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Clay Aiken: An American Idol on the Campaign Trail in North Carolina

Clay Aiken: An American Idol On The Campaign Trail In North Carolina


October 16, 2014 3:34 AM ET

In just one night, in 2003, Clay Aiken got 12 million votes.

That wasn't quite enough to win American Idol's second season, but his soaring vocals won him a record contract and legions of fans known as "Claymates."

Now, he needs far fewer votes — maybe 200,000 — to win a congressional seat representing the rural center of North Carolina. The odds are against him. Aiken is a Democrat in a district where the Republican incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers won by 15 percentage points two years ago.

"I've always been an underdog," says Aiken. "I walked into that audition on American Idoland people went, 'What?' I get that."

He was a skinny kid with spiked red hair who didn't look like a pop star. Aiken was actually rejected on his first try and drove to Atlanta to audition again.

"I don't have a problem being an underdog. It's never hurt me in the past," he adds.

Aiken barely made it out of this spring's Democratic primary, beating his opponent by fewer than 400 votes. Since then, Aiken has visited countless community festivals, civic group meetings and even a couple of high school football games.

Two Custom Cheers And Countless Selfies

It's a blowout. Terry Sanford High is on its way to beating Douglas Byrd 50-0. But the cheerleaders have something else to cheer for — or rather someone else.

"I need a cheer," says Aiken when members of the Douglas Byrd cheerleading squad ask him to shoot a selfie. "I've got to have a cheer ladies."

"When we say vote, you say Clay. Vote. Clay. Vote. Clay," they cheer, pompoms glistening under the stadium lights.

Both schools' cheerleading squads gladly come up with Clay-inspired cheers, and he gladly shoots selfies, encouraging them to post to Facebook and Twitter. He has taken so many photos on the campaign trail, there's even a hashtag: #selfieswithclay.

And that's the thing that separates Clay Aiken from your average underdog congressional candidate: People recognize him.

Ever the candidate, Aiken is quick to change the subject from American Idol (How much of a jerk was Simon Cowell anyway? That was a long time ago. Did you know you were runner-up before it was announced? Yes.) to the upcoming election. He says he entered the race because he was fed up with Congress and, in particular, the incumbent, Ellmers.

He's running on issues like education and helping veterans. In a debate, he went after Ellmers for not doing more to keep an Airlift Wing at nearby Fort Bragg. Ellmers hit back.

"It's almost as if as an entertainer you believe that you can just go in with a song and dance," said Ellmers with an attack she repeated throughout the televised debate. "That isn't the way that it works."

A Debate About Gay Marriage

Back at the football game, a man approaches Aiken behind the home-team bleachers.

"Serious question: I want to know where you stand," says Terrence Becker. Becker wants to know where Aiken stands on a federal judge invalidating North Carolina's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

"You wanna know where I stand?" asks Aiken rhetorically. "You don't know where I stand?"

Aiken is gay. The story made the cover of People magazine in 2008.

And thus begins a heated five-minute debate about gay marriage. In the end, they agree to disagree. Becker says there's no way he'd vote for Aiken, but it seems unlikely he had planned to before the discussion, either.

A crowd forms, patiently waiting for campaign stickers and selfies. Walking away, Aiken is almost puzzled by what just happened. This isn't a defining issue for him or his campaign.

"It's the first time that's come up," says Aiken, "the first time the entire time we've been in the campaign that's come up."

Hanging Up the Microphone

One thing that does come up, repeatedly, is a request.

"Can you sing a little melody?" asks a woman at the football game. "Just a little bit."

It happens everywhere he goes. And the answer is always "no." If he wins, Aiken says, then he'll sing again.

"But you won't be singing to me personally," she pleads.

Then, in a singsong sort of voice, Aiken says, "Vote for me, vote for me."

The next day at a festival in the town of Goldston, Aiken pauses to watch a group of young women sing. He took a vow not to sing during the campaign, in part so he'd be taken seriously.

"What would have happened today if I had gone up there and sang? Everyone would have come around, they would have talked about it. But that would be what they left talking about," he says.

Win or lose, it's not clear whether Aiken will have a music career when this campaign is over.

Aiken used to share a manager with the Dixie Chicks, who suffered severe backlash from some of their fans because of a comment critical of George W. Bush on the eve of the Iraq War. Just coming out as a Democrat, Aiken says, will automatically turn off part of his fan base.

"It's something that I had to recognize before I decided to run — that in addition to having to give up what I was doing for the year, that very possibly I might have to give it up for good," says Aiken.

And he's OK with that.

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newsobserver.com Under the Dome Blog

Ellmers vs. Aiken: the Money

Ellmers vs. Aiken: the money

Posted by Lynn Bonner on October 16, 2014

Democratic challenger Clay Aiken raised more money from July through September than incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, but she had more money in hand to spend in the final weeks of the 2nd Congressional District campaign, according to FEC reports.

Aiken, who rose to fame on “American Idol,” raised about $355,000 in the third quarter, with about $340,000 coming from individual donors. He raised about $1 million for the campaign, including a loan of about $76,000.

Ellmers, who is seeking a third term, raised $280,000 in the third quarter – about $94,000 from individuals and $186,000 from PACs. Ellmers raised $1.6 million for the campaign.

She had more than $513,000 in hand Sept. 30, while Aiken reported having about $ 340,000.

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

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sanfordherald.com (registration required)

Hopefuls Spar Over Spending, Jobs at Forum

Hopefuls spar over spending, jobs at forum

Oct. 16, 2014 @ 05:02 AM

Kathryn Trogdon

Wesley Beeson | The Sanford Herald


N.C. Senate District 12 and House District 54 candidates discussed the problem with the legislature’s spending — or lack of — and also touched on other contentious issues such as fracking and teacher pay at a forum Tuesday hosted by The Sanford Herald.

The event, which was the second of two candidate forums, was held at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center and featured candidates from the Lee County Board of Education, N.C. Senate District 12, N.C. House District 54 and U.S. House of Representatives District 2.

The House and Senate candidates, including incumbent Republican Sen. Ronald Rabin, opponent Joe Langley and incumbent Democratic Rep. Robert Reives II, primarily focused on how effectively taxpayer’s money was being spent at the North Carolina General Assembly. Andy Wilkie, who is Reives’ opponent, didn’t attend the event.

“I don’t think we have an income problem in the General Assembly,” Langley said. “I think we have a spending problem.”

This spending problem, he said, is hurting other areas, including education and teacher pay. He said for example, the state purchased a computer system, which still isn’t working properly, for $900 million — money that could have gone to further raise teacher pay

“Imagine how many teachers we could have given fair and reasonable compensation to,” Langley said.

But Rabin said the computer system was purchased under former Gov. Bev Perdue’s administration.

“Don’t blame us for something that happened before,” he said.

Rabin said the legislature not only had given the teacher raises that were promised in the last session, but it also had been increasing education spending overall every year.

Reives said comparing per-pupil spending every year is the best way to gauge whether education funding is adequate.

“There has been a drop of education dollars,” he said. “We need to keep up with the demand that we have in our state, and if you have a great education system, the jobs are going to come.”

Rabin touched on some of the General Assembly’s successes over the last two years, including tax reform, which is helping to create a better business environment to help attract jobs to the state.

“We have now moved up into the top ten by most of the magazines that rate those kind of things,” he said. “We have to continue to move in that direction so that our taxes continue to go down so we can get to the levels where we can compete.”

Reives agreed that a better business environment must be created not only for the businesses, but also for their employees.

“Companies want a place where their people want to live,” he said. “You’ve got to make this a better environment.”

Creating a better business environment would attract more businesses, Reives said, which would increase the tax base allowing for tax reductions for everyone. But he said allowing fracking might not be the best way to attract business to the area.

“I don’t see a tech firm wanting to come down here if they have to worry about drills coming through here and then leaving,” he said.

Rabin said he had seen in Arkansas, 96 percent of the people who located to there because of fracking jobs stayed.

U.S Congressional District 2 candidates Clay Aiken and incumbent Renee Ellmers focused on why bills were not getting passed in Washington.

“We do not have the Senate majority, and we certainly do not have the presidency, and that’s where the problem is,” Ellmers said. “Those bills (passed by the House) get stopped at (U.S. Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid’s desk in the Senate, and they are doing nothing more than collecting dust.”

The bills the House is trying to pass, she said, are for job growth, energy production, health care reform, and more.

“I’m happy to work with the Senate, but if we don’t have a Senate who will work with us, we’re stuck,” she said.

But Aiken said all Ellmers is doing is blaming the other side, which is something both parties do.

“The only thing I would like to hear stop is the blaming,” he said. “I want to make sure that we work together.”

Aiken said the only way for the House and Senate to work together to pass bills is that each side must stop passing legislation that the other chamber won’t pass. He said health care reform is one of the main issues that Congress needs to compromise on quickly to help people who are suffering.

Ellmers said she wants to repeal the health care reform entirely and replace it with good, patient-centered care.

“Every American deserves to have good health care, and we do need to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves,” she said.

Aiken said repeal may happen one day, but not for a long time. So, the Senate and the House need to work on compromising now. People in need, he said, will continue to suffer because congress members like Ellmers are more interested in repealing the program.

The House, Ellmers said, has tried to repeal the health care reform multiple times, it also has voted to pass changes to the health care reform plan — but these bills continue to get stuck in the Senate.

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Aiken outpaces Ellmers in third-quarter fundraising; incumbent still leads in cash on hand

Aiken outpaces Ellmers in third-quarter fundraising; incumbent still leads in cash on hand

By Paige Rentz Staff writer | Posted: Thursday, October 16, 2014 4:55 pm

Clay Aiken outpaced Rep. Renee Ellmers in campaign contributions as he looks to unseat the Republican in U.S. House District 2.

The Democratic challenger raised more than $354,000 in the third quarter to Ellmers' $280,000 during the period that spans July 1 through Sept. 30.

"We're excited to report another strong fundraising quarter for our campaign," campaign manager Ellen Zeng said in a statement, adding that the momentum is on their side.

However, with nearly $513,000 in cash on hand, Ellmers' spending power entering the last few weeks of the campaign remains considerably greater than her challenger's.

Aiken had $338,900 in the bank at the end of the quarter, but he also has debts totaling more than $75,000 from loans he made to the campaign in the first half of the year. The vast majority of those loans were made as Aiken faced a neck-and-neck primary battle with former Secretary Keith Crisco.

Patrick Sebastian, senior advisor with the Ellmers campaign, noted this debt in contrast to the congresswoman's fundraising advantage.

"Only a flawed candidate like Clay Aiken could see his over $75,000 in campaign debt and $174,000 cash on hand disadvantage as a success," he said in a statement.

Aiken's campaign has spent more than $690,000 - nearly $10,000 more than Ellmers has spent this year. But Ellmers has shelled out about $1.2 million since the beginning of the campaign cycle.

More than 95 percent of Aiken's nearly $960,000 in contributions come from individual donors, both from North Carolina and states across the country.

Zeng called Ellmers' individual contributions "embarrassing" and proof that people aren't willing to invest in her campaign. Meanwhile, Sebastian said Aiken "is lining his pocket with donations from his fellow liberals."

The bulk of Ellmers' nearly $1.6 million in contributions - almost 74 percent, does come from political action committees in a number of industries nationwide, including health, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and energy. Of her approximately $300,000 in individual contributions this election cycle, most come from North Carolinians.

Neither candidate has received contributions from party committees.

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

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Clay Aiken

]Clay Aiken

By J.D. Walker


Editor’s note: In the race for the District 2, U.S. House of Representatives seat, incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-NC, is competing with Democrat Clay Aiken. District 2 includes all or parts of Alamance, Chatham, Cumberland, Harnett, Lee, Moore, Randolph and Wake counties. Aiken is a newcomer but this is Ellmers’ third run for office.

RALEIGH — Democrat Clay Aiken is running an uphill battle to defeat incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers for the District 2 U.S. House of Representatives seat in the 2014 election.

A recent poll had had him eight points behind Ellmers.

Aiken said he has been on the campaign trail listening to people and people are telling him they are frustrated. He said people tell him their leaders in Washington don’t listen anymore. They don’t listen to the people back home who sent them there, and they don’t listen to the thoughts and views of the people across the aisle. And because of that, they’re not getting anything done.

“I’m running for Congress to listen to the needs of the people here at home and then represent their interests to the best of my ability as a member of Congress,” Aiken said. “We have a lot of politicians in Washington, but we have very few public servants. I want to go to Washington to serve. People are ready for that type of leadership. And that’s why our campaign is gaining support every day and why we’re going to be successful on Nov. 4.”

Aiken said one of his top priorities will be to serve the military and veteran population in the state. He said he wants to address veteran homelessness and protect benefits for military spouses and children. Aiken said Impact Aid funding for schools in counties like Harnett that have major problems with school overcrowding should be increased because of the underfunding of the school systems on post.

“Fort Bragg has been put on the chopping block in too many defense budgets. And the sequester and government shutdown not only hurt our military readiness, but also cut programs and benefits for our families on post,” he said. “Washington needs to stop playing politics at the expense of those who sacrificed their lives to protect this country.”

Aiken said government ignored the threat of the Islamic State for too long. He agrees with the decision for airstrikes to support the Iraqi and Syrian ground forces as they push back against ISIS in the region.

“We’ve also got to compel the surrounding nations to commit their own ground forces to protect the areas currently being threatened by ISIS fighters, and the U.S. strategy should continue to be to provide air support for those forces combating ISIS,” he said.

Aiken said, as long as ISIS doesn’t present an imminent threat to U.S. soil however, the U.S. should not be putting additional boots on the ground.

On the economy, Aiken said he believes bringing jobs to the community starts with an educated workforce. He said local community colleges are doing an incredible job of partnering with area businesses to put students into programs and apprenticeships that will immediately lead to well-paying jobs after they graduate.

Aiken said the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough available jobs. The problem is that the workforce is not trained for the jobs that are out there.

“By developing and maintaining a strong, well-funded community college system in our area, we will recruit businesses because we are providing them with an environment where they can find the employees with the skills they need,” Aiken said. ” As a member of Congress, I will be sure that business leaders around the country hear from me when they are deciding where to locate and grow their businesses.”

* * *

Address (including websites, facebook, contacts, etc): Email, info@clayaiken.com; phone, (919) 297-8466; website, clayaiken.com; Facebook: www.facebook.com/clayfornc; Twitter: www.twitter.com/clayfornc; Instagram: instagram.com/clayfornc.

Age: 35.

Occupation: Self employed.

Relevant work or job experiences: Co-founder, The National Inclusion Project; ambassador for education programs, UNICEF; board of directors, Theatre Raleigh; former educator, Brentwood Elementary, Wake County Public Schools; former counselor, A.E. Finley YMCA of Raleigh.

For comparison, here's a link to Renee Ellmers' page: http://courier-tribune.com/news/rene-ellmers

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For Congress: Clay Aiken

For Congress: Clay Aiken


20 hours ago

Of the two candidates vying to represent North Carolina’s 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives, neither has a strong background in politics. Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers spent 21 years as a nurse before her first election in 2010. And Democratic challenger Clay Aiken first caught the nation’s attention a decade ago as a singer on “American Idol.”

So far, the Michigan-born Ellmers has seemed little more than a party-line-spouting lightweight. She has demonstrated that she knows or cares little about Moore County — unlike eighth-generation North Carolinian Aiken, who displays a detailed familiarity with the area.

Although Aiken lacks governmental experience, he comes across as a more sensible, intelligent and open-minded candidate, with well-reasoned positions on issues. For those reasons and others, The Pilot urges readers to vote for him.

They Agree on Some Issues

Perhaps it says something about the state of current political attitudes that both candidates gained their nominations by casting themselves as outsiders and putting distance between themselves and the leaders of their respective parties.

Conversely, each candidate has spent much of the current campaign trying to portray his or her opponent as a tool of a political boss — President Obama for Aiken and House Speaker John Boehner in the case of Ellmers.

Ellmers, however, took this tar-brushing to laughable heights when she spoke recently about the “Obama-Aiken economy.” This is only one of several classic malapropisms that she has committed. Another came when she said that male politicians needed to “bring things down to a woman’s level.”

Interestingly, Ellmers and Aiken are not always as far apart as might be expected on some key issues. Both favor revising immigration policies. Both have a reluctance to see American boots on the ground in the Middle East, although Ellmers won’t rule out the possibility altogether. Both originally opposed Amendment One to outlaw gay marriage in the state — though Ellmers said she took that stand only because the amendment also outlawed same-sex civil unions.

Compassionate and Well-Reasoned

Where they diverge the strongest is on the Affordable Care Act. Ellmers made opposition to Obamacare the centerpiece of her first run. Though Aiken recognizes that the program needs fine-tuning, he opposes junking it.

Former teacher Aiken is a strong supporter of education at all levels. He backs equal pay for equal work and favors a raise in the minimum wage, which Ellmers opposes. Now embarked on a three-week bus tour of all corners of the district, Aiken promises to be better than Ellmers has been at knowing and serving its people.

The grotesquely shaped 2nd District, like others in the state, results from raw partisan gerrymandering by the Republican-dominated General Assembly. It sprawls across parts of eight counties, and its various components sometimes have little in common — except a predictable GOP leaning. This might make it hard for Aiken to pull off a victory.

Still, because of his compassionate and informed approach to issues, and because he offers by far the greatest potential of the two candidates, we hope voters in the district will send him to Washington.

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Clay Aiken Faces Uphill Fight Against Renee Ellmers

Clay Aiken faces uphill fight against Renee Ellmers

By Paige Rentz Staff writer | Posted: Monday, October 20, 2014 12:00 am


Clay Aiken faces uphill fight against Renee Ellmers

Second Congressional District candidates Clay Aiken, left, and Renee Ellmers, right, answer questions from the media after the taping of a debate Oct. 6 at the Pinehurst Resort. For videos of the two candidates, go to fayobserver.com.

As Rep. Renee Ellmers looks to return to Congress for a third term, she faces a challenger with celebrity status.

Clay Aiken, a well-known entertainer and Cary Democrat, has brought a national spotlight to the race for U.S. House District 2, but political analysts say he faces an uphill battle in the solidly Republican district, which touches Alamance, Chatham, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Moore, Randolph and Wake counties.

The Democratic challenger made a splash in February when he initially entered the race and in an extremely close primary with former Secretary of State Keith Crisco, drawing national media attention. But since then, the neck-and-neck Senate race between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis has taken most of the political attention in the state and most of the advertising airtime.

The race has been run mostly on the ground, with the candidates making appearances at events and meeting at forums, including one televised debate full of jabs.

Ellmers has hosted roundtable discussions on issues such as mental health and medical cures, attended public events and appeared at party rallies. She even hosted a free concert with country music star Jo Dee Messina in Dunn.

Aiken has toured the district, chatting with restaurant patrons when he stops for lunch, dropping in at football games and touring schools and local nonprofit agencies. He's finishing his campaign criss-crossing the district with a three-week bus tour to maximize his ability to meet residents.

Aiken outpaced Ellmers in third quarter fundraising, but the congresswoman enters the last weeks of the election with a much larger war chest topping $500,000.

He has drawn monetary support almost exclusively from individual donors, both from North Carolina and beyond. While about three-fourths of Ellmers' contributions come from political committees in a number of industries, most of her individual support comes from North Carolinians.

Originally from Michigan, Ellmers has lived in Dunn for 16years. A former surgical intensive care nurse, Ellmers was spurred to run for Congress in 2010 after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. For the past four years, she has presented a message of repeal. Earlier this month, however, Ellmers told The Fayetteville Observer that she expected congressional Republicans to move forward from the perspective of revision. One of her top priorities when it comes to the Affordable Care Act is repeal of the medical device tax, which she said is achievable. The provision applies a 2.3 percent sales tax to certain medical equipment and supplies.

"For us in North Carolina, I think that's significant because we have such strong high-tech and biotech industries," which she said are job creators.

For those who think Aiken's jump from entertainment to politics is a stark leap, he says it's a natural progression. After his sudden rise to fame in 2003 when he became runner-up on "American Idol,'' Aiken began the National Inclusion Project, which advocates for inclusion of children with disabilities in recreational and education programs. He also was a UNICEF ambassador, traveling to Afghanistan, Uganda, Indonesia, Somalia and Kenya to see the organization's work and advocate on its behalf.

"Over the past 11 years, I've been able to be an advocate because of the position that I'm in, and I want to use that position to advocate for more people, to speak up for more people who I don't think are having their voices heard."

Aiken has presented himself as a middle-of-the-road Democrat, quick to say he doesn't agree with every Democratic initiative, including gun control and education policy.

Aiken's top priority is improving the economy. He said he supports infrastructure improvements such as smart grid technology, broadband, or roads and bridges that will attract businesses and put people back to work right away.

Ellmers said priorities on Capitol Hill will depend somewhat on whether Republicans can gain a majority in the Senate and thus control both houses. If that happens, she said, she expects to see efforts to push tax reform and passing the Keystone Pipeline. And health care is an issue of utmost importance to her.

Ellmers agreed that some provisions of the Affordable Care Act are popular with the American people. But at the same time, the law has pitfalls for consumers, she said, such as not living up to the promise that they can keep their doctors and insurance plans.

"We've got to change those things for the American people," she said. "We've got to be able to ensure affordable health care for every American and take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, but there is a way to do it from a patient-centered perspective."

Ellmers said another priority is funding for research at the National Institutes of Health and solutions to move health care forward in the form of cures, finding ways to more efficiently move drugs through the approval process in a safe, more affordable way.

Aiken also stressed the importance of veterans issues in a district with strong military connections. He said the federal government must do a better job supporting veterans' transition from active duty to civilian life. Without a better bridge between the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs, he said, veterans will continue to fall between the cracks.

"Making that transition is where we lose so many of them, and it really should be embarrassing to us as a country that we don't do a better job of it," he said.

Veterans court programs like the one in Harnett County, he said, which aim to help veterans overcome substance abuse problems, should be supported by the federal government in military communities across the country.

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

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Aiken's Attack Ad is Off-Key

Aiken’s Attack Ad Is Off-Key

Posted on October 21, 2014

Clay Aiken’s latest attack ad against incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers hits a couple of bad notes.

  • Aiken falsely claims Ellmers “voted against the payroll tax cut because she thought $1,000 out of your pocket is not that much money.” She voted against a two-month extension because it wasn’t long enough, and helped craft a bipartisan bill that extended the payroll tax holiday for one year.

  • Aiken also says Ellmers failed to “stop a Fort Bragg Air Wing from being moved out of state,” because she missed a deadline for filing a bill amendment with the House Rules Committee. But that had nothing to do with the amendment not coming up for a floor vote. More important, the airlift wing hasn’t moved, and Ellmers is still fighting to keep it from being relocated.

Aiken, a Democrat best known nationally for his runner-up finish on American Idol in 2003, is fighting an uphill battle to unseat the incumbent. Redistricting has given Republicans a decided advantage in North Carolina’s 2nd District, and a flash poll in late September showed Ellmers ahead, but with Aiken making a race of it.

Payroll Tax

In his latest ad, Aiken makes the argument that Washington has changed Ellmers.

“We all hope people go to Congress with good intentions,” Aiken says in direct-to-camera appeal. “But after Renee Ellmers got there, she voted against the payroll tax cut because she thought $1,000 out of your pocket is not that much money.” That’s a gross distortion of Ellmers’ position.

The payroll tax holiday enacted in 2011 reduced the employee share of the Social Security payroll tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. The temporary recession relief was set to expire at the end of 2011, setting off a contentious round of partisan congressional haggling.

The Aiken ad cites a Dec. 21, 2011, report on Time Warner Cable News on the House rejecting a Senate plan to extend payroll tax cuts for two months, with Ellmers joining the Republican majority. But as the accompanying interview with Ellmers indicates, her position was exactly the opposite of what Aiken suggests. In the interview, she explains that instead of a two-month extension, she and other House Republicans preferred extending it for a full year.

“We’re all about the year extension,” Ellmers said in the TWCN report. “That’s what we voted in the House of Representatives. … We’re just not in agreement that a two-month or eight-week extension, as the Senate has passed back to us, is acceptable.”

In the interview, Ellmers did refer to the payroll tax extension — which she estimated at $1,000 a year for the average American — as “not that much money for anyone.” But contrary to the Aiken ad’s suggestion that Ellmers wanted to nix the tax cut because it wasn’t that much money, the context of the interview makes clear that Ellmers was saying it was “not that much money” when compared with the comprehensive tax reform changes she and other Republicans envision.

Ellmers, Dec. 21, 2011

: Well, the thing is, the payroll tax extension is not that much money for anyone. For a year, it’s about $1,000 for the average American. … So the point is that this isn’t really the way to go about good tax reform. We just want to make sure that over the year, in the economy we’re in, we’re not taking money out of those pockets. But what we’re working for is good, sustainable tax reform that’s flatter, fairer, that really is much simpler, and this will just lead up to that. So I’m for this in the sense that I don’t want to do any more harm to anyone. But the real goal here is good tax reform that we can all work on.

Her fuller comments also make clear that Ellmers believed an extension of the payroll tax cut was critical as the country continued to struggle to get out of a recession.

“We’ve got to give the people of North Carolina that reassurance moving forward into 2012 that they’re going to keep that money in their pockets,” Ellmers said.

In rejecting the Senate plan, House Republicans were pushing for a year-long extension, and had hoped to includeprovisions to pay for it with higher Medicare premiums on upper-income senior citizens, as well as a measure to fast-track a decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

But two days later, House Republicans relented and unanimously agreed to a two-month extension, with the promise of negotiating a longer-term agreement early in 2012. And, in fact, as a conference committee member, Ellmers helped to craft a compromise agreement in February 2012 to extend the payroll tax cut until the end of 2012. Ellmers, of course, voted for that bill.

The payroll tax holiday was allowed to expire at the end of 2012, with neither Republicans nor Democrats fighting for its inclusion in the so-called fiscal cliff deal reached in January 2013.

Fighting for Bragg Air Wing

In the ad, Aiken also criticizes Ellmers because “she didn’t stop a Fort Bragg Air Wing from being moved out of state, which will hurt our local economy.”

But it wasn’t for lack of trying on Ellmers’ part.

After President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal called for deactivating the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg as a cost-cutting measure, Ellmers joined a bipartisan group from the North Carolina delegation that sent a letter in March to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey urging them to reconsider. The following month, Ellmers made a similar appeal during

at a House Armed Services Committee.

And in May, Ellmers introduced an amendment to the 2015 defense authorization bill to spare Fort Bragg’s 440th Airlift Wing from being deactivated or relocated. The amendment was co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of North Carolina congressmen, Democratic Reps. David Price and Mike McIntyre and Republican Rep. Richard Hudson.

In its support for the ad, the Aiken campaign argues that it’s not so much that Ellmers hasn’t advocated for saving the airlift wing, it’s that she botched those efforts. The Aiken campaign cited a May 22 story in the Fayetteville Observer that said Ellmers’ amendment “was submitted late, according to the House Armed Services Committee.”

The Rules Committee website does, in fact, note that Ellmers’ amendment was filed late. But that’s not as calamitous as it sounds. The fact that it was filed late did not preclude it from being considered. There were 322 amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 submitted for consideration. Of them, 32 are listed as “late” — most of them later than Ellmers’ proposed amendment — and yet 15 of them were “made in order,” meaning they were allowed by the Rules Committee to be voted on by the full House. The Rules Committee decided not to allow Ellmers’ amendment to be debated on the floor and voted on.

“Typically, we mark amendments when they have been submitted late,” a Rules Committee spokesman told us in a phone interview. “But the fact that it is late does not have any bearing on whether it is ‘made in order’ or not. The lateness factor does not preclude an amendment.”

So why did the Rules Committee decide not to allow the Ellmers amendment to move forward? There were hundreds of amendments to the NDAA, the spokesman said, and “we don’t normally get into why a particular amendment is ‘made in order’ or not.”

“We’re not sure why the Rules Committee rejected it,” said Lawrence Kluttz, a spokesman for Price, a Democrat who co-sponsored the amendment. “But it was not because it was submitted late. There were other amendments submitted late that were allowed to be considered on the floor.”

The ad also makes it sound like the airlift wing already has been moved out of the state, and that hasn’t happened — at least not yet.

“Number one, it’s still there,” Patrick Sebastian, an Ellmers campaign spokesman told us in a phone interview. “For Aiken to act as if the airlift is gone, he doesn’t know what he’s saying. Whatever happens in the future happens, but [Ellmers] is working hard with other legislators in North Carolina to keep the airlift wing in North Carolina.”

An amendment authored in the Senate by Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has at least delayedthe proposed move until 60 days after the Air Force provides justification for it.

In the same interview highlighted in the ad, Ellmers vowed that despite the failure of her proposed amendment, she would keep up the fight.

“We’re not going to let this issue go. I feel very strongly – that not only for military readiness, but also to the economy of the Fayetteville area is dependent on that unit staying together,”Ellmers told TWCN.

– Robert Farley

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Add Democrats to the U.S. House, Senate

the Clay section

U.S. House, District 2

Renee Ellmers is a problem. The hawkish, self-described Tea Party Republican g is committed to repealing Obamacare, rolling back women's rights and deploying the young men and women of Fort Bragg to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. She is an NRA-endorsed Islamophobe, and while the rest of her party cedes gay marriage as inevitable, just two weeks ago she held fast to the now-outdated "one man and one woman" talking point.

Congress is gridlocked and ethically compromised. Washington is filled with freshmen Representatives who show up with big dreams to accomplish something but are quickly ground down by the quid pro quo machinery. Clay Aiken seems to understand this and to have really thought about it—perhaps there is a chance that this knowledge will vaccinate him from the seemingly inevitable. Aiken has built his campaign on his desire to not just become another rank-and-file Democrat; with no ambitions as a career politician, perhaps he can remain independent of the party apparatus and beholden only to his constituents.

If anyone can do it, Aiken can. He already has a name and a fortune. He seems to view political office as a form of public service, not a job. This gives him a leg up on many other House Democrats. His nuanced and humane positions would also be a breath of fresh air in a room of dull Democrats. Aiken supports the Earned Income Tax Credit, a higher minimum wage, and has been out front on workers' rights, venturing out to rural Tar Heel, N.C. to meet with a union attempting to get representation in their poultry plant. He understands that the Affordable Care Act has issues, but is for tweaking it rather than repealing. As a high net worth individual, he understands that the one percent have to pay their fair share and shouldn't get special tax breaks. Aiken also gets disability advocacy. His non-profit National Inclusion Project is at the forefront of disability issues, bypassing many older nonprofits, as it seeks to integrate the disabled with the non-disabled. With his heartfelt, earnest Progressivism, forged in personal experience, Aiken would be a unique and welcome addition in the Democratic Party and the House of Representatives.

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Under the Dome Blog: Aiken Defends Problematic TV Ad

Aiken defends problematic TV ad

Posted by Lynn Bonner on October 22, 2014

Clay Aiken, the Democratic candidate in the 2nd Congressional District, defended a new negative television ad Wednesday that a fact-checking organization found misleading.

Aiken’s campaign started airing an ad this week that takes on incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers. Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, headlined its analysis,Aiken’s Attack Ad Is Off Key.”

Tim Boyum of Time Warner Cable News North Carolina asked Aiken about it during a Q&A that will air at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The fact check says “Aiken falsely claims Ellmers ‘voted against the payroll tax cut because she thought $1,000 out of your pocket is not that much money.’ ”

According to the factcheck: “She voted against a two-month extension because it wasn’t long enough, and helped craft a bipartisan bill that extended the payroll tax holiday for one year.”

Responding to Boyum’s questions about the ad, Aiken repeated the claim about the payroll tax that the fact check found to be false.

“I take issue with anyone telling me it’s off-key, because at the end of the day what’s off-key is implying that $1,000 is not a lot of money to people in your district, and that’s what Congresswoman Ellmers did,” Aiken said.

Factcheck.org called Aikens claim “a gross distortion of Ellmers’ position.”

Additionally, Aiken says in the ad that Ellmers failed to stop a Fort Bragg Airwing from being moved out of state, implying that the air wing has moved when it hasn’t.

He continued his criticism of Ellmers on the issue during the Q&A taping, saying she was too slow to act. (Ellmers submitted an amendment that would keep the wing from being deactivated.)

Ellmers, a Dunn Republican, is seeking a third term. She declined to participate in what was to be a debate, so Aiken sat next to an empty chair.

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

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Democrat Clay Aiken courts Republicans in longshot House bid

Democrat Clay Aiken courts Republicans in longshot House bid

Gay Democrat seeking to unseat Rep. Renee Ellmers in deep-red North Carolina district

By S.A. Miller - The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WHISPERING PINES, N.C. — "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken can't hand out yard signs for his congressional campaign fast enough. Not because of the openly gay Democrat's broad appeal in this deep-red district, but because people steal them.

"You don't see many signs at all, because they keep getting stolen," Mr. Aiken told a crowd of about 65 supporters at a town hall-style meeting here, urging them to put up more signs and call the police if they see someone swipe one.

In this solid GOP district in central North Carolina, Mr. Aiken has virtually no chance of unseating incumbent Republican Rep. Renee L. Ellmers. The singer-songwriter's celebrity nevertheless has attracted close attention to the race.

Mr. Aiken shot to fame after finishing second to Ruben Studdard on the second season of the TV talent show "American Idol." He has released a string of records since then, including multiplatinum debut album "Measure of a Man."

But his politics run sharply to the left of the district. A SurveyUSA/Civitas poll last month showed Mrs. Ellmers ahead of Mr. Aiken by 8 points, 47 percent to 39 percent. Other polls have given her a bigger lead.

Even Mr. Aiken wasn't sure how much of the sign theft should be attributed to his fans or to residents who despise him.

"I think there are some people who are taking them for souvenirs, but some of them are taking them for other reasons," he told The Washington Times.

A man was charged in neighboring Lee County last week for removing an "Aiken" yard sign. His motive was unclear, though he told a witness that he worked for the Democratic Party and the signs were obstructing his view, according to the sheriff's office.

Signs have become a campaign issues in Mr. Aiken's improbable run in other ways. He's been ridiculed for distributing signs that read "Republaiken" in letters that fade from blue to red.

The "Republaiken" signs also are extremely popular with thieves, according to Aiken campaign volunteers.

The Ellmers campaign said the signs expose Mr. Aiken as a "phony" who thinks he can manipulate people into thinking he is Republican or conservative.

"That is incredibly stupid. I don't think anybody is confused," said Mr. Aiken.

He insisted the signs are designed to reach out to Republican voters and communicate that he will work across the aisle and forge bipartisan alliances to break the gridlock in Congress.

"I've given out more of those in the last few days on the bus than I've given out the other ones," he told the gathering at the Whispering Pines community center in this rural outpost of Moore County. "Because you'll talk to somebody, and they'll say, 'I'm Republican, but I'm going to vote for you.'"

As he crisscrosses the sprawling district between Raleigh and Greensboro on a bus tour, Mr. Aiken hammers home the message that he's ready to work with Republicans to fix problems with Obamacare or pass immigration reform.

"I'll be one who is willing to come to the table. I'll be one who is willing to talk about it," he said.

He accused Mrs. Elmers of being an unyielding partisan and neglecting the district while spending too much time with "the leadership in Washington."

"Even if you're in a red district, if you don't do your job and listen to people, watch out or an American Idol might come run against you," he said to laughs from the crowd. "Watch out, because somebody is going to have the ability to hold you accountable. Because that's really all it is — it really is an accountability issue."

Because of Mrs. Ellmers' alleged absenteeism on the homefront, he said the political pundits had miscalculated when they labeled the district as "safe Republican."

"People who are looking at these races from D.C. in their little ivory towers with their math and their calculators and their abacus — or whatever they're using up there — to determine how safe a district is, they can't take those things into account nor the discontent of the electorate in North Carolina," he said.

He is connecting with some Republicans.

"I don't feel like [Mrs. Ellmers] is listening to Moore County," said Pamela W. Gantt, owner of a mortgage brokerage, who attended the meeting.

"I really think we need change. I'm actually a Republican," she said. "But Clay is willing to listen to average business owners. That means a lot."

Despite leading in the polls, Mrs. Ellmers continued to campaign hard and remind voters of Mr. Aiken's Democratic loyalties.

"We think the people of District 2 are conservative and aren't going to be fooled by an Obama Democrat," said Patrick Sebastian, a senior adviser to the Ellmers campaign. "I think we have a guy who thinks he is so persuasive and such a great entertainer that he can convince anyone of anything."

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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TV Runner-up Aiken Seeks Win in NC House Race

TV Runner-up Aiken Seeks Win in NC House Race

'Idol' runner-up Aiken trying to finish on top in tough NC House district drawn by Republicans

By GARY D. ROBERTSON Associated Press

The Associated Press


Eleven years after becoming a national TV sensation, Clay Aiken still attracts a crowd in central North Carolina. In an hour he could only get a block or so down the street during an old textile town's fall festival while fans stopped to talk and take pictures.

"I can't believe you're here!" exclaimed Suzanne Strickland, 23, after she and her mother left their craft booth at Erwin Denim Days. "I saw you watching 'American Idol'!"

Finishing second for Congress won't cut it for the 2003 runner-up on the Fox show that vaulted him to a singing career and another second-place finish on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice." Rather, he would just be another Democratic candidate who failed to beat the odds on North Carolina's congressional map since Republicans redrew it and shifted the delegation's makeup to the right.

While national Democratic groups haven't arrived with financial support, Aiken believes there's a path to victory in the U-shaped 2nd District over Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers. He's trying to attract independent and Republican voters who recall his appearances as a crooner, and he's hoping to catch breaks on the waves of unhappiness with Republican state government and gridlocked Washington politics.

"People are very dissatisfied with Congress in general and getting absolutely nothing done," Aiken said in an interview. He said Ellmers, a nurse, is wrongly fixated on repealing President Barack Obama's signature health care law, rather than fixing its problems. "If after three or four years, you still haven't gotten anything done, then what are you getting paid for?"

Ellmers, who like Aiken was a first-time candidate four years ago when she upset Democratic Rep. Bob Etheridge, is throwing political inexperience back at Aiken and suggesting he's role-playing to win votes.

"He's an entertainer. He's an actor," Ellmers, 50, said in an interview after addressing the Kiwanis Club in Apex earlier this month. "He believes that he can change costume and get into character and speak to whichever group and win them over."

Ellmers is surely favored in a district anchored by Fort Bragg, affluent suburbs west of Raleigh, retirees near the famous Pinehurst golf resort and solid red south of Greensboro. The 2011 redistricting made the district swing more Republican, as Mitt Romney received nearly 58 percent of the 2012 presidential vote there, according to an analysis by the business advocacy group the North Carolina Chamber.

If the race were competitive, outside groups would be investing in Aiken's candidacy, said North Carolina Chamber political director Nathan Babcock, but he expected they won't because they've got more pressing races.

Scott Falmlen, a longtime Democratic political consultant in Raleigh, believes there's a recipe for Democratic success in the district and says Aiken is following it well. But Falmlen isn't willing to predict a victory. Aiken raised more than $1 million for his campaign since February, benefiting from Broadway and Los Angeles events along the way. He hired veteran strategists and scheduled a bus trip through the district in the campaign's final three weeks. Ellmers, who has raised more than $1.8 million this cycle, is battling anti-incumbent sentiment.

Aiken has "presented himself as a very credible candidate and I think some people wondered whether that would be the case," said Falmlen, who isn't working with Aiken. "He comes across as knowledgeable of the issues."

During a Saturday in the 2nd District, Aiken, 35, engaged well-wishers as they browsed jewelry and ate barbecue, stopping for photos and hugs. But he also discussed veterans' medical care and Medicaid expansion. He gave stickers to GOP voters that read "Republaiken," wordplay on his name and the opposition party.

Ellmers "has done absolutely nothing and I'm ready for a change," said registered Republican Peter de Young, 67, of Pinehurst, who met Aiken at a street fair in Cameron.

Ellmers, who frequents cable news shows and heads the Republican Women's Policy Committee, blames Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid for refusing to consider House legislation. "I can't force the Senate to act, but the American people can," she said, suggesting they should turn the Senate majority Republican next month.

Aiken has tried to distance himself from Obama, saying he disagrees with him on issues and believes several changes should be made to the president's signature health care law. But during their lone televised debate, Ellmers contended that, in the end, "you support Obamacare."

Aiken is a gay man running in a largely conservative district. Among passers-by in Erwin, it wasn't an issue. "That's his choice, that's his life. It doesn't affect me at all," said Susan Boggs, 38, of Erwin.

Aiken supports gay marriage while Ellmers does not, though she publicly opposed the 2012 constitutional amendment in North Carolina that banned gay marriage. Both said during their debate that the issue of same-sex marriage, which is being decided in federal courts across the country, is out of their hands.

Aiken received almost 12 million votes nationwide while narrowly losing to "Idol" winner Ruben Studdard in 2003. This year, he edged out a well-known local businessman in the Democratic primary. It may take the ardent support of local "Claymates" ??? Aiken's fan base during his "Idol" run??? to win the title of congressman.

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

Copyright © 2014 ABC News Internet Ventures

Story is also at this link: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/de3b861f07994c47b44e4b834af75a94/tv-runner-aiken-seeks-win-nc-house-race

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'American Idol' singer Clay Aiken seeks win in first political bid

'American Idol' singer Clay Aiken seeks win in first political bid

9:03am EDT

By Colleen Jenkins

ASHEBORO N.C. (Reuters) - "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken is back on tour. This time he is trying to win over North Carolina voters with his political chops rather than his voice, and he has less than two weeks left to do it.

Polls and pundits suggest Aiken, a Democrat running in a solidly Republican congressional district, could be headed for another second-place finish.

Undeterred, he is spending the final stretch of the campaign traveling and living on a bus emblazoned with a "Clay for North Carolina" slogan to tell voters in his native state why he would be an effective advocate for them in Congress.

"I can get people to pay attention," Aiken, 35, said at a town hall campaign event in Asheboro last week. "It's a benefit of where I came from and how I got here."

About 30 people showed up at an historic courthouse in central North Carolina to hear Aiken speak at the event, a far different scene than his heady "American Idol" days in 2003 when 38 million TV viewers watched him perform in the show's finale.

The singing contest launched the gangly, red-headed special education teacher to an entertainment career that has included stints on Broadway in "Monty Python's Spamalot" and on television in "The Celebrity Apprentice." He made the cover of People magazine when he announced in 2008 that he was gay.

His first run for office has also drawn wide attention. He eked out a win in the Democratic primary for the chance to challenge Republican U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers on Nov. 4 and has snapped countless selfies with fans on the campaign trail.

Just don't ask him to sing.

"As soon as I get up there and start singing, they remember me as the guy who sings," he said in an interview. "They don’t remember anything else about it at all, so I’m trying not to do that."


Aiken argues his opponent spends too much time in Washington and puts partisan politics ahead of the needs of North Carolina's sprawling 2nd congressional district, which stretches across nine counties and includes the Fort Bragg military base.

Ellmers, 50, is a former nurse who first won the seat during the Republicans' national electoral sweep in 2010 and clinched her second term with 56 percent of the vote in 2012.

She dismissed Aiken's attacks on her record during a televised debate this month, suggesting he did not understand how Washington works. He seems to think he will be able to sway leaders with "a song and dance," she said.

"Congresswoman Ellmers is good at her talking points, good at calling me an entertainer," Aiken said in response. "But the most embarrassing reality show right now in the country is Congress."

A poll conducted by the conservative Civitas Institute in late September showed Ellmers drawing 47 percent support compared to Aiken's 39 percent. Fourteen percent were undecided, and there was a 5 percent margin of error.

The congresswoman also leads in fundraising and cash on hand, though Aiken's campaign claims it has the momentum in the race after raising more than Ellmers in the past two quarters.

Aiken recently unveiled campaign signs featuring the slogan "Republaiken," which critics saw as an attempt to confuse voters. Political experts say North Carolina's Republican-led legislature re-drew the 2nd district to favor their party.

Aiken's campaign manager said the signs signaled his intent to represent all voters, regardless of their party affiliation.

Janet Pate, the treasurer of a local Tea Party group, left Aiken's event in Asheboro carrying a stack of the signs and said she planned to put one up in her yard.

She was among several Tea Party members at the town hall who said they were disillusioned by Ellmers and were considering giving Aiken their vote.

"She's done nothing," said Pate, 47. "He's open to hearing what we have to say at least."

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins, editing by Jill Serjeant and Cynthia Osterman)

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Endorsement: Clay Aiken would help unlock congressional gridlock

Endorsement: Clay Aiken would help unlock congressional gridlock

October 23, 2014 Updated 2 hours ago

Clay Aiken doesn’t sing on the campaign trail, but his voice still compels attention and deserves applause. Residents of North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District would do well to have him speak for them. We support his election.

Aiken, who gained fame as a singer and runner-up in the 2003 “American Idol” competition, uses his voice now to discuss how he will support education, ease the burden of student debt and help veterans and members of the military who face troubles with joblessness, substance abuse and health issues. He’s also committed to being a moderate voice who will seek a way past the partisan gridlock that has this Congress on track to be the least productive ever.

Aiken, a 35-year-old Raleigh native, is running against Renee Ellmers, a two-term Republican incumbent. A former nurse from Dunn, Ellmers, 50, narrowly won office in 2010 by riding a tea party wave and won her second term handily after the district lines were redrawn to favor Republicans. Over two terms, she has stood with House Republicans in their relentless opposition to the Affordable Care Act and virtually every proposal offered by the White House.

Ellmers also has been prone to political tone-deafness. After supporting a Republican-driven shutdown of the U.S. government, she initially declined to follow others in Congress who deferred their pay in sympathy with federal workers who lost theirs. “I need my paycheck. That’s the bottom line,” she said. Recently she raised eyebrows by saying lawmakers need to bring policy debates “down to a woman’s level.”

Nonetheless, Aiken is running uphill. He’s a gay Democrat in a Republican-leaning district. But Aiken thinks his name recognition may help him win the substantial number of the district’s unaffiliated voters and even some conservatives who regard Ellmers as politically inflexible and not particularly responsive to constituent needs.

Ellmers, who went into office as a political neophyte, hasn’t taken long to assume the tone of an insider. She dismisses Aiken as “an entertainer” and says, “He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.”

What Aiken does know is that he wants to move the nation past the frustration of partisan politics. The broadest sentiment he picks up on the campaign trail, he says, is: “People hate politics. They are sick of it.”

Aiken has sought to bridge partisan differences. He has met with groups across the political spectrum, including tea party groups, as he campaigns across a sprawling district that stretches from western Wake County to Fayetteville and includes nine counties and the Fort Bragg military base.

An upset in this race would be more than a victory for Aiken. It would send a message from voters fed up with a divided, do-nothing Congress.

Ellmers is a part of the problem by being dogmatic and uncompromising. Even more troubling, she does not concede there is a problem. She says the House has passed hundreds of bills only to have them blocked by the Democratic-controlled Senate. She blames gridlock on the Senate majority leader.

“Harry Reid is the problem,” she says.

That “not us” attitude is what dooms compromise and the prospect of congressional action. Gridlock and automatic spending cuts under sequestration have hobbled the recovery from the Great Recession. There is a need for members of Congress who will sing a different tune and sometimes a duet with the opposition. It’s time for Clay Aiken.

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

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Clay Aiken an Idol to the People

Clay Aiken an Idol to the People

Added by Evan Linneman on October 23, 2014.

Clay Aiken is making his way around the people of North Carolina to run for Congress. He is in a tough battle against current and two term winner Rep. Renee Ellmers. It is sure to be an exciting run for office between a celebrity and a two term winner. Clay Aiken is known as a singer to many, but little know of his actions since and during his famous period on American Idol.

The race for District two of North Carolina will have eyes on it not only because it is election season, but because of who is running. Rep. Renee Ellmers of Dunn, NC and Clay Aiken of Chapel Hill, NC will have eyes on them for a different reason- because Clay Aiken is a celebrity of course. The counties of Alamance, Chathan, Lumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Moore Randolph and Wake will have to decide if they want a former American Idol runner-up or a two term representative to take the helms of the counties. Many do not know more about Clay Aiken then just his time on American Idol. He actually has more to say and more to do than just sign songs around the White House.

Ever since Aiken joined the rings of fame he has been taking action to help the community. His run started on the hit television show in 2003, but at the same time in 2003, he was starting the National Inclusion Project in North Carolina that advocates for children with disabilities in recreational and educational programs. After the show was over, he became an ambassador for UNICEF, which helps with child survival, development, and emergency care in countries outside the United States. He became an ambassador for countries like Afghanistan, Uganda, Indonesia, Somalia and Kenya. Aiken would travel to the countries and advocate for the organizational work going on in the country.

In 2006, he was appointed to a two year term working for the presidential committee for people with intellectual abilities. All of the work he did was during the time of his fame. He showed that he did more than just want to sing, he wanted to make a difference. One could say that he did not stay Invisible when not in the spotlight. Now he is sending his message all around North Carolina cities in an attempt to win a place in Congress. During a debate between Aiken and Ellmers, punches were thrown as Ellmers said that politics is not just a “sing and dance”. Aiken, realizing her jokes about his fame, returned by saying that the most embarrassing reality show right now is Congress.

Aiken is an idol for the people because he is there for the people. He has showed his love for the population in his charity work and political positions attained while having the world watching him on television. The trouble for him is that he is running in state that still has gay marriage banned, and Aiken, as an openly gay man as of 2008, also has chosen to run as a democrat in a mostly- republican area. The positions remains up to how many “Claymates” reside in District two of North Carloina. Voting begins Nov. fourth.

By Evan Linneman

Read more at http://guardianlv.co...HUDrv3T4PPfD.99

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Clay Aiken makes campaign stop in Spring Lake

Clay Aiken makes campaign stop in Spring Lake

By Paige Rentz Staff writer | Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2014 11:05 pm

SPRING LAKE - A long, silver bus gleamed under a streetlight in the parking lot near the Spring Lake Municipal Building.

Inside, about 50 people were gathered Thursday night to hear Clay Aiken talk about why he's running for Congress and ask him questions about issues.

The Cary Democrat and former American Idol runner-up is challenging Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, a two-term incumbent in the 2nd Congressional District.

Aiken's appearance in Spring Lake was his sixth town hall since Oct. 15 and is part of a three-week bus tour across the district leading up to Election Day. The campaign bus makes several stops a day, popping into local restaurants to meet with patrons, dropping into fall festivals and hosting town hall events - 11 scheduled in all.

"It ain't easy," Aiken said of the pace he's keeping, "but nothing that's worth doing is easy, right?"

With the district sprawling across parts of nine counties, he said, "If you want to talk to everybody, you're going to have to be on the road."

Aiken will host two more town halls in Cumberland County, one Sunday at the Headquarters Library on Maiden Lane in Fayetteville and another Wednesday at the Hope Mills Branch Library on Golfview Road.

Over the course of the forum, which lasted about an hour and a half, Aiken talked about raising the minimum wage to a level that will bring full-time workers out of poverty and paying for it by cutting payroll taxes on the first $5 million of payroll.

He spent a great deal of time before the mostly friendly crowd talking about the need to update impact funding for Cumberland and Harnett counties, which would help ease the burden of offering county services to those living on Fort Bragg, from whom they do not collect property tax.

Some questions had shorter, simpler answers.

Privatize social security and medicaid? "No," he said.

Support equal pay for women? "Yes."

On Thursday night, he received a question about genetically modified organisms, which he said would not be a priority issue for him if he's elected to Congress. But it's also an issue he said he doesn't know a lot about.

"I'll have homework when I leave tonight," he said after the event.

Aiken told residents that as a congressman, he'll have the power to bring attention to issues that are important to the residents of his district, even though if elected,, he'll be among the lowest-ranking members of Congress. He noted the national media doing stories about his bid to unseat Ellmers, who has served two terms.

If he makes it to Washington, part of his job will be "making sure people pay attention to what's needed down here," he said, "making sure the needs of this area are heard loudly."

Before Aiken left for another night on the bus, he challenged the audience to "do something the people in D.C. don't do, talk to people who don't agree with you." He challenged them to talk to five people who don't typically vote for Democrats and convey the urgency of this election.

"If we can have the boldness to have a conversation with someone we don't agree with," he said, "if we can do that here, the people in D.C. can do it. We should set the example."

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

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Clay Aiken Representing North Carolina

Clay Aiken Representing North Carolina

24 Oct, 2014

By: Santiago


When you hear the name Clay Aiken the last thing, you think of is politics, but the American Idol runner up is determine to change that. Aiken has been touring all over North Carolina, not singing but campaigning as a Democratic challenger in a state that is mostly a Republican district.

With two weeks remaining in the campaign, Aiken is spending his money on his campaign bus and stopping in each town spreading his slogan “Clay for North America”. He is confident that he can effectively advocate for those who want to express their feelings to congress.

Last week in a campaign event held in Asheboro he said, "I can get people to pay attention, it’s a benefit of where I came from and how I got here." In the very same event, all 30 people that attended were energized to hear the American Idol runner up talking about how the Republicans forget about North Carolina issues.

For those who think this is just a publicity stunt Aiken assures you it isn’t, he has been interested in politics all his life. In 2008, the singer announced that he was gay and since then he has worked vigorously in helping promote pro-gay rights.

He admits that being categorized as a celebrity has helped him with getting the media coverage thus far, but he wants to create a new image. He wants to be known as a politician, not the singer; he hasn’t done any singing during the campaign tour.

With two weeks left Aiken is trailing Renee Ellmers and seems like he will once again be runner up.

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Clay Aiken | U.S. House | Second Congressional District


(NC's 2nd Congressional District includes all or parts of Alamance, Chatham, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Moore, and Wake counties)While Clay Aiken may be best-known for a meteoric rise to fame following his 2003 stint on American Idol, the eighth-generation North Carolinian has also been a leading voice for equality for all North Carolinians, speaking on Capitol Hill in 2010 against anti-gay bullying, and, in 2012, becoming a public face against Amendment One, North Carolina's constitutional ban on the freedom to marry. In addition to his full support for marriage equality, Aiken has pledged to fight for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and expanding hate crime laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity. He faces a close race against Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers who opposes marriage equality and has supported bills to limit the religious freedom of military chaplains to officiate same-sex marriages and has endorsed efforts to defend the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." If elected, Aiken would become North Carolina's first openly-gay congressperson. | Campaign Website | Follow @ClayForNC

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Rep. Renee Ellmers sees bump in funding; Aiken outspends Republican incumbent

Rep. Renee Ellmers sees bump in funding; Aiken outspends Republican incumbent

By Paige Rentz Staff writer | Updated 42 minutes ago

Rep. Renee Ellmers got a burst of funding in the final reporting period before Election Day, but Democratic challenger Clay Aiken continued to outspend the Republican incumbent in his bid to unseat her in U.S. House District 2.

Ellmers picked up more than $105,000 in contributions during the first 15 days of October. Aiken had more than $65,500 come in during the same period, pushing his total contributions since he began his campaign in February to more than $1million. Aiken pulled in slightly more from individuals than Ellmers, but her advantage comes from more than $44,000 in contributions from political action committees. Aiken only received $500 from such committees during the filing period.

During the two-year election cycle, Ellmers has raised nearly $1.7 million, more than 72 percent of which came from these committees, including those representing a variety of industries. Nearly all of Aiken's contributions have come from individuals, both from North Carolina and across the U.S.

Ellmers' fundraising advantage has translated into a cash advantage leading into the final weeks before the Nov. 4 election. As of Oct. 15, her campaign has nearly $443,000 in the bank, compared with Aiken's nearly $293,600, which includes outstanding loans from the candidate. Still, Aiken spent nearly $19,000 more on operating expenses than Ellmers did during the reporting period.

House District 2 touches Alamance, Chatham, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Moore, Randolph and Wake counties.

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

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From the Fayetteville Observer:



Posted: Friday, October 24, 2014 2:13 pm | Updated: 2:23 pm, Fri Oct 24, 2014.

Clay Aiken

Race: U.S. District 2

Party: Democrat

Home: Cary

Age: 35

Occupation: Entertainer

Elected office: None

Family: One child

Contacts: 919-297-8466; info@clayaiken.com; www.clayaiken.com; www.facebook.com/clayfornc;www.twitter.com/clayfornc

Describe your occupation/career experience and any military service: Co-founder, The National Inclusion Project, founded 2003; ambassador for education programs, UNICEF

Who do you most admire? From a political perspective, I most admire the work and legacy of Terry Sanford. But from a personal perspective, my mother has always been the example of grace, strength and character that I aspire to emulate.

Favorite book: “I Am One of You Forever’’ by Fred Chappell

Favorite movie: “Whale Rider’’

How long have you lived in the community you would represent? 33 years

The one quality I most ADMIRE in a leader is: Flexibility.

My biggest character STRENGTH is my: Resilience and determination.

My biggest FLAW is: I’m unscripted and speak my mind.

If elected, I promise voters that I will NOT: Take orders from anybody but the people of the 2nd District.

How do you define yourself politically, beyond party affiliation? I don’t define myself by party affiliation. Like most North Carolinians, I want what’s best for the folks of our state and our district. I’m not going to Washington to work for a party leader — I’m going to work for the people of the 2nd District. All politics is local.

  • What are your top three legislative priorities, with one being the most important:

In Congress, I’ll fight to be a voice for the thousands of active-duty military based at Fort Bragg and veterans who call the 2nd District home. Recently, we’ve seen Fort Bragg put on the chopping block in the defense budget and our veteran community ignored by the federal government. I’ll make serving the military and veterans a top priority by seeking a seat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, a committee currently without any representation from North Carolina.

We need to create good jobs and bolster our local economies. We should make it easier for employers to hire workers by reducing the tax burden on small businesses and incentivize businesses to hire veterans. And we should expand the earned income tax credit to reward work while helping more North Carolinians reach the middle class.

But, the reality is, in order to be effective in getting any of these important issues resolved, we’ve got to send a message to Washington that they’ve got to work together to get things done. That’s how it works in the real world — in our communities, our schools, our churches and our neighborhoods. And that’s the only way we’re going to create jobs and serve our veterans.

  • Officials have said veteran growth in the Fayetteville region has far outpaced the rest of the nation. In addition to temporary clinics, what can the federal government do to get veterans in for care faster?

Additional clinics is a good first step. In Fayetteville, the VA is experiencing an influx in the veteran population, and the area doesn’t have the facilities to meet the demand.

In addition to facilities, we should increase the number of claims processors. Our current congressperson voted against a bill that would have increased the number of processors in our area.

And there needs to be a larger restructuring of the transition from care under Department of Defense to Veterans Affairs. There should be some overlap between the oversight of DoD and VA when our servicemen and women are transitioning back into civilian life. For many of our veterans, it’s like jumping from one riverbank to another, and too many of our veterans are falling into the water because of the gap in transition between the two departments.

  • North Carolina lawmakers refused money that would expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. Research by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates the state will miss out on $40 billion in federal funding, and hospitals will lose more than $11 billion in reimbursements. Some smaller hospitals may close. Would you push for the state to take the Medicaid expansion money or stick with its current position?

I think it’s essential that our state legislature vote to expand Medicaid. Currently, North Carolinians who are between 100 percent and 138 percent of the poverty level do not qualify for Medicaid, even though the Affordable Care Act extends coverage to these individuals on a federal level.

This is not only hurting the individuals who fall into this low-income range, but it also hurts our hospitals. Cape Fear Valley Medical Center caters to a large uninsured population, and the hospital is losing millions of dollars a year because of revenue that is lost when patients are uninsured and without Medicaid.

North Carolina taxpayers are among the biggest contributors to the federal funding that went toward Medicaid expansion under ACA, but we are reaping none of the benefits. It’s time the N.C. General Assembly spend taxpayer money wisely and thoughtfully and expand Medicaid in our state.

  • Some experts have said for the U.S. military to defeat ISIS, ground troops will eventually be needed. Do you envision any scenario whereby you would support putting boots on the ground to deal with this threat?

We’ve ignored the threat of the Islamic State for too long, and I agree with the decision for air strikes to support the Iraqi and Syrian ground forces as they push back against ISIS in the region.

We’ve also got to compel the surrounding nations to commit their own ground forces to protect the areas currently being threatened by ISIS fighters, and the U.S. strategy should continue to be to provide air support for those forces combating ISIS.

As long as ISIS doesn’t present an imminent threat to U.S. soil we should not be putting additional boots on the ground.

America should, as Teddy Roosevelt put it, speak softly and carry a big stick. Any threat to U.S. soil should be met with the full force of the nation’s military might. But it should not be the role of the U.S. to be the police force for the world.

Video from the Fayettevile Observer: http://www.fayobserver.com/video/clay-aiken-interview-with-the-fayetteville-observer/youtube_6f24e7a0-57d3-11e4-a8d3-001a4bcf6878.html

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Ellmers and Aiken far apart on ideals, issues

Ellmers and Aiken far apart on ideals, issues

Oct. 25, 2014 @ 11:19 AM

Kathryn Trogdon


A onetime American Idol contestant and a nurse turned congressman are opposing each other in a race for the U.S. House of Representatives District 2 seat, with the intention of improving the lives of voters through job creation and advocating for constituent’s needs in Washington.

Renee Ellmers -- R

Now having served one term in Congress, Renee Ellmers identifies first and foremost as a nurse and a mother. Now, she wants to continue to remind voters that underneath everything she has done in Congress, she remains a conservative leader looking to do what is best for Lee County and North Carolina.

Before she was elected, Ellmers worked as a registered nurse for more than 21 years. She also served as a member of the Dunn Chamber of Commerce. Ellmers, her husband, Brent, and her son, Ben, live in Harnett County.

“I think those are some of the important things that we have to remind folks that we’re regular people,” she said.

But when she wasn’t driving her son to basketball games, she was in Washington, D.C., fighting to improve the lives of American citizens through job creation, health care, and national security.

“I think it’s very important for me to go back to Washington and be that good voice of conservative leadership that we need so much,” she said.

Ellmers said the top issues on everyone’s minds are jobs and the economy, which is why she plans to fight hard in those areas. She said the House has passed about 400 bills to aid job creation, but these bills are getting stuck on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s desk.

“They are all job creation bills, because they cut over-regulation that our businesses have to deal with,” she said.

Ellmers added that she hopes to be able to cut waste in government, identifying the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s handling of Ebola as a prime example of governmental ineffectiveness.

“The CDC has failed on the job,” she said.

Problems like these, Ellmer said, need to be fixed so that Americans can see efficiency can exist in government.

As a nurse, Ellmers said health care is another priority if re-elected. While it’s unlikely that Obamacare will be repealed while President Barack Obama is in office, she said Congress can improve the situation until a repeal can occur. That includes eliminating unneeded elements — for example, a mother who is 55 years old but still is required to have maternity coverage.

“We can take apart those things that are harming every American,” she said. “Those are the things that will help bring down the cost.”

Other tax issues driving up the cost of Obamacare are the medical device tax, she said, which has caused a loss of jobs and innovation.

Ellmers said the election is the opportunity for voters to choose a better future, and it will determine if the country will prosper in the next two years or if the House will have to continue to “put out the fires that come from the Obama administration.”

Clay Aiken (D)

Well-known as a former contestant on American Idol, Clay Aiken now wants to use his microphone to bring attention to the needs of District 2 and Lee County.

Before Idol, Aiken worked with students with disabilities and later became a UNICEF ambassador where he continued to work for children. Working in Congress, he said, would allow him to do exactly what he was doing for years — giving a voice to the voiceless.

“A lot of people think this is a departure from what I was doing,” he said. “But it’s really more of just an extension of what I’ve been doing for the last 11 years.”

Aiken said he would to use this to his advantage to help bring more attention to the needs of District 2.

“Congresswoman Ellmers has bashed me for being an entertainer,” he said. “There’s a benefit to that. You need to make sure people are paying attention to Sanford.”

One of the needs Aiken said he would bring attention to is job creation in Lee County. Every day the Amtrak train drives through downtown and never stops, but if it did, he said it could change the economy in Sanford.

“How much would that help the economy in this district?” he asked. “That’s something easy that someone in this seat should be shouting about.”

Other ways Aiken said jobs could be created is by encouraging more programs like the partnership involving Central Carolina Community College and Caterpillar.

“I think we need to continue to encourage businesses to partner with local colleges and universities to make sure that universities and community colleges are able to train people for the jobs that are going to be coming,” he said.

If elected, Aiken said he also wants to address education and helping veterans by easing the transition from active duty to civilian life. In terms of education, he said he would like the federal government to encourage more people to go into teaching through incentives.

“I want to incentivize them and encourage them to come back and teach in their local [area], where they grew up,” he said.

If the federal government helped students pay for college, he suggested, more of these students may return to their hometowns to teach.

“I’d like to make sure we work on trying to build strong, local teaching bases within some of the more rural areas,” he said. “You build up a teacher base in Lee County and the kids get a better education when the teacher knows what it’s like to grow up in Sanford.”

To those who have their reservations about his candidacy, Aiken challenges them and all voters to give him a chance in Congress to do more than Ellmers has done.

“If I haven’t done more in two years than she’s done in four, then vote me out,” he said.

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ABC11's Joel Brown sits down with the candidates for U.S. House District 2.

By Joel Brown

Updated 1 hr 6 mins ago


As we count down to the Nov. 4 general election, one of the highest profile races in North Carolina is the showdown between incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers and challenger Clay Aiken in the 2nd Congressional District.

We sat down with both candidates and asked them the same questions on the issues.

First up is health care for American veterans and their plan to fix our embattled veteran's hospitals.

"They've actually taken numbers and fudged their system to make it appear better than it actually is. Those are the things that have to stop. We have to actually look at the issue. We have to make sure we're taking care of our veterans and stop playing games," said Ellmers.

"So this backlog that we all hear about, this backlog that's causing people a long time to get their disability checks processed, is in part because Congress doesn't do anything. They don't get anything done. They vote against, they vote against, they don't do anything. And, we have a backlog for that reason. So being proactive is part of it," said Aiken.

On immigration reform, we asked Aiken and Ellmers about their plan for a comprehensive bill.

"It makes sure that those people who are here illegally don't get a direct path to citizenship, but they're still able to get into the line. And they're able to pay into the system and pay taxes. Instead of living off the government, they're actually paying taxes into the government through payroll taxes. This type of bill would pass. The Senate bill would pass in the House right now. In fact, I think Congresswoman Ellmers would vote for it, but it will not get a vote because I think more people are interested in pointing fingers at the other party," said Aiken.

"The Senate passed legislation that would not pass the House. I would not vote for it. I believe it does open the door for amnesty," said Ellmers. "The pathway that I'm seeking is there again looking for that legal work status, admit wrongdoing, making sure we're getting these individuals out in the open so that we know who they are. We've got to secure that border!"

On the nation's newest terror fight, Ellmers and Aiken split on whether to send U.S. ground forces in to fight ISIS.

"No, I don't believe right now the U.S. should be sending ground forces in," said Aiken. "ISIS is a threat that we need to keep our eye on, but right now it is not a direct threat to U.S. soil and when it becomes a direct threat to U.S. soil, we need to reassess the situation."

Our conversation next turned to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

"I would like a full repeal. We've voted numerous times on that," said Ellmers.

"I do believe there need to be substantial changes made," Aiken offered.

They agreed Congress needs to pass changes, but differed on what they'd be.

"Health care savings plans, that's one of the things Obamacare actually gets rid of. We need to be able to have people empowered by saving in their own savings plan for health care needs," said Ellmers.

"The employer mandate at 50, we need to strongly consider raising it to 100 employees, to save thousands of dollars for tens of thousands of business owners," said Aiken.

We asked both candidates about raising the minimum wage. President Obama's calling on Congress to boost the minimum from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

"10.10 an hour is a livable wage and they didn't just grab a number out of thin air because it was catchy. They said 10.10 because that's where you can work 40 hours a week and not fall below the poverty line," said Aiken.

"It's not going to bring any family out of poverty. What we have to do is look at those entry-level jobs and how can we empower those individuals to move up the ladder of success so they can increase their income," said Ellmers.

Finally, we talked infrastructure. Should Congress pass a comprehensive plan to fix the nation's crumbling roads and bridges?

"It can't simply be a Band-Aid or a year to year fix as it has been for so long. We have to come up with a long-term plan. And it can't just simply be slapping another tax on the American people," said Ellmers.

"A Transportation Infrastructure Bank has been proposed and I think it's a solid way to make sure we have money in place specifically for infrastructure needs. And not only do we have that money in place, but that money is there to leverage private investment infrastructure - to leverage private industry to get in and improve the roads and bridges," said Aiken.

There is not much polling data on this race. However, most political experts seem to think Congresswoman Ellmers is a safe bet to hold onto her seat. But, Aiken's celebrity and financial-backing are making the race much more competitive.

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Aiken, Ellmers Campaign in Archdale

Aiken, Ellmers campaign in Archdale

Oct. 30, 2014 @ 08:00 AM

Daniel Kennedy


As Rep. Renee Ellmers and challenger Clay Aiken seek to represent U.S. House District 2, both the incumbent and the former American Idol runner-up from Cary made stops at Pioneer Family Restaurant to meet constituents from Archdale.

Aiken, 35, ate lunch, met with city officials and spoke to customers Friday who approached the multi-platinum recording artist, and he asked them for their votes on Nov. 4.

Ellmers, 51, followed suit on Monday, dropping by to eat lunch with Archdale's city manager, council members and Sen. Jerry Tillman, all of whom voiced their support for her campaign.

Aiken faces the difficult task of winning support from a primarily Republican district that includes Alamance, Chatham, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Moore, Randolph and Wake counties. He has responded by making a three-week bus tour of the district, meeting as many potential voters as he can.

“The whole purpose of the past three weeks has been to try to do something for folks around here I don't think they get very often,” Aiken said. “I would argue that most of the people in the area have not met the person who represents them. I would also argue that she may very well not realize that Interstate 85 runs through her district.”

Aiken contends that Ellmers, who is hoping for a third term, has become a veteran of Washington, but an unknown to her constituents. He also briefly discussed his celebrity status, hoping it does not detract from the issues. The Cary native believes he can provide a fresh perspective to the district, and does not want the race to turn into a popularity contest.

“Part of [campaigning] has to do with what people's priorities are when they get into office,” Aiken said. “Is your priority to be the type of person who wants to be around and talk to people, or is your priority to be in leadership and work your way up? Well, I don't need that. I've done that – got the T-shirt.”

When asked her reason for visiting Archdale, Ellmers said she wanted to hear from the people she represents, mentioning Aiken's local approach to politics as a pillar of his campaign. She believes that a Republican-led House has passed legislation that is seeking to create a healthy environment for job growth and wants residents to understand her goals.

“When [Aiken] is talking about some issues, he tends to look at things from a local [perspective],” Ellmers said. “But you do have to look at it from a federal level. Those are some things we've worked on. I've been out talking with constituents … listening to their concerns.

“No matter who I talk to, they're concerned about the economy, they're concerned about job creation and they're concerned about the country and the direction the country is going in. They really want some good, strong leadership in Washington.”

Despite his disadvantages with voters, Aiken is reportedly matching Ellmers blow-for-blow in campaign funding. Tucker Middleton, Aiken's communications director, announced that their campaign received $355,000 from third-quarter fundraising, bringing his total contributions to more than $1 million over an eight-month period.

Ellmers raised $280,000 in the third quarter. Aiken, who announced his candidacy Feb. 5, claims he has received financial support almost exclusively from individual donors, while Ellmers' contributions are drawn largely from political committees.

Originally from Michigan, Ellmers moved to Harnett County following the birth of her son and has lived there since. A registered nurse for 21 years prior to her election to Congress in 2010, Ellmers has campaigned on healthcare issues, as well as job creation.

Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3578, or at dkennedy@atnonline.net.

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Aiken asking for votes ... in a political forum

Aiken asking for votes ... in a political forum

By Danielle Battaglia/News & Record danielle.battaglia@news-record.com

Posted on Oct 31, 2014

ASHEBORO — Clay Aiken’s arrival at Randolph Community College didn’t go unnoticed Thursday afternoon.

After all, hiding a celebrity’s presence proves difficult when he arrives in a gold bus with his name plastered on all sides.

Several people rushed over to pose for selfies when Aiken exited.

It’s been 11 years since his second place “American Idol” finish, but Aiken wasn’t on campus to sing.

Politics was the reason he was here.

Aiken is campaigning for the 2nd Congressional District seat against Republican incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers.

It’s a race few expect him to win.

The 2nd District, in parts of Randolph, Chatham and Moore counties, typically votes Republican.

Ellmers, from Harnett County, unseated an incumbent in 2010 when she defeated Bob Etheridge, who had held that seat since 1997.

She won by 15 percentage points when she was reelected two years ago.

Aiken’s odds at winning are a lot longer, most political experts say.

In this spring’s Democratic primary, Aiken won — but just barely — defeating his opponent by fewer than 400 votes.

While Aiken has name recognition from his “American Idol” days, he also carries that baggage on the campaign trail, too. He’s a Congressional candidate, but for many, the pop star is what they see.

That was evident as he toured the Randolph campus Thursday. Students eyed him as he passed and some asked if they could pose for pictures. But few questioned Aiken about his campaign platform.

“I voted for you,” one professor said to Aiken.

But it was unclear whether he meant during early voting or for his “American Idol” run.

And Aiken seemed to shy away from talking about his days on the show.

“‘Idol’ doesn’t really have anything to do with politics, except voting,” Aiken said. “People vote.”

Political experts have all but counted Aiken out.

“He would have to have, not necessarily the perfect storm of events, but a complex series of events to come together to pull off the upset over Rep. Ellmers,” said Matthew DeSantis, an assistant political professor at GTCC. “What Clay has working for him is he has massive name recognition, but the question is whether or not people will take him seriously as a politician.”

After stepping off the bus, Aiken immediately met with college president Dr. Robert Shackleford.

Shackleford took Aiken on a tour of the manufacturing, automobile and photography departments.

Along the way, Aiken asked many questions: Do businesses work with the college to hire graduates and train employees? Has the stigma of attending a community college versus a university worn off?

Aiken used every opportunity to press the flesh.

“Can you make me look skinnier in that photo?” he said to a female student after she snapped a picture.

The two candidates rely on their pasts when talking about campaign issues.

Ellmers, 50, is pro-life, supports the right to bear arms and wants to curb government spending. She decided to run for Congress after hearing about the Affordable Care Act. As a nurse, she wanted to fight for its repeal, unlike Aiken, she says.

“Clay Aiken,” she says, “is just going to be a rubber stamp for Barack Obama.”

Aiken, who worked with children with disabilities since he was in high school, is heavily concerned with educational issues and topics involving disabled children. He believes a focus on education would bring an immediate boost to the economy.

“I can listen and get people to pay attention to what’s going on here at home and on a national scale,” he said.

Both candidates say their district is ready for change. Aiken believes it’s for a new representative. Ellmers believes it’s for a more conservative government.

Voters will prove one right Tuesday.

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