers said her comments had been taken out of context.

“I am a woman and find it both offensive and sexist to take my words and redefine them to imply that women need to be addressed at a lower level,” she said.

Walker said Ellmers is opposed to the Affordable Care Act, a position that will likely win her favor among many conservative voters.

Guillory said Aiken is an underdog because he is a gay man running in a conservative and rural part of North Carolina.

But Andy Ball, third vice chair of the N.C. Democratic Party, said Aiken offers the independent voice that Congress needs.

Blake Brennan, treasurer of UNC Young Democrats, said Aiken likely has an edge with young voters.

“He’s much closer to our age than almost anyone in Congress,” he said. “He’s more in touch with social issues.”

Ball, who previously worked with Aiken at a Raleigh YMCA, said the Democratic challenger has long-standing ties in the state.

“He’s proven that he has roots in the area and that he understands the working family,” he said.

Ellmers has taken recent stands on veterans affairs and immigration, calling on the Senate to pass legislation to address the recent influx of migrant children to the U.S.

“I would hope that the voters vote for what she stands for,” Walker said.

Guillory said it’s clear from listening to Aiken that he is trying to convince voters he understands their issues, which is necessary, he said, because Aiken has to win over military, farming and suburban families.

“He’s trying to convince voters that he’s not some uninformed singer,” Guillory said, “that he can relate his personal history to the down-home people of the 2nd District.”

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Our Complicated History With Donald Trump

Our Complicated History With Donald Trump

By WILLY STALEY OCTOBER 3, 2014 6:35 PM October 3, 2014 6:35 pm Comment



I returned from lunch on Tuesday to find that my colleague Jim Rutenberg had dropped a curious object on my desk: a note that was written with a Sharpie right atop our Clay Aiken interview from the Sept. 28 issue and that was apparently signed by a seismograph. Once I read it, I understood why the signature didn’t even flirt with legibility — it didn’t have to. It was Donald Trump’s. He was disappointed that Rutenberg had apparently failed to ask Aiken about his time on “The Apprentice”; he was also disappointed in Aiken for not doing more to steer an interview about his run for Congress in that direction.

Condensing and editing an interview every week means making tough decisions about what to do with a small amount of real estate — something Trump can relate to. And so it was with “The Apprentice” and Trump. Rutenberg asked Aiken about both, but the exchange was cut for space. (Aiken said he liked Trump, comparing him to “an uncle in your family who you don’t always agree with and sometimes embarrasses you at family functions, but you still love him.”) Aiken was loyal, and Rutenberg did his homework; if this was truly an error of omission, it was my own.

You could argue that Trump ought to know a bit about this process; he was the subject of a New York Times Magazine Q & A. with Deborah Solomon just five years ago. In it, Trump suggested devoting five pages to the interview. “Because of me,” he said, “everyone will read it.” He had a point.

And indeed, The Donald has been a critic of the magazine’s reporting on The Donald (or lack thereof) for nearly two decades. In 1995, the magazine had a rubric called “Endpaper,” and in the March 12 issue, Michael Rubiner published a short work of satire in that space called “Mar-a-Lago Boulevard,” featuring a fictionalized Trump. At the time, Trump had been caught telling the press a half-truth about his new resort in Palm Beach, Fla. — that droves of A-listers had already joined the club, forking over the $50,000 membership fee. In fact, the introduction to Rubiner’s piece explained, Trump had offered them “honorary membership,” gratis, and Trump was confident that they’d accept. In the story, Rubiner reimagined Trump as the delusional femme fatale Norma Desmond from the noir classic “Sunset Boulevard” (“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Spielberg!”).

03trump-6thfl-2-blog480.jpgCreditIllustration by John Kascht

You can’t blame Trump for being displeased. A month and a half later, dedicated readers could find Trump’s livid response on the letters page:

  • Michael Rubiner’s article about me, Mar-a-Lago and the Mar-a-Lago Club was false, defamatory and, above all, vicious. . . . As an author of two No. 1 best-selling books (The New York Times list), I can state with great authority that the author of your piece is a third-rate talent who, unfortunately, never even called to check his incorrect facts. For a writer to spew venom without knowledge is insulting to all, especially The New York Times Magazine.

  • The Mar-a-Lago Club is an incredible success. In Palm Beach, that is a given fact; in New York, obviously it is not! DONALD J. TRUMP, New York

It came with a clarifying postscript, in which Rubiner replied:

  • The article to which Mr. Trump refers is a piece of fiction.

Before that year was done, Trump had contributed a column to our “About Men” page, a biweekly personal essay that alternated with the fairer “Hers.” Under the triumphant headline “I’m Back,” Trump reflected on those who spurned him during his financially troubled years in the early ’90s but had come crawling back during his recent resurgence. It was largely a meditation on loyalty and its opposite. “Loyalty is a complex word,” he wrote. “It is derived of many parts and is almost impossible to figure out without truly being tested. During my three-year crisis period, there were those whose loyalty and devotion I would literally have ‘bet the ranch’ on. Some let me down. But in practice, you are either loyal or disloyal — there is no middle ground.”

He went on: “This has been my most successful year ever, and all those who let me down have been calling and even going through intermediaries in order to have breakfast, lunch, dinner or ‘anything’ with me. They are miraculously turning up on my doorstep seeking a second chance. I will leave them out in the rain; there can be no second chance for people who are disloyal, because they will only come back to bite you again. Their calls will go unanswered.” (He referred to himself in the third person just twice in the column.)

Given his Manichaean view of the matter, we would be remiss if we didn’t reassure Trump that Aiken spoke highly of both Trump and his time on “The Apprentice.” Aiken even said that “some of the gumption that one needs for a campaign I probably learned from doing his show.”

Rutenberg asked for clarity: “From him or from the show?”

Aiken replied, “Well, I think they’re one and the same, aren’t they?”

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Clay Aiken, Congressional Candidate in North Carolina’s CD2, to Debate Tea Party Opponent on Monday

Clay Aiken, Congressional Candidate in North Carolina’s CD2, to Debate Tea Party Opponent on Monday

Posted on 10/3/2014 3:36:00 PM by Karen Ocamb


If Clay Aiken had “gone Hollywood,” as his detractors would have North Carolina voters think, he would have made more than a few references to American Idol, his TV and Broadway career, and his agent Rob Light, a Managing Partner of Creative Artists Agency, who introduced him during Aiken’s campaign swing in the Hollywood Hills last Tuesday. But he did not. If anything, he underscored how much he wanted to leave entertainment and focus on how best to serve as the next representative from North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District.

“I had enough of the spotlight for 11 years,” Aiken (pictured above with his friend Bruce Vilanch) told a mixed crowd of about 100 gay and straight supporters at the home of Extra correspondent Michael Corbett, organized by producer/actor Steve Tyler (both pictured below). The event raised about $20,000 before the midnight Federal Election Commission campaign filing deadline.


It’s not exactly Ronald Reagan jettisoning GE and Bonzo the chimp—but for some, Aiken, a self-described “moderate” Democrat seeking elective office might seem just as dramatic. After all, Aiken is a gay father in a conservative, redistricted area that leans heavily Republican. His opponent, Renee Ellmers, was swept into Congress during the national Tea Party wave of 2010. Aiken was most excited to announce that the race now boasted a single-digit margin, forcing Ellmers into a debate with Aiken on Monday, Oct. 6 which will be broadcast live on WRAL.com at 7:00pm Eastern, 4:00pm Pacific.


Aiken, 35, knows how to rile the Democratic base, jokingly saying that Ellmers “snuggled up to [House Speaker] John Boehner” as soon as she got to Congress and cast a number of votes that made her disliked by her constituents. But Aiken is actually targeting independents, suggesting that people vote more for the person than a party. And Ellmers votes over her two terms have outraged many independents, too.

Ellmers actually voted against Boehner, for instance, when the Speaker joined 86 other Republicans and 198 Democrats on Oct. 16, 2013 to agree to a federal budget and end the government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Ellmers voted to keep the government shut down. Republicans “blame Obama” for everything, Aikens said, including ideas such as the ACA which originally was a Heritage Foundation idea.


Aiken also noted that Ellmers voted for sequestration that drastically cut military jobs and hurt employees and their families working at and around Ft. Bragg. And, he notes, “nobody from the North Carolina congression is on the Veterans Affairs Committee,” despite the state having the second largest—and growing—population of vets in the country.

But on her House website, Ellmers has posted a Raleigh News & Observer story from March 7, 2013 boasting of the vote. “The calls that we’re really getting are more people saying ‘Thank you for not giving in on this issue. We know it’s going to be painful, and we know we have communities that are going to be affected by this, but we feel very strongly that spending needs to be cut,’ ” Ellmers said in an interview, the newspaper reported.

North Carolina is among 21 states that did not accept Medicaid expansion, resulting in public hospitals having to cut staff and services.

Ellmers also voted against re-authorizing Against Violence Against Women Act and she proudly voted to send those undocumented immigrant kids back to their violent lives in Central America.


Aiken didn’t talk about being gay or any LGBT issues, though he did include gays in a story exempifying how he would serve those left behind, while Ellmers represents the rich, white straight people who get a good start in life.

I thought I had an arranged “gay” interview set up with him, but at the last minute, he declined, saying he needed the signoff from his communications director or else he’d be in trouble with the party. I expressed my extreme disappointment. I had written consistently about the 2012 battle over the anti-gay marriage ballot initiative Amendment One—including how the California Democratic Party had pledged to help defeat it. Californians had a special interest since Amendment One was written by those Prop 8 backers, the Alliance Defense Fund.

Indeed, I explained to Aikens, with the decisions by the Supreme Court that overturned Prop 8 and a core section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—Amendment One stands as the last soldier on the field of battle in a long war that is soon to be over. His election would contribute to North Carolina entering into the realm of the modern civil rights movement.


But viewed from afar, North Carolina may actually be more provincial and Southern-rooted than an LA observer might grasp. “The path to victory does not flow through Los Angeles,” Aiken said of his race. “It flows through the 2nd District.”

And even that is difficult. Aiken didn’t cite the recent poll he bragged about showing the race in single digits. But the Sept. 30 conservative-leaning Civitas poll shows Ellmers leading with 47 percent to 39 percent—with a five-point margin of error.

And a brief interview with an LA-based supporter who makes phone calls on the campaign’s behalf into the Democratic portions of the 2nd District also reveals that some voters are staying home or not voting for him because he’s gay. “They think he’ll bring a ‘Gay Agenda’ into Congress,” Susan said, adding that they refused to hear how he wouldn’t do that.

On the other hand, Democrats are pouring money into Sen. Kay Hagen’s race, trying to retain that seat against a torrent of money from the Koch brothers trying to win the Senate for Republicans. Aiken says his campaign is benefiting from the intense publicity—but that Hagen’s campaign calls his campaign because he’s doing so well with volunteers.

Though not part of his stump speech, Aiken had the opportunity to clarify some remarks he made to the Washington Post after nude photos of some celebrities—including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst—were leaked onto the internet.

“Anybody who takes inappropriate pictures of themselves deserves exactly what they get,” Aiken told The Post. “Of course whoever [stole and released the photos] should be hogtied….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.”

Aiken said:

I think that people recognize that in a world that is so interconnected with technology, that if Vanessa Williams in 1985 had to worry about her photos being leaked—she didn’t have internet, she did not have digital cameras even. That is something we all recognize we need a better job of protecting. We’ve got to protect people’s privacy on the Internet. We’ve got to protect people with laws that will do that.

It’s something that I think it is very important. Something that I think we are all aware is a problem and something we all need to do a better job of policing these hackers who are invading people’s privacy.

And until we have laws, we need to be more responsible ourselves in making sure we don’t put ourselves in situations where people take advantage of us. And the government needs to do a better job of making sure those folks can’t do that.”

The Raleigh News and Observer doesn’t think the topic of leaked nude photos on the internet will come up in Monday’s debate.

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

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NC Music Hall of Fame preps for ceremony at Curb museum

NC Music Hall of Fame preps for ceremony at Curb museum

By Lukas Johnson

Published in: Z Community Sites | Cabarrus | News

  • Meet the inductees: The 2014 N.C. Music Hall of Fame inductees are: Clay Aiken, pop vocalist and 2003 “American Idol” runner-up; Fantasia Barrino, R&B/pop vocalist and 2004 “American Idol” winner; Jimmy Capps, country/bluegrass guitarist and part of The Grand Ole Opry staff band since 1967; The Embers, beach music recording artists that formed in 1958 in Raleigh; Little Eva, pop vocalist known for singing “The Loco-Motion” and “The Turkey Trot”; Lulu Belle and Scotty, known as “The Sweethearts of Country Music” in the 1930s and ’40s; Talmadge “Tab” Smith, a jazz/R&B musician and vocalist who played with Lucky Millinder and Count Basie; Link Wray, a rock ’n’ roll guitarist credited as the inventor of the power chord.
    The Music Hall of Fame’s annual ceremony will be Oct. 16 at The Gem Theatre, 111 West First St., Kannapolis. The induction program starts at 7:15 p.m. Tickets cost $25, and entertainment will be provided by select inductees. Details: 704-934-2320 orwww.NorthCarolinaMusicHallofFame.org.


The 2014 inductees into the N.C. Music Hall of Fame will get a special treat at the ceremony.

They’ll be among the first people to the see the hall’s new home, which won’t open to the public until November. The Hall of Fame is combining with the Curb Museum for Music and Motorsports on Dale Earnhardt Boulevard in Kannapolis.

The hall’s annual induction ceremony will be Oct. 16 at The Gem Theatre in Kannapolis. Tickets are available for the public ceremony, which will run 7:15-10 p.m.

Inductees this year range from “American Idol” finalists Clay Aiken and Fantasia Barrino to the late Link Wray, a rock ’n’ roll guitarist credited as the inventor of the power chord.

The original museum, a renovated city jail at 109 West A St., opened in June 2009. Organizers are in the process of moving exhibits to the new location, which is expected to almost triple the number of exhibits.

Just as the N.C. Music Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony has grown, so have the crowds that visit the Kannapolis museum.

“We have between 450 and 500 visitors per month,” said Eddie Ray, 87, operations director and vice chairman of the hall of fame. “When it first started, it was little to nothing. Now visitors come from Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Asheville and Fayetteville. …”

That’s why Ray recently asked Mike Curb – a longtime supporter of the museum and owner of the Curb Records – for help expanding. After a few conversations, Curb offered to donate some of his museum space.

Without Curb’s support, the Hall of Fame might never have called Kannapolis home.

The Hall of Fame was incorporated by Doug Croft in Thomasville on May 26, 1994, with a goal of commemorating the state’s musical heritage.

Without a permanent location to house memorabilia, the Hall of Fame nevertheless began inducting music movers with connections to the state – including John Coltrane, George Clinton, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson in 1999 and Ronnie Milsap in 2002 – before becoming inactive.

Then, in 2008, Mike Curb provided money to bring the museum to Kannapolis. He bought and renovated the old city jail and used much of his personal memorabilia collection to furnish the museum.

The reactivated Hall of Fame opened June 1, 2009. Since then it has inducted artists in virtually every genre of music, including opera, bluegrass, funk and pop.

Curb and Ray were inducted into the hall in 2009; Curb for his contribution and support of the Hall of Fame, and Ray for his lifetime achievement in the music nonperformer category.

Throughout his 60-year career in the music industry and his rise to the nation’s first African-American executive of a major record company, Ray helped promote hundreds of artists, including B.B. King, Fats Domino and Pink Floyd.

His memoir, “Against All Odds: The Remarkable Life Story of Eddie Ray,” helps preserve little-known facts about the music industry.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College students Anetra Lee, 33, and Deborah Brown, 53, helped research this year’s inductees as part of an internship with the Hall of Fame.

They were both impressed by inductee Link Wray.

“He’s amazing. His outfits, his music,” Lee said.

“Link Wray, when he started out, he got sick,” Brown said. “He had problems with his lungs, and the doctor told him he wouldn’t be able to sing again. But he pushed forward, and he became one of the biggest singer/guitarists.”

Clay Aiken also holds a special spot in Lee’s heart, she said, because he likes to volunteer his time to help students with special needs, a fact she learned during her research.

“Even with his music and fame, he didn’t let that get to him, and he still helps people. … I love that about him,” Lee said.

Brown told a story of how Aiken got inspired to try out for “American Idol.”

A mother of a young boy with autism allowed Aiken into their lives.

“One day, she heard him singing and suggested he try out, … and he did,” she said. “The first time he tried, in Charlotte, he didn’t make it. And she pressured him to go to Atlanta, and that’s where he made it.”

Both Brown and Lee plan to attend the ceremony for the first time. While Brown is looking forward to the older-generation artists, Lee just hopes she’ll be able to walk in her high heels.

“I think if people just came out, they’d see that we have some rich heritage,” Brown said.

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Aiken unveils new sign ahead of debate with Ellmers

Aiken unveils new sign ahead of debate with Ellmers

Posted: Oct 05, 2014 10:36 PM CDT Updated: Oct 06, 2014 6:45 AM CDT

by Derick Waller, WNCN News

APEX, N.C. -

Democratic congressional candidate Clay Aiken is looking to Republicans for help in defeating incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers, but the former American Idol runner up's new signs and stickers are leaving some people scratching their heads.

The new "Republaiken" yard signs and stickers are popping up across the second congressional district. His spokesperson said the new messaging is a way to reach out to everyone and show that even some Republicans are supporting his bid, but critics say Aiken is trying to trick voters into thinking he is a Republican.

"Who are they trying to fool?" N.C. State University political science professor Steven Greene said. "Presumably, Republican voters because it is a district that certainly leans Republican and where a Democrat would hopefully want to make some headway with Republican voters. Presumably, this is a way to try and do that, though I'm dubious on how successful that might be."

A recent Survey USA poll, conducted in partnership with the conservative Civitas Institute, gave Ellmers an eight point lead in the 2nd district race, with a five point margin of error.

Aiken is set to debate Ellmers on Monday in Pinehurst.

Copyright WNCN 2014. All rights reserved.

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Under the Dome blog: Isn't He a Democrat? Lawn Signs Appear with "Republaiken" Slogan

Isn’t he a Democrat? Lawn signs appear with ‘Republaiken’ slogan

Posted by Lynn Bonner on October 3, 2014

What’s a Republaiken?

Lawn signs have been popping up in the 2nd Congressional District sporting a mash-up between the word Republican and the last name of Democratic candidate Clay Aiken. That’s “Republaiken” written in blue and red. Most of “aiken” is in red.

The district’s incumbent, U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, mentioned Aiken’s signs at a Republican Women’s Club meeting this week.

“Guess what? This week he’s Republican,” said Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn. “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a campaign like this. Be all things to all people. You have to be who you are.”

The state Republican Party was more blunt, putting out a press release titled “Fakin’ Clay Aiken attempts to trick voters with yard signs.”

The 2nd Congressional District was drawn to give a Republican candidate the advantage. Though Aiken has widespread name recognition as a former “American Idol” contestant, he’s widely considered to be a longshot candidate.

Aiken is not trying to mislead voters into thinking he’s a Republican, said Tucker Middleton, his campaign spokeswoman. The signs represent the theme of Aiken’s campaign – that he wants to represent everyone, she said.

“People across the district are really frustrated because they feel like they’re not being represented right now,” Middleton said.

The signs are a “big hit,” she said. “I think it says a lot that the Ellmers campaign and her party leaders are upset over some clever yard signs.”

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

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Ellmers, Aiken Clash in Lively Debate

Ellmers, Aiken clash in lively debate

Posted: Oct 06, 2014 12:20 PM CDTUpdated: Oct 06, 2014 6:01 PM CDT

by WNCN Staff


Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers and Democratic challenger Clay Aiken engaged in a spirited debate Monday in Pinehurst as they battled for the right to represent the 2nd Congressional District in Congress.

The district, which was re-drawn by the GOP-led legislature in 2011, is heavily Republican. A recent poll by the conservative Civitas said Ellmers had an 8-point lead in the race.

Ellmers repeatedly called Aiken “an entertainer,” a reference to his singing career and “American Idol” runner-up. And Aiken fired back that Ellmers was a contributor to a “do-nothing Congress” with a culture of not cooperating.

"It's almost as if as an entertainer, you believe you can just go in with a song and dance," Ellmers said to Aiken, a former American Idol runner-up.

“"She's good at calling me an entertainer. But she cannot say she's working for the people of the 2nd District," Aiken shot back.

Ellmers had tough words for President Barack Obama, and for Senate leader Harry Reid.

She said Obama “has to stop telling our enemies what he will do and what he won't do.”

On sending in ground troops, Ellmers said she would send ground troops if called on to vote. She called ISIS “the most brutal, heinous group we've ever seen.

“I believe as [President Ronald] Reagan did – peace through strength,” Ellmer said.

Aiken said Ellmers is changing her mind on ground troops and said the military “is against sending ground troops.”

“These things are fluid,” Ellmers told Aiken. “Maybe as an entertainer, you're not aware of that.”

Aiken, meanwhile, said this is a “do-nothing Congress” and repeatedly said that House Speaker John Boehner is Ellmers' “boss.” Ellmers responded that the people of the 2nd District "are my boss."

And, referring to concerns that little is getting done in Congress, Ellmers said, “We have 400 bipartisan bills passed in the House that are sitting on Harry Reid's desk.”

Aiken raised concerns about the “thousands of children stuck in holding patterns at the border.”

“I don't know whether citizenship is the answer,” he said. “I don't believe they should be deported.”

Aiken accused Ellmers of being a part of a Congress that has achieved little.

“Congress has done nothing to help improve the economy,” he said.

He added, “This culture of not talking to each other in Washington is disgusting.”

Aiken shot back, “I have to disagree that there isn't bipartisanship. Maybe that's just what people see in the 24-hour news cycle.”

Aiken also scoffed when Ellmers made a reference to the “Obama-Aiken” economy.

On the issue of gay marriage, Ellmers said, “I can't predict the future. I believe in marriage between one man and one woman.”

Aiken, on the issue, said, “This is not why I'm running for Congress. We'll just have to see.”

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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Ellmers, Aiken trade barbs in lone debate

Ellmers, Aiken trade barbs in lone debate

Posted 1:31 p.m. yesterday

Updated 4:27 p.m. yesterday

By Mark Binker

PINEHURST, N.C. — Republican 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers and her Democratic challenger, singer Clay Aiken, clashed Monday during an hour-long debate in Pinehurst, each accusing the other of being too closely bound to their party leadership.

The debate, hosted by the North Carolina Bankers Association and Capitol Broadcasting Co., was the first and only head-to-head meeting between the two candidates as Election Day approaches.

The debate airs at 7 p.m. Monday on WRAL and 11 p.m. on WRAZ Fox 50 and will be available on WRAL.com.

Ellmers repeatedly criticized President Barack Obama’s policies on immigration, health care and the economy and linked him to Aiken, who is a first-time candidate.

“This Obama-Aiken economy is just killing us,” Ellmers said when asked if Congress was doing enough to spark economic growth.

Aiken retorted that the linkage was “preposterous” and that it has been partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C., that was to blame for many of the nation’s problems. He said that Ellmers was beholden to House Speaker John Boehner to the point where she changed her position on major policy issues because he did.

“Whoever is speaker would never be my boss, and it’s a shame that you still believe Speaker Boehner is your boss,” Aiken said.

Often, the two candidates found common ground on policy, but they split on how best to push through legislation.

Ellmers also took swings at Aiken for naiveté, suggesting at several points that he did not understand the legislative process.

“It’s almost as if, as an entertainer, you think that means you can go in with a song and dance and change the minds of our military leaders,” Ellmers said in response to a questions about bolstering care in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Aiken returned to the theme of a “do-nothing Congress,” saying, “The most embarrassing reality show in the country right now is Congress.”

Afterward, he said that Ellmers attacked his biography because she had nothing substantive to say.

Ellmers said after the debate, “That is his opinion. He is an entertainer. He is an actor…that’s how the people of the 2nd District know him.”

Read more at http://www.wral.com/...iMsV74rXsbkx.99

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Aiken, Ellmers Discuss Economy, 440th Airlift Wing at First Debate in District 2 Race

Aiken, Ellmers discuss economy, 440th Airlift Wing at first debate in District 2 race

By Paige Rentz Staff writer | Posted: Monday, October 6, 2014 1:53 pm


Clay Aiken and Renee Ellmers

Clay Aiken, left, and Renee Ellmers take part in their first televised debate in Pinehurst, NC Monday, October 6, 2017. At right is moderator David Crabtree of WRAL.

PINEHURST - Rep. Renee Ellmers and Clay Aiken met in their first televised debate today, and each tried to align the other more closely with their respective parties.

Ellmers, a Dunn Republican and former nurse, is seeking her third term in Washington representing North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District. Aiken, a Cary Democrat and well-known entertainer, is attempting to unseat Ellmers in his first foray into politics.

They debated this morning during the N.C. Bankers Association Management Team Conference at the Pinehurst Resort.

Ellmers repeatedly jabbed at Aiken's past as an entertainer and at points tried to paint him as naive.

In responding to criticism from Aiken that she didn't act quickly enough to save the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg, Ellmers said as an entertainer, perhaps Aiken believed "you can just go in with a song and dance and change the minds of our military leaders," but it doesn't work that way.

Aiken took every opportunity to tell the audience that Ellmers believes House Speaker John Boehner is her boss, focusing heavily on the "do-nothing Congress" and the need for more bipartisan cooperation among elected officials sent to Washington.

"This culture of people not even talking to each other is disgusting. ... I do not subscribe to any sort of notion that I'm there to represent any party," he said.

Ellmers called Aiken a rubber stamp for President Obama, at one point saying "this Obama-Aiken economy is killing us."

But Aiken said the White House and other Democrats are not above the future of partisanship, and said his views diverged in many areas, including the 2nd Amendment and fiscal responsibility.

Ellmers and Aiken cited jobs and the economy as top issues for voters in the 2nd District and beyond. Although the unemployment rate is dropping and economy is improving, Aiken said, "I don't think anybody is happy about how quickly it's dropping ... and how quickly the economy is growing."

But the lagging recovery, he said, is part of an umbrella issue: "We have people in Congress who are not doing anything," he said.

Ellmers said that despite the improvement, "there are plenty of areas in District 2 that are not seeing any sense of recovery, and we have to continue to work on this issue."

If voters send her back to Washington, Ellmers said, she'll continue "fighting for good, strong, conservative principles."

The debate will be aired on WRAL tonight at 7.

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

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Aiken, Ellmers Draw on Current Events, Stale One-Liners During Debate

Aiken, Ellmers draw on current events and stale one-liners during debate

Posted 6:33 p.m. yesterday

Updated 7:36 p.m. yesterday


By Mark Binker

PINEHURST, N.C. — Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers and Clay Aiken, her Democratic challenger for North Carolina's 2nd District congressional race were certainly feisty in their first and only debate Monday, riffing off both current events as well as well-honed one-liners from early in President Barack Obama's presidency.

Ellmers is a two-term incumbent and former nurse. Aiken is a first-time candidate best known for his run on American Idol.

For those watching the exchanges who might need some more background or a quick fact check, here are notes on some of the more contentious, strange and strained exchanges.

Boots on the ground

Moderator and WRAL News anchor David Crabtree opened the debate by asking Ellmers and Aiken if they backed Obama's current strategy of air strikes on the Islamic State – the extremist group known as ISIS that is taking over territory in Syria and Iraq – and if they would vote to send ground troops.

The question drew out one of the clearest policy differences between the two candidates.

"I do believe we need to continue those folks on the ground right now, the Iraqi army, the rebels in Syria, in pushing back against ISIS," Aiken said. "ISIS is a threat, (but) it's not currently a threat to U.S. soil, but we don't want it to become a threat … I don't believe the U.S. should be policing the entire world."

He emphasized he has not yet seen evidence that would convince him to back sending ground troops.

Ellmers, by contrast, said she would vote to send troops into Iraq and Syria if called upon to vote on such a measure.

"This is something that President Obama has known about for quite some time. His military advisers have been advising him for quite some time on the threat of (ISIS). Remember back in 2012, President Obama said we were victorious in Iraq – and that's where this started. So the emergence of this very brutal group has come up as a result of that. Yes, the United States needs to be there," Ellmers said, pointing to a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to fund aid for Syrian rebel groups who are opposed both to ISIS and the current regime.

"For the longest time, President Obama has been speaking to the world – he went out on an apology tour when he was first elected – and he basically said to our enemies, 'We're no threat to you,' and to our allies, 'You can't trust us.' We've got to rebuild that trust."

Apology Tour?

Soon after he was sworn in as president in 2009, Obama did go on trips abroad making stops in, among other places, Turkey and Egypt. The theme of those speeches were generally bridging divisions between nations and rebuilding relationships with people and countries who viewed the United States with suspicion. During an April, 2009 speech before the Turkish parliament, for example, Obama said, "The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam." Republicans labeled this an "apology tour," saying that it projected weakness into the world.

For what it's worth, Politifact and other fact-checking organizations gave 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney "Pants on Fire" ratings when they looked at the "apology tour" claim. However, the term has remained popular in GOP circles and will be widely understood by GOP partisans.

ISIS in the US

In a follow-up to her answers, Ellmers suggested that the ISIS ideology had already spread to the United States.

"As far as policing the world or the threat to the United States, we've already had a situation pop up in Oklahoma where a gentleman, who identifies with the Muslim League, has done a very heinous crime," she said. "If beheadings of Americans is not a call to action, I'm not sure what will be for you (Aiken)."

Ellmers was referring to the case of Alton Alexander Nolen, 30, who is charged with beheading a coworker. Nolen reportedly converted to Islam in prison. According to a police statement, after interviewing Nolen’s former co-workers, 'information was obtained that he recently started trying to convert several employees to the Muslim religion,'" reported The Washington Post.

However, foreign policy experts say it's doubtful that he was acting at the behest of anyone within the ISIS hierarchy. Rather, it's more likely he was a disturbed "lone wolf" copying acts he had seen elsewhere.

"That guy didn't act out on any political motivation," David Schanzer director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill, said during an interview for a story on foreign policy in the U.S. Senate campaign. "He copied a tactic that's been used elsewhere to act out his rage."

Immigration, bipartisanship and who's the boss?

One of the testiest turns between Ellmers and Aiken came when Crabtree asked the candidates about immigration and securing the border with Mexico.

"We have continuously voted for legislation to secure that border. There are laws in place now that could secure our border. We have the technology," Ellmers said. "You mentioned the areas that you wouldn't really be able to have a physical presence, we have the technology ... we are highly technically capable of making sure this border can be taken care of. It's just a question of 'Will the president act?'"

Aiken said that House Republicans had failed to act to curb the border crisis.

"This absolute do-nothing Congress that we see right now has had multiple opportunities," Aiken said. "The congresswoman has talked about bills that have been passed in the House, but she neglected to talk about the immigration reform bill that was passed in the Senate with broad bipartisan support that has not been taken up in the House."

That prompted Ellmers to retort that Aiken seemed confused on what office he was running for.

"You seem to be concerned, or a little confused, as to whether or not you would be doing your job in the Senate or in the House of Representatives," she said. "You would be in the House of Representatives if you were elected, and Nancy Pelosi would be the one that you would vote for for Speaker – who would your boss while in Washington."

Pelosi is the current House minority leader and former House Speaker from California.


Aiken was referring to an immigration bill that did pass the Senate 68-32 in June and which Senate Democrats have regularly called on House Republicans to take up.

As Aiken acknowledged, Republicans have offered their own immigration bill but have, so far, refused to take up the Senate measure. The two chambers have been at loggerheads.

So, although Ellmers might have scored a rhetorical point by calling Aiken "confused," he was substantively on point.

Who is the boss?

Aiken didn't seem shaken by Ellmers' civic lesson, but he took umbrage at the suggestion that he would follow a "boss" if elected.

"Nancy Pelosi would not be my boss, unlike John Boehner would be your boss. I have never said who I would vote for for speaker," Aiken said. "Whoever the Speaker is would never be my boss. And it's a shame that you still believe that John Boehner is your boss."

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, is the current House Speaker.

Aiken was actually referencing a knock leveled at Ellmers by conservatives during primaries, citing prior occasions when she said reportedly said the Boehner was her "boss."

In reality, both Aiken and Ellmers riffed on a theme of connecting their opponents to unpopular party leaders. Aiken's effort to link Ellmers to Boehner played to informed Democrats and independent voters who wouldn't like the idea of the Republican incumbent towing the party line.

Meanwhile, Ellmers did her best throughout the debate to connect Aiken to Obama, who opinion polls show is unpopular in the second district.

"This Obama-Aiken economy is just killing us," Ellmers said at one point.

Repeal or reform Obamacare?

Another snappy exchange came over the Affordable Care Act, what some people call Obamacare, and Republican efforts to do away with the law.

Ellmers called the law a "total deception," a reference to statements by Obama and other Democrats that the ACA would let people keep their existing insurance plans and doctors. Those promises turned out to not be correct.

Aiken shot back that rather than try to fix the laws, Republicans decided to be unproductive and attempt repeals.

"Fifty-five times you could have fixed that problem, and you didn't fix it, because you took a vote, which you just sat here and said a minute ago, won't pass," Aiken said. "You're wasting taxpayer money, and you're wasting taxpayer time by not sitting down and doing things the Senate has already said they're willing to do … That frustrates me."

Ellmers responded to what she called Aiken's "theatrics," but saying the House had not just been voting on repeals.

"It is not Republicans who continuously talk about those votes being repeals, it is Democrats. It is Harry Reid, it is Barack Obama, which you support. You support Obamacare," Ellmers replied. "We have continuously voted to reform it...It is not Republicans that have called these 55 votes repeals. It's Democrats."

In March, The Washington Post put out a handy list of the then-54 votes on the ACA in the House since the health care bill became law. Many of those measures would have had the effect of taking funding away from the law or otherwise blocking its implementation.

Repealing the law has been a key piece of many GOP campaign pledges.

As for how the votes have been characterized, Ellmers herself wrote a letter to Senate Leader Harry Reid in June 2012 saying "This week, the House will again vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act." And she said in 2013 that she would "work tirelessly to repeal and replace this terrible law".

440th Air Wing

During an exchange over military spending, Aiken and Ellmers had an exchange that might be difficult to follow for those not living in the Fort Bragg area.

The clash came over the 440th Airlift Wing, a unit of cargo planes that military leaders had slated to close. Post officials and community leaders have urged lawmakers to act to save the wing.

Aiken accused Ellmers of acting too late to put forward an amendment that would have saved the wing.

"Actually, Mr. Aiken is incorrect in that. I'm not sure where you get your very high-quality information, but that is not the way it played out. In fact, we were aware of the situation from the beginning," Ellmers said.

Aiken appears to be referencing a Fayetteville Observer story that detailed Congressional efforts to save the wing of cargo airplanes.

"Ellmers introduced her amendment earlier this week," the paper reported. "It was a bipartisan move co-sponsored by Democrats David Price and Mike McIntyre and Republican Richard Hudson. But the amendment was submitted late, according to the House Armed Services Committee."

Others stories said that Ellmers' amendment "beat a deadline" to make it into a defense authorization bill. Either way, it does not appear the language with regard to the 440th made it in the version of that bill passed by the House.

Senator Kay Hagan, D-N.C., has put forward a similar amendment to the Senate version of the measure, but it's unclear when the bill will come to a floor vote.

Read more at http://www.wral.com/...KpjHlDPpluo6.99

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Ellmers Dismissive of Aiken in Debate; Aiken Says She's What's Wrong with Congress

Ellmers dismissive of Aiken in debate; Aiken says she's part of what's wrong with Congress


lbonner@newsobserver.com October 6, 2014 Updated 4 hours ago

PINEHURST — Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers and Democratic challenger Clay Aiken clashed repeatedly in an hourlong debate Monday in the contest to represent the 2nd Congressional District.

Ellmers, the two-term incumbent from Dunn, dismissively referred to Aiken several times as an “entertainer” and implied he didn’t understand Washington.

Aiken rose to fame as an “American Idol” contestant. This is his first run for office.

“You just can’t go in with a song and dance,” she said. “That’s not the way it works.”

Aiken said Ellmers does what Republican House Speaker John Boehner tells her to, at the expense of 2nd District interests.

“It’s a shame that you still believe that John Boehner is your boss,” he said.

The debate covered a range of topics including foreign policy and combating the Islamic State, military spending, immigration, the Affordable Care Act, cybersecurity, same-sex marriage and jobs. Moderator David Crabtree gave the candidates considerable leeway, which resulted in a freewheeling exchange of criticism. It was taped Monday afternoon and aired on WRAL.

Ellmers was a nurse for 20 years before she won the congressional seat campaigning against the Affordable Care Act, which she calls Obamacare. After her victory in 2010 over a veteran Democrat, the legislature redrew the district to make it easier for a Republican candidate to win. The district is shaped like a lopsided-U covering all or parts of nine counties in the central part of the state. The district includes precincts in the western Wake suburbs, parts of Harnett and Chatham, Fort Bragg, and Moore County and its retirement communities.

Just as Aiken tried to tie Ellmers to Boehner and a Congress with few accomplishments, Ellmers attempted to link Aiken to President Barack Obama – who twice has lost in the district by wide margins – and to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In an exchange on job creation, Ellmers referred to the unsteady “Obama-Aiken economy.”

Aiken replied that Ellmers needed a better writer. “To call this the Obama-Aiken economy is preposterous,” he said. “I have nothing to do with President Obama, and I can find several areas where I disagree with him.”

As hard as Ellmers tried to link Aiken and Obama, Aiken tried to pull away, saying for example, that he did not agree with everything Obama was doing to combat the Islamic State.

Aiken said he supports airstrikes, but “would not support sending ground troops at this time.”

Ellmers said Obama was slow to react to the Islamic State threat, but Congress has approved of his plan to arm Syrian rebels.

“We have to remember who we’re dealing with here,” she said. “This is the most brutal, heinous group we have ever seen, and we have to make sure that we’re doing everything we can do possibly to support our allies.”

If it came to a vote, Ellmers said, she would vote to send in ground troops.

Aiken said Ellmers “changed her tune” on sending ground troops into the region after Boehner said it might be necessary.

“To hear Congresswoman Ellmers change her tune because her party leader changed his tune is concerning,” Aiken said. “The military, right now, is overwhelmingly against sending ground troops.”

Ellmers replied that Aiken didn’t understand the fluidity of the situation. “John Boehner may be the Speaker of the House, the people of the 2nd District are my boss,” she said. “I’m reapplying for this job.”

Hours after the news broke that the U.S. Supreme Court would not hear same-sex marriage appeals, the candidates gave muted responses to the question of whether they could “see the day” when gay marriage is legal in the state.

Voters in 2012 overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Aiken, who is gay, used the question to mention that both he and Ellmers opposed the state amendment.

“I think the voters have spoken,” he said. “That’s certainly not why I’m running.”

Ellmers said she believes that marriage is between one man and one woman but thought that the state amendment may have gone too far in banning civil unions.

“I believe, especially as a Republican, that the government can be too intrusive in all of our lives,” she said.

After the debate she said, “I, like every citizen, am sitting back to know what happens” with gay marriage.


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What We Saw After the Debate at Pinehurst

Thanks to the North Carolina Bankers' Association, our class was able to attend the televised debate between Rep. Renee Ellmers and Clay Aiken. As it turned out, we didn't attend the actual debate. Although we got to the registration desk 10 minutes before it started, WRAL had closed the doors to the room at 11:22 and wasn't allowing anyone in. My students didn't complain or say anything mean to me. Instead, they decided to wait around the Pinehurst lobby and wait to watch the after-debate activities.

We followed the debate via twitter and waited for everyone to come out. We followed the TV cameras and microphones who were gathered on the hotel's front porch. As we understood it, Clay Aiken had offered to meet them outside, something which he did a few minutes later. He answered their questions, his campaign person signalled him, and they followed him to a car in front of the hotel. He hopped into the passenger seat and drove away.

The cameras then went to find Rep. Ellmers who was supposed to make herself available second, only it appeared that no one knew where she was . There were two Ellmers aides present, neither of them could tell the press when and where to find Ellmers other than the fact that she was supposed to be in the “Green Room” or if she was going to make herself available for questions. Earlier in the day, one of her people had told our class that Rep. Ellmers was scheduled to make another appearance immediately after the debate, a group of Republican business women (I think). As it happened, our class had stopped by the “Green Room”, a hotel meeting room that's not actually called the “Green Room” and that was scheduled to be used by a group of Bankers at that time. It turned out that Rep. Ellmers was in the restroom across the hall from the Green Room.

The media folk stood in a mass in the open space outside the Green Room and waited for Rep. Ellmers to emerge. My students saw the un-fun side of public life, the press watis for you while you're going to the bathroom. It's hard to say how long the press waited for Rep Ellmers while she was in the bathroom. It was at least five minutes , but may have been as long as fifteen.

When she came out, she seemed surprised by the prexence of the assembled media, even though it's customary to talk to the press after a televised debate. In fact, candidates usually want to talk to the press to have a chance to spin the event and amplify their message. The first question came from the WRAL reporter about her calling Clay Aiken an entertainer and Mr. Aiken's response in his press briefing that it was her way of dealing with the fact that she had nothing of substance to say. Rep. Ellmers first said she didn't hear the question. He repeated his quiestion and she said she was a “nurse” and yes, in fact, Clay Aiken had been on a game show and was an entertainer. She did not, however, use the opportunity to elaborate on the matters of substance she did address in the debate.

Here's the interesting thing for my class. I checked the media reports about the debate and every single one of them used the “entertainer” line as their lead while many quoted Clay Aiken's repeated assertion that Rep. Ellmers' had publicly referred to John Boehner, the Speaker of the House, as her boss, something she did not deny during the debate. No one reported the fact that it took several minutes to find Rep. Ellmers after the event and that once “located”, she spent anywhere from 5-15 minutes in the ladies room.

When I asked the media what they though it meant that the Congresswoman wasn't readily available after the debate, I got smiles. No one reported it as far as I know. I also haven't seen anyone fact check whether Rep. Ellmers did publicly call John Boehner 'her boss', as a rank and file Republican congresswoman, he is her boss btw. There was also a second factual matter that came up in the debate that I haven't seen fact-checked.

I've asked the class to see if they can find either. I've also asked them why the “bathroom” thing isn't considered worth reporting. It's certainly a fact, though there could be any number of reasons she needed to be in the ladies room at that moment. I would, however, say it was also clear that no one including Rep. Ellmer's people seeemed to know if she was going to make herself available to the press after the event.

Is this a standard thing? Does our local media not report a “fact” because they want to avoid any accusation of bias. Why don't factual disputes in a televised debate get fact-checked immediatley by the local media the next morning? Why is the lead “Ellmers twice refers to Aiken as an entertainer” ? Fwiw, Aiken's experience on TV seemed to help him in the press sessions afterwards. He knew that he would look better outdoors. He knew how to look into the different cameras after one cameraman jokingly suggested that he stare directly into his station's camera. The class reviewed their own movie (we'll try to post it) of the event and the light-colored walls combined with the glare of the lights for the camera arguably isn't flattering. It's also noticeable in the movie we have that Rep. Ellmers was looking down instead of at the cameras while answering the media's questions.

What did my high school students learn from this? What should journalists report? Should the rbe restricted to what was televised in the debate itself or can they comment about things that publicly happened or didn't happen after the event, the part the general public didn't get to see on TV.?


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Clay Aiken on Why He's Running, His Chances, and the Issues Important to Him

Clay Aiken on why he’s running, his chances and the issues important to him

Posted on October 7, 2014

Clay Aiken, Democratic candidate for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District, met with the editorial board today. Here’s a short video of the 45-minute discussion. His No. 1 focus? Veterans and the struggles they face after they leave the service. Why does he believe he can win in the red district? Because so few Republicans actually like U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers. If you missed today’s coverage of the Aiken-Ellmers debate, read it here. Here are my notes from the meeting. They are NOT verbatim.

CLAY AIKEN: Renee Ellmers is not very well-liked. Her approval ratings have been 17 percent. They’re not good. People are going to vote for her because she’s a Republican, but no one is eager to have her back. Her ability to raise money from individuals is limited. Her ability to raise from PACS seems to be limited. There are super PACS, but there’s a finite number. There becomes an end to it.

Q: Out on the trail, what do people say about her? What are the problems?

AIKEN: There’s a problem with a lot of things. Constituent services. I know it because people tell me. I know it because people in this district have to compare her to who they had before. Bob Etheridge was great at constituent services. Howard Coble was great at it.

She’s not very available and not very accessible. Even people who do talk to her oftentimes get berated. There are videos of her in Randolph County, her people calling them idiots, saying they don’t have any facts. Her constituent services are bad, but her willingness to talk to people also is bad.

I was just with the Randolph County tea party last week, and they don’t agree with me on much ...

Q: You were? Why?

AIKEN: Because of the same question you asked. Constituent services and how people see her. I told them we aren’t going to agree on a lot of stuff. I grew up admiring Terry Sanford, David Price. Both of them came to my eighth-grade class. I liked politics growing up. One of the things I liked about politics or appreciate and have a historical reference about is people being approachable. I know I’m not going to tell them everything they want to hear, but I don’t disagree with them on the Second Amendment, too much. I don’t disagree with them, too much, on border control. We aren’t going to change the others mind, but I say I’m here to listen to you. My campaign gets upset when we go to tea party events because I end up staying there talking to them more than anybody else.

(About going to a tea party booth at a county fair): They don’t like her. They want someone who’s going to listen to them. I think some of them would like to see her lose, see me win and have Frank Roche run against me the next time. There’s a lot of distaste for Renee Ellmers. We know the Republican Party is split, and we know a lot of them are unhappy with her.

Q: You’ve made the rounds in the district. What’s the common theme?

AIKEN: People hate politics. They’re sick of it. There are a few things that make this race unique from every other congressional race in the country, why that distaste for Congress will work for me here. We have an incumbent people don’t like. Most people who hate Congress like their own congress person. People hate Congress but like David Price. They hate Congress and they also do like Renee Ellmers. It’s one of the reasons why this is different from other races.

It’s Raleigh. It’s not a federal issue. One of the reasons Kay Hagan is having an easier time than people worried she would is people are sick and tired of what happened on Jones Street. The Democrats are energized and fired up. They’re more willing to vote this year than in years past because they’ve seen what happens when they don’t.

The school board race in 2009. Schools were great here growing up, love them. Nobody paid attention to school board races. Then in 2009 outside voices came in, and you know what happened. I was worried about it. Then in 2011, even an area that elected Ron Margiotta when the rest of the board was Democratic, even they turned him out. People showed up and said I had been complacent, and look what happens. In North Carolina, I don’t just believe but see historically how that’s worked. People are saying my state is the valley of humility between two mountains of conceit. My state has usually been well run, and I sat down in 2010 and didn’t do anything. I sat out more than I should have in 20112 and I’m sick of it. People are tired of Raleigh. People are very disappointed and discouraged. People are kind of like, what the heck? I talk to people who normally vote Democratic but are so tired of voting because it doesn’t matter who they vote for. The thing people ask more than anything, they say I hope you win but when you get up there don’t turn into what everybody else turns into.

Q: Why are you a Democrat?

AIKEN: I’m a Democrat. I’m not going to be a Republican just because it’s a Republican district. I believe government has a role and a responsibility to make sure that people have equal opportunity, that people aren’t left behind. I see a role for government. Can it get too big or unwieldy? Sure. I don’t know whether I agree with not being able to get anything done if I’m a freshman congressman in the minority. If you’re there, you’re supposed to represent home, and you have to have a microphone in order to do it. If you’re just one of 435, if you’re a freshman in the minority, you might not be able to get much done. If I’m able to be successful in this race, I have a microphone most don’t get. Even if I’m a freshman in the minority, that platform doesn’t go away. CSPAN didn’t run the Renee Ellmers and Bob Etheridge debate in 2010. They did it this time because people are interested in paying attention. It’s not that I’m famous, but my platform has allowed me to be able to talk about things that are important to me and get people to pay attention. I can still take that platform with me, speak up about things important here, that get lost in the cacophony of 434 other people.

Q; What are those issues you would use that platform for?

AIKEN: I came into this race with things that were important to me. Jobs, the economy are important. We have to invest in things that will get people back to work. I came in with a passion for education. The student interest rate and student debt are embarrassing. I don’t agree with testing and paying teachers based on test scores. I also recognize that veteran issues were important. I have a brother who is a Marine, and I’ve learned in the past nine months how much worse it is than I knew it was. If you live in Fayetteville, you see it more than if you live in Randolph County. The veteran issues for me have been the most glaringly lacking as far as resources go. That transition between active duty and the VA., I’ve likened it to jumping from one bank of a river to another bank of the river. If you’re in the military, you’ve been (told everything to do) for four years. (When you get out) you can’t go to the DOD and ask for advice or back to the commanding officer you listened to for four years. The homeless problem I see as a result of that gap, people who can’t bridge that gap, they end up homeless, drug abuse, they can’t get a job because, with the skills from the military, they should translate into civilian jobs, but there’s a language barrier. The civilians can’t speak military. There’s a lot that needs to be done with the transition, where VA services come in earlier. I’d like to see DOD end a little later. Exploring the possibility of vets going back to where it’s safe, comfortable, they understand the language. They do whatever they can to get out. That’s another reason we have mental health issues. If they ask whether you have nightmares, flashbacks, and they say yes, they’re going to keep you, and all you want is to get out, so you say no. Then they fall into the river.

Let’s have some sort of overlap there. Veterans issues are probably the thing I find to be the most pressing specific to this district. Burr is the only person on a VA committee, and he’s in the Senate. No one in North Carolina is on the House veteran committee. That’s pretty bad. I’d want to have a seat on that.

Q: What was the process for your deciding to run?

AIKEN: It was about a year. I had some friends who live in the area, from the area, who pay attention to the political process. I didn’t even know I was in this district in 2012, with all of the changes. I didn’t know until I got the ballot on Election Day. I was, where’s David Price’s name? After it was over, and she had won, I was frustrated with the whole gerrymandered thing. I talked about it more than I should have, because they said, have you ever considered running? I joked about it in high school. I never really considered it something I wanted to do after that. I said not really, it’s probably not something I’m going to do right now. They kept saying you should do it, you should do it, you should do it. The DCCC encouraged me to run. They didn’t think it had much viability unless they had someone to bring to it. Not that Renee Ellmers has a lot of support. I still didn’t do it right away. It took me about nine months. They piled me with stats, about how Elaine Marshall had won the district, Roy Cooper won this district in this configuration. That helped a little bit. I was still hesitant. I let them send me information. I don’t take on anything without deliberate thought. It was a slow burn. Alot of talking to people. Getting a sense from people as to how they felt. The mood has not changed much. People still hate Congress. Still hate nothing gets done. It was not until the shutdown happened that I said OK, I’ll do this. This may be a good use of my energy, a responsible use of that whole platform. When the shutdown happened? Are you kidding me? Her paycheck comment put me over the edge. We already knew you weren’t paying attention. For her to say something like that and unapologetically do it? I’ve seen it’s winnable. It’s not just that they are disillusioned with Washington, not just disillusioned with Renee Ellmers. I have a strategic understanding that this is not as red a district as people think it is. It’s a red district but it’s an independent district, too. There’s an independent bent to the district. They happened to have voted Republican from the last cycles, because they liked the person. But I happen to think I’m likable.

Q: What’s going on with your entertainment career?

AIKEN: I’m certainly not going to be touring while I’m running for office. It’s been on hold whole time I’ve been running. It had to be a decision I made. I have friends in the entertainment world who came on board and said I’ll help you out. And I’ve had some who said I’ll help you, but I can’t get involved. As soon as you put D or R behind your name, people are going to hate you. I realize there may not be a chance to go back to what I did before. I’ve already gotten people who don’t like me now simply because I’m a Democrat. I recognized that as part of the yearlong deliberation process. Am I OK with it? I may not be able to go back to my singing profession. It’s improbable I’ll be able to do it in the same way.

Q: You mentioned jobs. What would you do?

AIKEN: That hasn’t already been done? Things that have been attempted on a smaller scale could be done on a larger scale. Infrastructure is an issue. Southwest of Siler City, there’s a megasite that’s almost ready to bring in auto manufacturing, and one reason it’s almost ready is it does have infrastructure to support something like that. There’s another site in the Liberty area that’s got land but not infrastructure to make it available. The issue is, No. 1, how to put people back to work right away. If we invest in infrastructure, you make an environment conducive to creating jobs. Cutting payroll taxes in half to incentivize businesses to hire more folks. Then education for me is a big part of it.

Education to make sure people are able to get trained to do new types of jobs. If you’re 50 years old and worked in textiles your entire life, you don’t want to learn something else, or pay to learn to do something else, especially if the interest rate, thanks to Rep. Ellmers, is going to be 10.5 percent.

Caterpillar and Central Carolina Community College have a partnership. If you’ll train these students for us, they’re all but guaranteed a job. People Lee High School go across the street and get trained. It’s a year longer than high school, but they’re ready to go into jobs with starting salaries of $50,000. That’s a good job. So not just infrastructure, but making the tax structure simpler but also training people for those new jobs. Since we continue to allow tax breaks for companies to ship their jobs overseas, those jobs may not come back. We have to make sure people are trained to do new stuff so we can get a company to come in. We can’t do that unless these folks are getting the right kind of education.

Q: Eric Cantor. He was supposed to be as shoe-in. Have you talked to his campaign about anything he learned? Was it because he was disliked?

AIKEN: Have I talked to them? No. Was he disliked? Certainly. He had the same pollster Renee Ellmers does, so numbers may be wrong there, too. He just wasn’t home. He wasn’t around. He wasn’t home enough to recognize he was in trouble. That’s part of my message. I’m not an idiot. I know this isn’t a Democratic district. I got it. I recognize people don’t like Congress. People are tired of it. People are tired of, I don’t want to say arrogance, but an unattractive overconfidence.

Q: Have you campaigned with the president? Would you?

AIKEN: I don’t think he’s coming down. I’M not worried about his asking me. I have to do this on my own. I got here on a lot of coattails. I know that. It’s a Republican district. I recognize the race I’m running, but even if that weren’t the case, I was able to use "American Idol" to get here in the first place. One problem is people don’t see me as capable of doing things on my own. I’ve got to do it by myself. The reason I don’t sing is I don’t want people to see me only in that box. If I sing, I go back in the box. People have to see me stand on my own two feet, that I understand the issues, that I’m talking about them and talking to them. I don’t want them to vote for me because I’m famous but because I’m passionate and qualified, and they see it.

Q: What did you think of what happened with the Supreme Court and gay marriage?

AIKEN: I think they figured they needed to keep hands off it for now. They left it as a state issue. Am I disappointed? No. John Roberts is thinking about his legacy, right? A lot of people don’t like the court making decisions. I have respect for that. They have no dissenting views from appellate courts right now. If they all rule the same way, they don’t need to get involved, do they? They’ve decided they’re going to let this play out. I think that’s responsible.

Q: Did the DCCC recruit you? Funding you?

AIKEN: They were certainly being aggressive, so maybe so. The Democrats have a lot of trouble this year. We’re on their emerging list. They’ve got trouble elsewhere. It’s not a good year for Democrats. They’re spending their money this year on making sure people don’t get kicked out, that they don’t lose their seats. They’re having to spend their resources there. We’re making a lot of progress without that. I can’t use the word recruit, but the reason they were eager for me to run is the possibility to pick up a seat where they didn’t have to do as much heavy lifting as elsewhere. Getting me to run meant potentially picking up a seat that they didn’t have to do as much with someone with this platform.

Q: You say you’re a moderate Democrat, but your PAC support is pretty traditional liberal groups. The teachers. Unions.

AIKEN: I think there are workers in this state who are not being treated well. When workers are paid well, talking about the minimum wage, when workers do well, everyone does well, I support that. I don’t think that’s a liberal cause. The reason it’s not a conservative cause, or considered one, is it doesn’t always directly help the bottom line of corporations. My opponent tends to like big corporations more than workers. I don’t think it’s a liberal or a conservative cause. There are certainly union members who are not Democrats, and there are absolutely teachers who are not Democrats, but they don’t want to be treated the way Raleigh is treating them. They know I’m upset with how they’re being treated. I don’t think that’s a liberal or conservative cause. It’s a PAC that has a mission and protects teachers, protects education, and I’m strongly for that.

Q: Final thoughts?

AIKEN: I’m frustrated with nothing getting done. I’m frustrated that people like I grew up admiring like Terry Sanford are not still around. There are moments when I find myself speaking more highly of Jesse Helms than I ever thought I would in my life. Even though I didn’t agree with him much, he told the truth. He was honest.

I miss folks who I didn’t agree with but did what they’d say they’d do. I wasn’t always happy with what Jesse Helms did, but Helms did what he said he’d do, and I respect that. I’m looking today at Jesse Helms and recognizing that he wouldn’t be as full of crap as most of the folks are full of, and I miss politicians like that. I see a whole lot of them leaving. I’ve been starstruck twice in my life by Diane Sawyer and Tom Harkin. People who are moderate, like Harkin and Chuck Grassley, they work together well. Walter Jones, Howard Coble, I don’t agree with them all the time, but I respect the fact that Walter Jones will work across the aisle. Those folks are leaving. I’m fed up. Olympia Snowe left. I miss that. That’s what politics was for me. There’s very little to admire in politicians these days, very few Jim Hunts left. I’m not saying I’m Jim Hunt or Terry Sanford, but that culture is what I miss.

I’d like to send a message, and from here unlike the rest of the country, this one will ripple more, the win will send a bigger message, and it’s going to say we don’t care if you’re gerrymandered into your district, you still have to do your job. Somebody will beat you.

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


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Clay Aiken Spars with Opponent in Heated Debate for Congressional Seat


Clay Aiken Spars with Opponent in Heated Debate for Congressional Seat


10/07/2014 AT 04:30 PM EDT

Like Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger before him, Clay Aiken wants to make the leap from entertainment to politics.

But he won't land softly in a congressional seat if his opponent, Renee Ellmers, can help it.

Aiken, a Democrat, and Ellmers, the Republican two-term incumbent, squared off Monday in the only head-to-head debate in the race to represent the second congressional district in North Carolina.

While Ellmers dismissed the former American Idol contestant, 35, as an "entertainer," Aiken was not afraid to rebuff her as the two tersely interrupted each other throughout the heated debate.

"The most embarrassing reality show in the country right now is Congress," Aiken jabbed, according to ABC News.

"It's almost as if as an entertainer, you believe that you can just go in with a song and dance and change the mind of the military leaders," Ellmers said mockingly.

During a discussion about job creation, Ellmers also criticized what she called "this Obama-Aiken economy," a term the onetime Broadway star quickly ridiculed.

"You might need to get a new writer because calling it the Obama-Aiken economy is just preposterous," Aiken responded.

District members will cast their votes on Nov. 4.


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Aiken Plans Campaign Bus Tour

Aiken plans campaign bus tour

Posted by Lynn Bonner on October 8, 2014

Clay Aiken is planning a two-week campaign bus tour through the 2nd Congressional District beginning next week.

Aiken, a Democrat who rose to fame as an “American Idol” contestant, is challenging two-term incumbent Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of Dunn.

The Aiken campaign didn’t offer up a schedule, but is publicizing a community Town Hall meeting in Randolph County on Oct. 15.

Campaign spokeswoman Tucker Middleton said Aiken plans to spend the last two weeks before Election Day on the road full time.

The Republican-leaning district covers all or parts of nine counties, including suburbs in western Wake County, parts of Harnett and Chatham, Fort Bragg and the neighborhoods around it, Moore, and most of Randolph.

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Debating Debates

Debating Debates

Gary Pearce posted on October 08, 2014 11:41

The after-debate on who won is more interesting than the debates themselves.

You can rely on the partisans to declare victory. The media focuses on substance, issues and fact checks, none of which anybody is interested in. The stories are predictable: Candidates “clashed…traded jabs… repeated talking points…didn’t say anything new…etc.”

This year the popular term is “game-changer,” as in “this debate was no game-changer.”

Another popular trope is to say the moderator was the only winner, which is a three-fer: You avoid reaching a conclusion, you dismiss both candidates and you suck up to a big media personality.

The experts who get quoted have no real-world experience in campaigns and aren’t equipped to keep score. Anyway, it always takes several days for a consensus to set in on who won and who lost.

Take the Aiken-Ellmers and Hagan-Tillis debates. As an experiment, I watched the first and followed Twitter for the second.

A lot of people watched to see Clay Aiken; nobody cared about seeing Renee Ellmers. They just wanted to see if he was a joke or serious. Old hands I respect were impressed by him, but some people thought he was too caustic. A lot of people commented on his hair.

My take: He did well because he showed that he’s smart and serious. And the hair? Well, I haven’t seen a pompadour like that since Jim Hunt ran in 1976. As for Congresswoman Ellmers, she looked like a non-swimmer caught in a rip tide.

(Full disclosure: I worked for Aiken in the primary. But I made a commitment to help my friend Tom Bradshaw in his NC Senate race, and I no longer have the energy or bandwith to do more than one race.)

From Twitter, I take it that Hagan was crisper, stronger and more effective this time. Thom Tillis should fire his handlers for missing the most basic of all debate-prep questions: Name one issue where you differ with your party.

Oh well, there’s always tomorrow’s debate. Maybe we’ll have a meltdown. Or an explosion. Or at least a game-changer.

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Aiken Campaign Announces Bus Tour, Town Halls

Aiken Campaign Announces Bus Tour, Town Halls


October 9, 2014

CARY, N.C. – Clay Aiken’s congressional campaign today announced that Aiken will spend the final three weeks of the campaign on a bus tour traveling across the Second District.

Aiken spent the past 8 months traveling the district speaking with voters. The bus tour, which officially begins Oct. 15, will enable Aiken to spend more time in parts of the district that aren’t typically visited by candidates running for federal office.

“Often times, folks living in smaller towns or rural areas don’t have the same opportunity to meet their candidates as those who live in larger cities,” Aiken said.

“I’m running to represent everybody in the Second District, so visiting Vass and Franklinville is just as important to me as making stops in Pinehurst and Asheboro.”

The Second Congressional District spans 9 counties: Randolph, Moore, Lee, Chatham, Harnett, Cumberland, Hoke, Wake and Alamance.

Aiken will host town halls across the district during the final three weeks of the election. In addition to the town halls, Aiken will spend his days visiting local businesses and organizations throughout the district and appearing at public events.

Aiken said the point of the bus tour and town halls is about being accessible to the voters in the days leading up to the election.

“Politicians like to stick to friendly crowds on the campaign trail. They’re hesitant to have open, unguarded conversations with voters," Aiken said.

"Representation should be about having conversations with the people of your district and then voting in their best interest. We've lost that in Washington. We've lost that in this district. Congress is full of people who take orders from their party leaders, and that type of culture has to change. In Washington, I'll only answer to the people of the Second District. Washington has stopped listening, but I haven't.”

Below is a list of town halls scheduled as of Oct. 9 (dates, times and locations subject to change).CLICK HERE to RSVP to a town hall near you.


Wednesday, Oct. 15:

7 p.m. – Asheboro Town Hall

Randolph County Historic Court House, 145-C Worth Street, Asheboro

Thursday, Oct. 16:

7 p.m. – Raeford Town Hall

M. Rouse, Jr. Community Resource Center, 373 Pittman Grove Church Road, Raeford

Thursday, Oct. 23:

7 p.m. – Spring Lake Town Hall

300 Ruth Street, Spring Lake

Sunday, Oct. 26:

2 p.m. – Fayetteville Town Hall

300 Maiden Lane, Fayetteville

Monday, Oct. 27:

7 p.m. – Sanford Town Hall

507 N Steele Street, Sanford

Wednesday, Oct. 29:

7 p.m. – Hope Mills Town Hall

Hope Mills Branch, 3411 Golfview Road, Hope Mills

Thursday, Oct. 30:

7 p.m. – Alamance County Town Hall

Shoffner Building, 301 Drama Road, Snow Camp, NC 27349

Sunday, Nov. 2:

3 p.m. – Cary Town Hall

Location TBD

Additional town halls in Harnett and Moore counties will be announced at a later date.

Aiken is also scheduled to appear at a Moore County Tea Party forum on Oct. 20 and a Moore County Democratic Men’s Club meeting on Oct. 28.

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mydailyrecord.com (Subscription only)


Dunn Candidate Forum

State, Federal Candidates Participate In Forum


Of The Record Staff

Candidates in state and federal campaigns spoke on multiple issues at a political forum held Tuesday night in Dunn.

North Carolina House of Representatives and North Carolina Senate candidates squared off first with Second District Congressional candidates facing each other in the second half of the event.

State race participants Democrat Joe Langley, Republican Sen. Ronald Rabin, Republican Rep. David Lewis and Democrat Dr. Susan Byerly answered a series of questions in a forum format. The format did not allow candidates to address each other or to interrupt their opponent’s statement. Issues for state candidates included tax reform, preservation of local hospitals, the controversial issue of shale gas withdrawal, or fracking, and education.


U.S. House Race

The two candidates for the Second District seat in the U.S. House picked up where they left off in their televised debate Monday night. Clay Aiken brought some affirmations from the crowd when he specifically mentioned overcrowding problems at local schools in the Overhills and Harnett Central attendance area. He said the federal government needs to step up to help because much of the overcrowding problem is attributed to military growth.

“We need to make sure the schools in Harnett County are properly funded,” Mr. Aiken said.

The candidates, answering many of the same questions as the state candidates, both had opinions about hydraulic fracking.

“Fracking makes a lot of promises, but it also breaks a lot of promises,” Mr. Aiken said. “Supporters think it will bring jobs but those jobs will be filled by people who come here and then leave when the work is done. Anyone who tells you there will be more jobs for North Carolinians is not right.”

“Fracking needs to be part of our energy plan,” U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers said. “This is about affordable energy and fracking is part of the future of North Carolina.”

The federal candidates fielded a question on the dangers of ISIS terrorists. Both put forth the same opinion as they did in Monday’s debate. Rep. Ellmers said she is in favor of troops going to Syria to eliminate the threat. She said she also supports President Obama’s present stance of using air strikes against the group.

Mr. Aiken says the use of ground force will put too many American troops in harm’s way.

Both candidates reinforced their views on several issues in closing remarks.

“I want to continue to work together on all the issues we have talked about tonight,” Rep. Ellmers said. “I want to look into ways to get more money into the individual pockets of Americans. I want to create jobs so we can create prosperity.”

“I am interested in going to Washington and doing my job,” Mr. Aiken said. “I am tired of politicians in Washington doing nothing. Both parties are guilty. They blame the other side but neither side does anything.”

Tuesday’s debate was sponsored by the Dunn Chamber of Commerce. Russell Galvan, who serves as vice president of the chamber’s governmental affairs committee, moderated the event. It was filmed and will be broadcast on Dunn’s local government channel, which is channel 7 on Time-Warner.

There will be another, similar forum Tuesday at Harnett Central Middle School beginning at 7 p.m.

That forum will not include Rep. Ellmers and Mr. Aiken, but N.C. House incumbent Mike Stone and his opponent, Brad Salmon, will be at the forum. Rep. Stone now represents a district which includes a part of western Harnett County. Mr. Salmon is a Lillington attorney.


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Letters to the Editor

Charlie Futch: Reagan had experience

October 8, 2014

Regarding the Oct. 8 letter “ Recalling Reagan”: Comparing Clay Aiken to Ronald Reagan is a sophomoric and predictably shallow observation from the chronic lefty Reagan bashers.

The letter-writer forgot to mention that Reagan was a two-term governor of the country’s largest state, almost won the party nomination in 1976 from a sitting president and was also president of the Screen Actors Guild.

However, in our current pop culture-infused political environment, I suppose runners-up in a talent contest are prime candidates for office. I haven’t seen Aiken’s resume so please let me know if I have left anything out.

Charlie Futch


George Herbert · Top Commenter · Raleigh, North Carolina

Before Renee Ellmers was elected to Congress, she did not have any elected political experience. If on-the-job training was good enough for her, it's good enough for Aiken.

19 hours ago

Bruce Friend · President at Friend Consulting LLC

Mr Futch - I am the author of the letter that you responded to. Contrary to what you assume, I am not a "lefty Reagan basher." I am a registered Republican and I assume from your letter that you are too. I have been active in supporting Republicans (and an occasional candidates from other parties) for many years. Have even worked directly for politicians of both parties. I think you are missing the point of my comments. There may be many reasons why Mr. Aiken is not the best choice in this current election, but the fact that he is only an "entertainer" is not one of them. Would Rep. Ellmers dismiss my credentials because I am "only an educator" and not savvy to the ways of Washington? Would she dismiss someone who was a truck driver, a homemaker, computer programmer, a farmer, a doctor, an athlete, or a nurse, because they too "don't know how Washington works"? You are correct, by the time Reagan ran for President he was an accomplished politician, but he had to get his start somewhere when he made the transition from entertainer to politician. Last I checked, Mr. Aiken is not running for President. I think Rep. Ellmers could have provided any number of other reasons why she is the better candidate without being dismissive against her opponents occupation and talents. If suggesting that a candidate from my own party could have shown herself better is being "sophomoric", I will gladly accept that label.

18 hours ago

Kristin Augustine Christensen · Top Commenter · The Ohio State University

And who pushed Reagan to the top when he was pretty much a mediocre actor? How about looking at all of those who have served in Congress like Sonny Bono, a highschool dropout, his wife Mary (later of the Mack dynasty) who took his seat, an art history major who never finished college, and many more we never seem to hear what their qualifications to govern are before we put them in office? As to Aiken, he sounded intelligent enough. I was impressed with in his quick thoughtful responses in the debate. He has a college degree in an area that affects many people. He's been around. If he'd been allowed to talk about issues instead of being continually slapped with the same old Obama is terrible refrain, perhaps we would have heard something of substance. Obama hasn't done one good thing? If that's broad view you want to cast, then tell us what you've done and are going to do.

19 hours ago

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"American Idol" Alum Clay Aiken Trades the Broadway Stage for the Political Stage

"American Idol" Alum Clay Aiken Trades the Broadway Stage for the Political Stage

By Robert Simonson

14 Oct 2014 aik200.jpgclear.gifClay Aiken Photo by Monica Simoes

On a recent weeknight, at a well-appointed townhouse on the Upper West Side, a political fund-raiser was held. There was a spread of food, a well-stocked open bar and — as if often the case at these small, well-heeled gatherings — entertainment.

Milling about among the guests were the stage performers Betty Buckley, Christine Ebersole, Beth Leavel and Clay Aiken. The first three sang. Aiken did not. The other three sang for him. For it was his fundraiser.

Aiken, still best known to the public for his second-place finish in the second season of “American Idol,” is running for Congress. He is the Democrats’ candidate in the Second District of his home state of North Carolina.

Those who may have chuckled a few months ago when Aiken announced his candidacy are laughing no longer. He won the Democratic primary May 6 and is considered to have more than a fighting chance to topple the Republican incumbent, Renee Ellmers, Nov. 4. The two candidates participated in a debate Oct. 6.

“I think a lot of people have been surprised with the success we’ve had,” he commented. “But I haven’t been as surprised. I don’t get into something that I don’t think I have an ability to be successful at.”

Aiken — who was born in Raleigh, which is part of the 2nd District, and, apart for a few years shortly after “Idol” and a tour with Monty Python's Spamalot, has lived there much of the last ten years — said the decision to run for office was “a slow burn.”

“It was an opportunity that presented itself slowly over several years. But at the end of the day, it was the effect of seeing various things that had been happening to my state; some of the things with gerrymandering, redistricting some of these seats where some people not only didn’t have to be help accountable, but didn’t have to do their jobs, because they felt they were in a position where they didn’t have to do what they were elected to do. I recognized I had the opportunity to get people to pay attention and hold people accountable.”

bett.jpgclear.gifBetty Buckley performs at the fundraiser Photo by Monica Simoes

In recent years, North Carolina, traditionally a moderate state as far southern states go, has taken a decided swing to the right. In 2010 the Republicans won a majority of both houses of the state legislature for the first time since 1898. A subsequent redistricting plan redrew political lines to favor Republicans. In 2012 the state elected its first Republican governor, Pat McCrory, and lieutenant governor in more than two decades. Soon after, McCrory appointed as his budget director James “Art” Pope, a conservative multi-millionaire and activist who has spent much of his wealth in support of Republican candidates and conservative causes.

Despite the political climate, Aiken still believes he has a chance to be sent to Washington.

“Most people in the country are moderates,” he said. “They’re somewhere in the middle of the field. Unfortunately, in more recent years, the people who tend to vote and get active in primaries tend to live on the fringes. And so you get politicians who live on the fringes.”

Aiken described the Second District as “very independent-minded districts. We’ve got a lot of disparity.” He mentioned Cary, a suburb of Raleigh where many young people with high tech jobs live; Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the U.S.; and various rural and farming areas.

“What they have in common there is they don’t necessarily vote for parties, they vote for people,” he continued. “They’ve voted for Republicans in the past, they’ve voted for Democrats in the past. They have an independent streak in them.”

That Aiken was in New York gathering support for his run makes sense to anyone who knows his career. In 2008, he joined the Broadway cast of Spamalot. The New York theatre community never quite forgot him.

ebers.jpgclear.gifChristine Ebersole Photo by Monica Simoes

“I think it’s important to have support of people I care about and I’ve had a relationship with,” said Aiken. “The Broadway community is renowned for being very tight-knit and supportive of one another.”

Asked if his experience as an actor and singer has aided him in any way on the campaign trail, Aiken quipped, “I think a lot of politicians are certainly performers.” He allowed, however, that his stage experiences had allowed him to speak publicly with ease. “I have been involved with press situations for years, yes,” he added.

Despite his singing background, Aiken, perhaps surprisingly, does not have an official campaign song. However, he said, "We do play The Four Tops ‘Walk Away, Renee’ around the office a lot.”

Watch Aiken discuss his campaign below.

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A standard part of covering political campaigns is following candidates to events. But when Democratic congressional candidate Clay Aiken showed up at a high school football game in Fayetteville, NC it was anything but standard. Because, well, he’s not your typical politician. Aiken is known from American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice. He’s a long shot candidate in a firmly Republican district but you wouldn’t know that from the way he was received at the football game.

The evening by the numbers:

3: people I heard beg him to sing. He declined.

2: cheerleading squads who busted out with custom cheers for Aiken.

1: heated debate about gay marriage. (He claims this was the first time this has happened on the trail)

Countless: #selfieswithclay It seems everyone wanted a picture with him. Aiken has discovered it’s faster and easier to shoot the pictures himself since many people can’t figure out how to operate their friend’s phones and fumble around.

50-0: The final score. Home team Douglas Byrd took a beating.

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Aiken Bus Tour Beings: First Stop Sanford Candidate Forum

Aiken bus tour begins: first stop Sanford candidate forum

Posted by Lynn Bonner on October 14, 2014

Clay Aiken starts his 2nd Congressional District bus tour Tuesday, leaving from Cary at 5:30 p.m. for Sanford.

Aiken, the Democratic challenger, and incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers participate in a forum hosted by the Sanford newspaper Tuesday night at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center.

The forum is their last scheduled joint appearance before Election Day.

Aiken plans to hold town hall meetings throughout the district over the next three weeks.

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

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Aiken Holds Town Hall Meeting

Aiken holds town hall meeting

By Judi Brinegar jbrinegar@courier-tribune.com

October 15, 2014 - 9:12pm

ASHEBORO — Democrat Clay Aiken made an appearance in Asheboro Wednesday night, the first in a series of town hall meetings he will attend in the few weeks remaining before the Nov. 4 election.

The tour will enable Aiken, who is running against Republican Renee Ellmers for a seat in Congress representing the Second District (including Randolph County), to spend more time in parts of the district that aren’t typically visited by candidates running for federal office.

Aiken held court at the historic Randolph County Courthouse in downtown Asheboro, sharing his platform and fielding questions from those in attendance.

“This is the very first day of the tour and the very first town hall meeting I’ve done,” he said. “I’m going to be very transparent. We might not agree, but I am going to be honest with you tonight.”

Aiken said his goal is to grow the economy by creating more jobs, eliminating tax incentives for sending jobs overseas, investing in job training and retraining, and simplifying the tax code. He wants to encourage creativity in the classroom, create programs that encourage new teachers to return to their home counties to teach, and make government loans for college interest-free. He is also passionate about providing tax credits to businesses that hire veterans, modernizing the VA health care system and integrating medical records with the Department of Defense, and easing the process of credentialing and licensing for veterans so they can use the skills they learned in the line of duty when they return home.

While he answered many questions, two issues he addressed were military benefits and immigration.

“What is my first priority?” he asked. “I think for any representative it is important to be an advocate for education, creating jobs and taking care of our military and veterans. My brother is a Marine and he served two tours of duty in Iraq. He had a hard time getting a job, an education and disability. We have treated our veterans very poorly because we simply didn’t prepare for the soldiers who would be coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The VA system is still a mess — there is a whole bunch left that still needs to be done.”

When asked about amnesty, Aiken was adamant that those entering the country illegally be fined in some way.

“I am not in favor of amnesty,” he said. “Those people broke the law. However, it is fiscally irresponsible to round them up and send them back. We have to figure out a way to allow people to stay here legally and pay into the system just like you do. These people should pay some sort of penalty for being here illegally and I want them here legally, to get a driver’s license and be able to come out of the shadows.

“The only way to come up with a solution for this is to talk to each other and that is not happening.”

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