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October through December 2014

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abc11.com

Republican Renee Ellmers Wins District 2 Congressional Seat Over Clay Aiken

REPUBLICAN RENEE ELLMERS WINS DISTRICT 2 CONGRESSIONAL SEAT OVER CLAY AIKEN

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The race for the 2nd Congressional District is over - Ellmers won a third term, beating out Aiken.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014 11:28PM

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers has won re-election to a third term representing North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District.

The incumbent Republican from Dunn defeated her Democratic opponent, Clay Aiken of Cary. Aiken was taking his first shot at political office.

According to returns tabulated by the Associated Press, Ellmers was leading Aiken with more than 56-percent of the vote.

The congresswoman made a last-minute attempt Tuesday to reach voters, canvassing neighborhoods and making phone calls.

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Click to watch video of Renee Ellmers' victory speech.

During her victory speech, she told supporters she will continue to fight for them in Washington, and she wants to work across party lines to get things done, specifically focusing on jobs and the economy.

"We've got to get people back to work. We've got to create that environment of job growth. That's first and foremost. We have so many other issues now with national defense, a strong safe secure border once and for all -- all of those issues are issues I'm hearing about from our constituents. Healthcare is going to be another major issue that we're going to be working on, and I believe there's much we can get done there as well," Ellmers said.

"We are going to continue this fight...our best days are ahead of us," she added.

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Click to watch video of Clay Aiken's concession speech.

Meanwhile, Aiken thanked all of his supporters and said, "The result didn't go the way we wanted...but we energized voters around North Carolina."

"My voice will not be silenced, I will continue to use my platform to speak up for what I believe," he said.

Aiken's showdown with Ellmers was one of the highest profile races in the state. Most political experts seemed to think Ellmers was a safe bet to hold onto her seat.

Aiken had name recognition as the 2003 runner-up on American Idol, but was still largely considered the underdog, especially after Republicans re-drew the congressional map in 2011. It's a rural and mostly conservative district that stretches from Asheboro east to Cary, including parts of Apex, Fayetteville and Sanford.

Aiken was hoping for a better finish to Election Day than how things started out Tuesday morning.

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Authorities in Cary had to assist his tour bus after it broke down along Walnut Street and Donaldson Court.

It is unclear what caused the large vehicle to stall out just before 9 a.m. -- moments after Aiken cast his vote at a Cary polling site.

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Click to watch video of Clay Aiken at the polls.

The congresswoman voted early last week. Much like Aiken, she was an underdog four years ago when she upset then Democrat Bob Etheridge.

Ellmers told ABC11 she has not heard from her opponent but says she wants to work with him and have his support in Congress. She returns to Washington on Nov. 12.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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wral.com

Blog: High Turnout, Incumbents Carry the Day

The Clay section:

12:10 p.m.:

Democratic challenger Clay Aiken isn't done campaigning for the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers, but his bus has had enough.

The vehicle broke down early Tuesday after Aiken visited the polls.

"The bus couldn't keep up with the pace of our campaign, so we had to leave it behind," Aiken's campaign said in a statement. "We've worked it to death these past three weeks traveling across the district, and it got the job done."

Viewer Andy Washburn sent WRAL News a photo of Aiken's broken down bus Tuesday morning.

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Read more at http://www.wral.com/...m87mg5FHIqA7.99

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dailymail.co.uk

Can't you win anything? American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken gets yet another second-place finish as he loses bid for seat in Congress to Republican incumbent

Can't you win anything? American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken gets yet another second-place finish as he loses bid for seat in Congress to Republican incumbent

  • The one-time special education teacher was challenging 2nd Congressional District incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers
  • Aiken cast his vote at Mills Park Elementary School in Cary just before 9 a.m., but disaster struck just moments later when his tour bus stalled
  • Considered an underdog after Republicans redrew the congressional map in 2011 - shifting the district's demographics to the right
  • In the end, Aiken lost his bid to the Republican incumbent
  • Aiken received almost 12 million votes nationwide while narrowly losing to American Idol winner Ruben Studdard in 2003

By DAVID MCCORMACK FOR MAILONLINE

PUBLISHED: 12:29 EST, 4 November 2014 | UPDATED: 04:31 EST, 5 November 2014

Former American Idol star Clay Aiken took to the polls in his home state of North Carolina on Tuesday morning as he battled it out to win his local congressional seat in the midterm elections.

In the end however, Aiken, the one-time special education teacher who finished a narrow runner-up in the 2003 Idol final, lost his challenge to 2nd Congressional District incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers.

The Democratic candidate's day got off to a bad start, as after he cast his vote at Mills Park Elementary School in Cary just before 9 a.m. his tour bus stalled.

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Former American Idol star Clay Aiken took to the polls in his home state of North Carolina on Tuesday morning

Authorities in Cary had to assist Aiken's bus - emblazoned with the slogan ‘Clay for North Carolina’ on the side - after it came to a shuddering halt just up the road from the polling station.

Aiken, 35, and his team were hoping the mechanical malfunction wasn’t a bad omen in a race in which he wass very much the underdog after Republicans redrew the congressional map in 2011 - shifting the district's demographics to the right - but in the end Aiken could not emerge victorious.

Since becoming a national TV sensation 11 years ago, Aiken has enjoyed stints on Broadway in Monty Python's Spamalot and on television in The Celebrity Apprentice.

He also made the cover of People magazine when he announced in 2008 that he was gay.

On the campaign trail, Aiken has also managed to cause quite a stir in his first attempt at running for political office.

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The Democratic candidate, who was challenging 2nd Congressional District incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers, cast his vote at Mills Park Elementary School in Cary just before 9 a.m.

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Aiken received almost 12 million votes nationwide while narrowly losing to Idol winner Ruben Studdard in 2003

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

While national Democratic groups haven't arrived with financial support, Aiken believes there's a path to victory in the U-shaped district.

He had been trying to attract independent and Republican voters who recall his appearances as a crooner, and been 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,' said Aiken.

He had accused Ellmers, a nurse, of being wrongly fixated on repealing President 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?'

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Clay Aiken, Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in North Carolina's Second District, poses for a selfie with supporters after casting his vote in the midterm elections on Tuesday

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

'He's an entertainer. He's an actor,' Ellmers, 50, said. 'He believes that he can change costume and get into character and speak to whichever group and win them over.'

Ellmers was a favorite in the 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.

Aiken raised more than $1 million for his campaign since February, benefiting from Broadway and Los Angeles events along the way.

Ellmers, who has raised more than $1.8 million this cycle, is battling anti-incumbent sentiment.

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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.

Aiken had 'presented himself as a very credible candidate and I think some people wondered whether that would be the case,' said Scott Falmlen, a longtime Democratic political consultant in Raleigh, who isn't working with Aiken.

'He comes across as knowledgeable of the issues.'

Aiken had 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.

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hollywoodreporter.com

Clay Aiken's Congressional Bid to Be Esquire Docuseries

Clay Aiken's Congressional Bid to Be Esquire Docuseries

10:31 PM PST 11/4/2014 by Lesley Goldberg

The four-hour series will premiere in 2015

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Lightbox/Esquire Network

Esquire Network will go behind the scenes of Clay Aiken's failed congressional bid with a new docuseries.

The NBCUniversal-owned cable network announced late Tuesday — following Aiken's defeat in North Carolina — that camera crews have been documenting the American Idol alum's bid for a seat in the House.

The four-hour untitled docuseries, from Academy Award winner Simon Chinn (Searching for Sugar Man, Man on Wire) and Emmy winner Jonathan Chinn (American High), will premiere in the first quarter of 2015. The Lightbox duo have been filming from inside Aiken's campaign since his February candidacy announcement, through the May primary and Tuesday's final results.

Aiken, a gay Democrat and single dad, ran against incumbent Congresswoman Renee Ellmers in the predominantly Republican North Carolina 2nd District. Via strategy meetings, debate prep, town halls, bus tours and door-to-door canvassing, the docuseries will provide an intimate look at the hope of victory and, ultimately, the disappointment of defeat.

"We were granted incredible access during the making of this documentary, and in turn were able to capture the internal workings of an American campaign — the good, the bad and the ugly," Simon Chinn said. Added Jonathan Chinn: "We’re thrilled to be partnering with Esquire Network, who are tackling topics that are not only popular and entertaining but also smart and thoughtful."

"Ultimately, this series is a raw and honest look at American politics through an incredibly unique and compelling candidate," said Esquire Network head of original programming Matt Hanna. "The opportunity to work with amazing documentarians Simon and Jonathan Chinn, gave Esquire Network the perfect opportunity to explore politics and its intersection with celebrity."

The untitled series is produced by Lightbox's Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn and Mitchell Tanen.

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nbcumv.com

ESQUIRE NETWORK TO PROVIDE A BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT CLAY AIKEN’S IMPROBABLE CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN

ESQUIRE NETWORK TO PROVIDE A BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT CLAY AIKEN’S IMPROBABLE CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN

Produced by Award-Winning Documentarians Simon and Jonathan Chinn, Original Four-Hour Limited Series Set to Premiere 1Q 2015

LOS ANGELES – November 5, 2014 – Esquire Network announces that it will air an all-access look at one of the most unique political campaigns of this election year – the Congressional run of American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken. The yet-to-be titled, four-hour limited documentary series will premiere on Esquire Network in 1st Quarter 2015.

Academy Award-winner Simon Chinn (Man On Wire, Searching for Sugar Man) and Emmy Award-winner Jonathan Chinn (30 Days, American High) of Lightbox, have been filming from the inside of Clay Aiken’s campaign since his February candidacy announcement, through the shocking May primary and last night’s final results. Aiken, a gay Democrat and single dad, ran against incumbent Congresswoman Renee Ellmers in the predominantly Republican North Carolina 2nd District. Via strategy meetings, debate prep, town halls, bus tours and door-to-door canvassing, the docu-series provides an intimate look at the hope of victory and, ultimately, the disappointment of defeat.

“We were granted incredible access during the making of this documentary, and in turn were able to capture the internal workings of an American campaign – the good, the bad and the ugly,” said executive producer Simon Chinn of Lightbox. Added Jonathan Chinn, “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Esquire Network, who are tackling topics that are not only popular and entertaining but also smart and thoughtful.”

The series examines what it takes to run a campaign from the perspective of a candidate who is both a newcomer to the American political scene, and also a well-known celebrity. Throughout, Aiken struggles with his desire to be seen as a viable candidate and his need to convince voters (and America) to take him seriously.

“Ultimately, this series is a raw and honest look at American politics through an incredibly unique and compelling candidate,” said Esquire Network’s head of original programming Matt Hanna. “The opportunity to work with amazing documentarians Simon and Jonathan Chinn, gave Esquire Network the perfect opportunity to explore politics and its intersection with celebrity.”

“The Untitled Clay Aiken Campaign Project (title TBD)” is produced by Lightbox for Esquire Network. Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn and Mitchell Tanen serve as executive producer for Lightbox.

About Esquire Network

Esquire Network is a lifestyle and entertainment brand featuring original programming that speaks to the contemporary man’s passions and interests, from fashion and style to food and drink, travel and family, women and relationships. Building on Esquire Magazine’s 80 years of unparalleled insight into what makes men tick, the network is available wherever viewers are watching: in 75 million homes nationwide, online at Esquiretv.com, via On Demand, on mobile with the Esquire TV Now app and other platforms. Esquire Network is a strategic partnership between NBCUniversal and Hearst Magazines, and is a unit of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, a division of NBCUniversal.

About Lightbox

Founded by cousins Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn, Lightbox is a multi-platform media company which creates high quality non-fiction content for the international television and digital marketplaces. With offices in London and Los Angeles it is perfectly placed to exploit the opportunities both to produce in and for both markets. The recipient of multiple awards for their productions - including two Academy Awards, two BAFTAs and an Emmy - Simon and Jonathan’s partnership represents a seamless melding of two distinct but compatible backgrounds and a strongly shared creative sensibility. Drawing on its unique and longstanding relationships with the best creative talent in the industry, Lightbox is positioned to become one of the pioneering non-fiction content providers in the rapidly changing landscape of new programming and viewing platforms.

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broadwayworld.com

VIDEO: First Look - New Esquire Docu-Series to Follow Clay Aiken's Congressional Campaign

by BroadwayWorld TVNovember 5 http://www.broadwayw...mpaign-20141105

Esquire Network announces that it will air an all-access look at one of the most unique political campaigns of this election year - the Congressional run of AMERICAN IDOL runner-up Clay Aiken. The yet-to-be titled, four-hour limited documentary series will premiere on Esquire Network in 1st Quarter 2015. Get a FIRST LOOK below!

Academy Award-winner Simon Chinn (Man On Wire, Searching for Sugar Man) and Emmy Award-winner Jonathan Chinn (30 Days, American High) of Lightbox, have been filming from the inside of Clay Aiken's campaign since his February candidacy announcement, through the shocking May primary and last night's final results. Aiken, a gay Democrat and single dad, ran against incumbent Congresswoman Renee Ellmers in the predominantly Republican North Carolina 2nd District. Via strategy meetings, debate prep, town halls, bus tours and door-to-door canvassing, the docu-series provides an intimate look at the hope of victory and, ultimately, the disappointment of defeat.

"We were granted incredible access during the MAKING OF this documentary, and in turn were able to capture the internal workings of an American campaign - the good, the bad and the ugly," said executive producer Simon Chinn of Lightbox. Added Jonathan Chinn, "We're thrilled to be partnering with Esquire Network, who are tackling topics that are not only popular and entertaining but also smart and thoughtful."

The series examines what it takes to run a campaign from the perspective of a candidate who is both a newcomer to the American political scene, and also a well-known celebrity. Throughout, Aiken struggles with his desire to be seen as a viable candidate and his need to convince voters (and America) to take him seriously.

"Ultimately, this series is a raw and honest look at American politics through an incredibly unique and compelling candidate," said Esquire Network's head of original programming Matt Hanna. "The opportunity to work with amazing documentarians Simon and Jonathan Chinn, gave Esquire Network the perfect opportunity to explore politics and its intersection with celebrity."

Aiken became a household name while appearing on the second season of American Idol, turning millions of viewers into instant fans. Following American Idol, his debut album Measure of a Manskyrocketed to multi-platinum status. Mr. Aiken has launched ten national concert tours, authored a New York Times best-selling memoir, Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life, and released several albums including, Merry Christmas with Love, A Thousand Different Ways and On My Way Here, all of which debuted in the top five on the Billboard chart. Mr. Aiken Starred in a televised Christmas special, A Clay Aiken Christmas and a live concert special in 2010 onPBS Tried & True Live! He has appeared on many popular television shows including Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva, Scrubs,30 Rock and Saturday Night Live.

A frequent talk show guest, particularly on The Tonight Show andJimmy Kimmel Live!, he recently competed in the fifth season of The Celebrity Apprentice. Mr. Aiken garnered broad critical acclaim for his Broadway debut as Sir Robin in the Tony Award winning production of Spamalot in 2008 and 2009.

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Click Here to Play!

© 2014 Copyright Wisdom Digital Media. All Rights reserved.

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time.com

Clay Aiken’s Failed Bid for U.S. Congress Will Be an Esquire Network Docuseries

Clay Aiken’s Failed Bid for U.S. Congress Will Be an Esquire Network Docuseries

Eliza Berman @lizabeaner

Nov. 5, 2014

clay-aiken-election.jpg?w=1680Clay Aiken, Democratic candidate for U.S. representative of North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, gives his concession speech in Sanford, N.C. on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014 after losing to Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers.Abbi O'Leary—The Fayetteville Observer/AP

After placing second in two American votes, Aiken's story will be shared

What do you do after placing second on American Idol? If you’re Katharine McPhee, you release a few albums and attempt to cross over into acting. If you’re Adam Lambert, you tour with Queen and become an LGBT activist. If you’re Clay Aiken, you run for Congress. Naturally.

Aiken lost his bid for Congress yesterday to Republican Renee Elmers in North Carolina’s majority-Republican 2nd District; he claimed 41 percent of the vote to Elmers’ 59 percent. And Esquire Network revealed last night that it had been filming behind the scenes throughout the entire race, beginning with the announcement of Aiken’s candidacy in February.

The Democrat’s story is compelling on many levels. He’s a single, gay dad and a Christian. He attempted to

as a relative outsider, notwithstanding a two-year term on the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, for which his time working as a special education teacher qualified him. And the congressional race was marked by tragedy: His runner-up in the Democratic primary, Keith Crisco, died just days after the primary following a fall in his home.

The four-hour docuseries, which is yet to be titled, is helmed by Oscar winner Simon Chinn and Emmy winner Jonathan Chinn. “We were granted incredible access during the making of this documentary, and in turn were able to capture the internal workings of an American campaign — the good, the bad and the ugly,” Simon Chinn told The Hollywood Reporter. The project will air sometime during the first quarter of 2015.

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newsobserver.com, Under the Dome blog

Aiken Campaign Supporter Unhappy About Documentary

Aiken Campaign Supporter Unhappy About Documentary

Posted by Lynn Bonner on November 7, 2014

The film crew following singer and former congressional candidate Clay Aiken around this campaign season was shooting footage for a documentary to be aired in the U.S. next year.

According to the website FrontiersLA.com, the sponsor of a Los Angeles fundraiser for Aiken isn't happy about it, saying that attendees were "duped, taken advantage of, and lied to."

For his part, Aiken addressed the controversy in a YouTube video posted Friday. He defended the documentary to be aired on the Esquire Network as a way to shine a light on the political process.

Aiken rose to fame as a contestant on "American Idol" a decade ago. National publications chronicled the campaign of the singer-turned-politician, while acknowledging an Aiken win was a long shot. Incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers trounced him in the 2nd Congressional District race Tuesday.

In an email to Aiken posted on FrontiersLA.com, fundraiser sponsor Steve Tyler said donors at the event signed waivers after being told that the footage was for a BBC documentary that would not air in the states.

"On a personal level, I worked very hard convincing people of your integrity, viability and the need for them to donate," Tyler wrote. "It all reflects badly on my credibility amongst donors because of your actions. Now it looks like I deceived donors.

"I do hope you realize this prevents you from ever running again for an elected office. You will no longer be credible as someone that wants to help the public more than your need for fame. Had the LA donors known you would personally benefit from their donations and appearance at the event - they would not have donated to your campaign."

Aiken posted a video Friday called "Another Open Door" that's something of a bookend to his campaign announcement. In it, he touched on the documentary.

He talks about the national attention focused on the campaign, and said the documentary offered the "opportunity to bring transparency to an electoral process in desperate need of more openness."

"Neither myself or anyone involved in the campaign had any stake in their work, nor any control over its product," Aiken said.

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hollywoodreporter.com

Clay Aiken's Campaign Show Producer Denies Congressional Run Was a Ruse for TV Cameras

Clay Aiken's Campaign Show Producer Denies Congressional Run Was a Ruse for TV Cameras

7:00 AM PST 11/12/2014 by Seth Abramovitch

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AP Images

Clay Aiken

Producer Jonathan Chinn shoots down complaints by some donors who claim they were "duped"

Clay Aiken's congressional bid may have ended in disappointment Nov. 4, but his campaign will live on. In early 2015, the Esquire Network will air a four-hour docuseries on the race — which ended with GOP incumbent Renee Ellmers' 18-point win — from Lightbox's Simon and Jonathan Chinn, who compare their series to such sober fare as The War Room and Mitt.

The project came together in February after Jonathan flew to Aiken's North Carolina campaign headquarters to court theAmerican Idol alum, whom he found to be "intelligent, highly motivated and incredibly sincere." Aiken, 35, agreed to grant the duo full access, and Esquire came on board shortly after that. ("There was no 'deal' — he signed an appearance release," says Jonathan, who dismisses complaints from some donors now claiming to have been "duped" as "much ado about nothing.")

The production kept as "low a profile as possible" until its Election Day announcement, hours after Aiken's concession speech. Recalls Jonathan, "It was a gloomy room."

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Mycenaean

Mycenaean Exclusive: Clay Aiken reflects on life, politics, career to date

ecember 15, 2014

Clay Aiken speaks about himself during a video for this year's political campaign.

In eighth grade at Leesville Road Middle School, Clay Aiken interviewed former Governor Terry Sanford for an essay about someone he admired. While most students talked to their youth minister, dance teacher, or scout leader, Aiken called up the former governor–who helped create the N.C. community college system and RTP, who consolidated the university system, who was the only governor in the South to speak out against segregation in the sixties–and talked to him about his career and his propensity for standing up for things that weren’t always popular, but were always important.

And now, after American Idol, the National Inclusion Project and his run for office, it is clear Aiken is acting in Sanford’s image.

Aiken, born and raised in North Carolina, ran for Congress in an effort to give back to his home state–to use everything at his disposal to help people in his community, though this campaign was certainly not his first attempt at helping others. Running for office–despite his defeat–was just a new way of doing it.

“People being able to say that I have used the microphone that I got to bring attention to things that weren’t getting attention brought to them, to be able to tell people’s stories, to be able to get folks to be engaged in issues they normally wouldn’t be engaged in… lives a lot longer than any CD sales,” said Aiken.

Despite where he is today, during his time at Leesville, Aiken never thought he would go into politics. He didn’t think he would sing either. Then, Aiken saw himself teaching.

“I had planned to be a teacher, I had planned to be in the classroom, and then this American Idol thing came along, and I said, ‘Okay, well, I’ll give it a shot.’ I could have said, ‘No, that’s not part of my plan…’ but had I done that, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunities I have today,” Aiken said.

Before Idol, Aiken taught special ed at Brentwood Elementary and worked at YMCA summer camps and after school programs. There, in addition to learning so much from the kids, Aiken witnessed his special ed kids–and thousands of others–being barred from going to the after school programs and summer camps that he ran in the afternoons and summer. The YMCA didn’t have the training or the resources to include the kids with autism or other disabilities into their regular programs.

“In schools, there are laws that say children with disabilities have to be included… But there’s not law that requires [these] kids get included outside of public educational facilities,” said Aiken.

Aiken mentioned the inequity on Idol, and, rather suddenly, people started sending checks to Aiken’s mother’s house, made out to “The Clay Aiken Foundation.” Two months after Idol, there were over $50,000 worth of checks made out to this foundation that, at the time, did not exist.

“I decided to turn [the money] into something real… so we started [the National Inclusion Project],” said Aiken.

That vision of what his newfound notoriety could do became the basis of what is now called The National Inclusion Project.

The National Inclusion Project is exactly what its name implies–an effort to better include special needs kids in programs across the United States, including camps and after school. The Project trains after school programs, encouraging them to include kids with disabilities. Aiken’s influence is the reason our local YMCA now incorporates special needs kids in all of their programs, and his influence with the National Inclusion Project has done the same in many other places.

Whether his work with the National Inclusion Project or across the globe with UNICEF, Aiken has a well-established record of helping people, hands-on, and his impact on others’ lives is all he could ever hope to be known for.

“There’s being known for selling a lot of albums, there’s being known for winning awards, there’s being known for being famous, or there’s those folks who are remembered for having done something that had a lasting impression outside of the entertainment world… Respect and doing something that impacts peoples lives in a positive way is going to end up lasting longer,” Aiken said.

All that he’s done, coupled with his belief that there is a way to help people through politics, makes it no surprise Aiken ran for office, but there were certainly aspects of what he learned during his campaign that surprised and unsettled him, including the importance of money.

“We all grow up and pay attention to politics and believe–and hope, really–the most important things in electing our officials are what their positions are, and what they’ve done or haven’t done, or their ability to do the job…[but] I think nowadays money has a much stronger place in politics than anybody quite understands,” said Aiken.

Aiken also sees voter apathy as one of the biggest problems today–due to hundreds of reasons, like not thinking one vote matters, the nastiness of politics, and gerrymandered districts.

“Folks are very ticked off at how partisan politics has become… Most of the people in this country live within twenty yards of the fifty yard line. Everybody is a little bit to the right, or a little bit to the left… And then there’s another twenty percent that are far in the end zone, and the only people who participate are [those people],” said Aiken.

Aiken believes one part of alleviating voter apathy lies in ensuring people know their vote matters. Decisions about college loans and interest rates are being made by the politicians people are and are not voting for–politics, however nasty, affects everyone.

After every impressive thing he has done, there is one lesson Aiken wishes he had learned earlier, and it goes back to his eighth grade report on Terry Sanford: the importance of staying true to yourself, in life and politics.

“[sanford] is still the person who I consider to be not just a political idol, but a personal idol because he… didn’t temper his opinions or change his views or become somebody other people believed he should be… That’s the way to be successful in life…[staying] true to yourself,” said Aiken

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broadwayworld.com

Photo Flash: First Look - Esquire Documentary CLAY AIKEN PROJECT, Premiering This April

Photo Flash: First Look - Esquire Documentary CLAY AIKEN PROJECT, Premiering This April

December 22

by TV News Desk

Esquire Network announces that it will air an all-access look at one of the most unique political campaigns of this election year - the Congressional run of AMERICAN IDOL runner-up Clay Aiken. The yet-to-be titled, four-hour limited documentary series will premiere on Esquire Network in April 2015.

Click here for aFIRST LOOK at the documentary and check out photos below!

Academy Award-winner Simon Chinn (Man On Wire, Searching for Sugar Man) and Emmy Award-winner Jonathan Chinn (30 Days, American High) of Lightbox, have been filming from the inside of Clay Aiken's campaign since his February candidacy announcement, through the shocking May primary and last night's final results. Aiken, a gay Democrat and single dad, ran against incumbent Congresswoman Renee Ellmers in the predominantly Republican North Carolina 2nd District. Via strategy meetings, debate prep, town halls, bus tours and door-to-door canvassing, the docu-series provides an intimate look at the hope of victory and, ultimately, the disappointment of defeat.

"We were granted incredible access during the making of this documentary, and in turn were able to capture the internal workings of an American campaign - the good, the bad and the ugly," said executive producer Simon Chinn of Lightbox. Added Jonathan Chinn, "We're thrilled to be partnering with Esquire Network, who are tackling topics that are not only popular and entertaining but also smart and thoughtful."

The series examines what it takes to run a campaign from the perspective of a candidate who is both a newcomer to the American political scene, and also a well-known celebrity. Throughout, Aiken struggles with his desire to be seen as a viable candidate and his need to convince voters (and America) to take him seriously.

Photo by: Lightbox Entertainment

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