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January through March 2015

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theadvocate.com

Clay Aiken's Next Act

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Clay Aiken enters his 2014 election night party in Sanford, North Carolina.

Clay Aiken’s Next Act

By Stephanie Fairyington

Originally published on Advocate.com January 05 2015 7:00 AM ET

Shortly after the November polls revealed that democratic congressional hopeful Clay Aiken failed to dethrone Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers (he lost by 18 points) in North Carolina’s second district, Esquire Network announced plans to air a four-part docuseries on the American Idol alum’s campaign. Controversy ensued.

As reported by Karen Ocamb in Los Angeles’s LGBT magazine Frontiers, the donors of one particular L.A. fundraiser felt duped, wondering whether Aiken’s whole political enterprise was a mere publicity stunt. Two people in particular — host Michael Corbett and actor Steve Tyler, who spearheaded the fundraising — felt betrayed. Aiken neglected to inform them that his documentarians (Academy Award winner Simon Chinn and his Emmy Award-winning cousin, Jonathan Chinn) would be showing up to film the extravaganza, and the film crew allegedly lied to the attendees in an effort to secure releases from them so the Chinns could have free rein with the footage. They reportedly told Aiken’s supporters that the documentary was for a BBC program that would exclusively air in the United Kingdom. Ocamb tellsThe Advocate, “Steve was angry because he thought Clay had deceived him and the donors into participating in another one of his reality shows.”

“This is not a reality series,” says Matt Hanna, head of original programming at Esquire Network. “It’s a documentary. And from two acclaimed and award-winning filmmakers.” Hanna also contests the claim that the film team fibbed to partygoers. “The Lightbox crew identified themselves as being a U.K. production company, got releases from everyone who participated, and were available for comment throughout. And they kept a low profile because they wanted to make a documentary that captured the inner workings of a modern American political campaign, not become the story and affect any part of that campaign.”

For five years, following his Idol success, Aiken skirted questions about his sexual orientation and lied to music industry bible Rolling Stone in 2003. “One thing I’ve found of people in the public eye,” he told the magazine, “either you’re a womanizer or you’ve got to be gay. Since I’m neither one of those, people are completely concerned about me.” He famously backpedaled on that assertion by coming out on the cover of People magazine in 2008.

He was restrained on the topic of LGBT rights during his congressional campaign, which he explained in a New Republic interview: “There are few if any LGBT issues which can be affected by a congressman from a federal level.” Ocamb points to the irony of his rallying for “at-risk kids, while de-gaying his campaign.”

And yet it’s too reductive to suggest that Aiken’s run against Ellmers was merely an attempt to lasso the limelight — or that it was divorced from a genuine commitment to social and political change. Since Idol, he’s advocated on behalf of special education and children. He co-founded the National Inclusion Project, which works to remove the stigma from kids with disabilities and integrate them into the larger world and educational contexts. In 2006, President George W. Bush appointed him to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. He’s also served as a UNICEF national ambassador, where he’s crusaded for every child’s right to education in war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Uganda.

Ocamb, who enthusiastically followed and reported on Aiken’s run, thinks he has the political chops. “The fact that Clay is smart and knows his stuff is not in dispute,” she says. Hanna noted that when audiences tune in to the as-yet untitled docuseries, which will air sometime in early 2015, “People will see that Aiken is highly intelligent and deeply motivated and also politically savvy in a way you wouldn’t expect.”

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storify.com

Esquire Network "The Runner Up" at #TCA15

Unfortunately, it's not very copy-able!

thehollywoodreporter.com

Clay Aiken Talks Failed Congressional Bid: "Districts Are Gerrymandered Beyond Recognition"

Clay Aiken Talks Failed Congressional Bid: "Districts Are Gerrymandered Beyond Recognition"

3:55 PM PST 1/15/2015 by Michael O'Connell

[1]clay_aiken_reality_show_producer_denies_campaign_ruse.jpg

AP Images

Clay Aiken

"I didn't run for congress specifically for gay constituents," adds the 'American Idol' alum.

American Idol alum Clay Aiken was bound to deliver a bit of a postmortem in his first big promotion for his new reality show. The reality star and one-time North Carolina congressional candidate, who stars in Esquire's The Runner-Up this April, lost to RepublicanRenee Ellmers by 10 points back in November.

The rather dramatic campaign, which saw his democratic opponent Keith Crisco die the night of the primary, is chronicled in the new reality show. And Aiken told reporters at the Television Critics Association winter press tour that he was courted by multiple filmmakers before settling on Jonathan and Simon Chinn for the four-hour series.

Read More Clay Aiken's Congressional Bid to Be Esquire Docuseries [3]

Right out the gate, Aiken was asked if he had any regrets about the race — or having it be filmed.

"Obviously, I had hoped to win," he said. "I had no intention to do anything but run for Congress. What they did with the production was going to be up to them."

Elaborating on the loss, Aiken seemed conflicted when asked if he thought if running as an openly gay Democrat in a conservative state meant that he never had a chance of winning. "I certainly don't want to think that," he said. "It's a very difficult district. One of the things I hope we're able to shed some light on is the political climate now, how so many districts in this country are gerrymandered beyond recognition."

Aiken described North Carolina's second district as resembling an "amoeba."

Speaking to the criticism of his campaign, namely the televised remarks of Bill Maher on HBO's Real Time [4], Aiken took the remarks in stride — though he did get defensive at the suggestion he didn't campaign aggressively on gay issues.

Read More Clay Aiken's Campaign Show Producer Denies Congressional Run Was a Ruse for TV Cameras [2]

"I'm new," he said, laughing. "This was my first campaign, which is probably pretty evident if you see this. … I didn't run for congress specifically for gay constituents. To imply, as a gay man, I have to speak to gay issues only or more than anything, would imply that Jewish candidates should only speak to Jewish issues. … Am I a gay man? Yes. Would I like there to be gay marriage around the country? Yes."

To Maher specifically, Aiken had this to say: "I did not run with Bill Maher as a constituent, so I'm less concerned with his opinion than you think I would be."

When one reporter brought up the criticism from some Aiken donors who weren't aware of the reality show filming his campaign, producer Jonathan Chinn jumped in. "Let's cut Clay a little bit of slack," said Chinn. "Our cameras were in plain sight. Everyone consented in the way that everyone would in a documentary. There was no deception there."

Aiken was coy when asked about his future plans, but it seems his Esquire doc will be a one-off.

Links:

[1] http://pinterest.com...escription=Clay Aiken Talks Failed Congressional Bid: "Districts Are Gerrymandered Beyond Recognition"

[2] http://www.hollywood...producer-748197

[3] http://www.hollywood...l-bid-be-746546

[4] http://www.hollywood...ay-aiken-745600

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broadcastingcable.com

‘Runner-Up’ Documentary Shows ‘A Different Side’ of Clay Aiken #TCA15

‘Runner-Up’ Documentary Shows ‘A Different Side’ of Clay Aiken #TCA15

Documentary follows the former ‘American Idol’ runner-up’s failed Congressional campaign1/15/2015 07:30:00 PM

Author: Jonathan Kuperberg

Pasadena, Calif. — The Runner-Up, set to premiere on Esquire in April, follows Clay Aiken’s failed 2014 Congressional campaign in North Carolina. Speaking at a panel for the documentary at the TCA winter press tour Thursday, executive producer Jonathan Chinn said that people won’t see the Clay Aiken they remember from his 2003 American Idol second-place finish.

“Clay Aiken the candidate is probably somebody 99% of the public has not seen,” Chinn said. “I think you see a different side of Clay.”

There was a small crew, usually three people with a single camera, Chinn said, with “pretty much unfettered access.” However, Aiken said the production was separate from the campaign, and he has not even seen the documentary yet. “They handled every professionally and above board,” he said.

Of the campaign, Aiken said he has learned a lot in hindsight but would not have changed the way he ran.

“I planned on running a campaign that was honest and that was about the issues,” he said. “I recognized the best thing for me to do was be myself.”

Other highlights from the panel included:

—When Aiken was running, some did not take his candidacy serious or think a victory was at all possible. Aiken, a Democrat, noted the difficulty of his district, one of many he said has been “gerrymandered beyond recognition.” Nevertheless, he said, “I like to believe all races are winnable if you get your message out.”

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www.eonline.com

How Losing His Run for Office Led Clay Aiken to a Documentary Series Victory in The Runner Up

How Losing His Run for Office Led Clay Aiken to a Documentary Series Victory in The Runner Up

by SYDNEY BUCKSBAUMThu., Jan. 15, 2015 4:26 PM PST

rs_560x415-150115155648-1024-clay-aiken-runner-up.ls.11515_copy.jpgLightbox Entertainment

From the American Idol stage to the political one, Clay Aiken has had quite the interesting journey in the spotlight.

Esquire's new documentary series The Runner-Up will reveal an exclusive, all-access, behind-the-scenes look at the former AI contestant's Congressional run.

While Aiken didn't end up winning (he lost this past November to incumbent Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers), he did lead a roller coaster of a unique campaign, and the docu-series was there to catch every moment of it from his bid to represent North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District through his shocking primary election which he won after Aiken's Democratic opponent suddenly died.

"I feel like we ran a very good campaign," Aiken said at the 2015 Winter TCA Press Tour. "Hindsight is 20/20 and there are times when you recognize that you live in a bubble and you don't always see the external factors that may have been pointing you to a different result. There were moments when I thought we had this in the bag. But you live in a bubble when you run a campaign, and all the stimulus that comes at you is positive. I don't want to think of it in that way [that the campaign was unwinnable]. That district was tough."

When asked if Aiken ever considered naming the docu-series something else—especially if he ended up winning his campaign—he revealed that he never thought of the docu-series during the campaign.

"Obviously I had hoped to win," Aiken said. "We certainly had not discussed and I had no intention to do anything besides run for congress. What they did with production was entirely up to them."

While the cameras followed Aiken around during his campaign, and he gave interviews to the crew, the fact that he ignored all aspects of the creative process surrounding the docu-series means the footage will truly give viewers a transparent look into what goes into a Congressional campaign and who Aiken is outside of his AI fame.

"The Clay Aiken who sang on American Idol vanished quite quickly in my mind and the Clay Aiken the candidate is the Clay Aiken that 99 percent of the public has not seen," executive producer Jonathan Chinn said. "That's very exciting to approach as a filmmaker."

In light of his loss, will Aiken ever run for Congress again?

"I have never had a desire to be a Congressperson," Aiken revealed. "I ran to use the platform and microphone I had to bring attention to certain issues and I learned so much in one year. I recognized that there are a lot of weaknesses in the political process and I realized that there are ways to effect change outside of the political process."

The Runner-Up is set to premiere in April on Esquire Network.

(E! and Esquire are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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www.deadline.com

Clay Aiken Hints At Political Future During ‘The Runner-Up’ Panel – TCA

Clay Aiken Hints At Political Future During ‘The Runner-Up’ Panel – TCA

By Diane Haithman

on Jan 15, 2015 4:51 pm

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A few days before American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken lost the November election, Bill Maher slammed the singer’s North Carolina congressional campaign because the openly gay candidate said that gay marriage “isn’t an issue that is really on the radar” for his constituents.

“And this is why Aiken is definitely going to lose — he is having trouble getting the Clay Aiken vote,” Maher said then.

It wasn’t the only Aiken issue that Maher went after like a pit bull, but it’s the one that popped up again at TCA as Aiken and EPs Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn took the stage to talk about Esquire Network documentary series The Runner-Up.

Aiken defended his campaign, saying he never has distanced himself from the gay marriage issue. “My position on gay issues has been on the forefront since I came out,” said Aiken, who added that he supports same-sex marriage. “I didn’t run for Congress for specifically gay constituents.”

The questions persisted until one of the producers begged for journalists to “cut a little bit of slack on this” and get back to discussing the documentary series. Jonathan Chinn said Aiken’s celebrity and the fact that he was an openly gay candidate in the South are “a couple of the myriad reasons this was a fascinating race.”

What’s next for “runner-up” Aiken? He’s not sure the next step is more politics, but “I don’t think what I tried to do I am finished being able to do. I’m not sure what the path his any more than I did on November 5. “

Aiken said he spoke to Rosie O’Donnell, who encouraged him to use his celebrity while he has it. “(She said), ‘Listen, we are all waiting for obscurity.'” He added that he’d like to find a way to focus on veterans issues and homelessness in North Carolina. “I’d like to figure out a way to keep using my voice, so to speak,” said. “I know — that’s a silly, silly pun.”

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thewrap.com

Clay Aiken Responds to Bill Maher’s Gay Marriage Criticism

Clay Aiken Responds to Bill Maher’s Gay Marriage Criticism

TV | By Tim Kenneally on January 15, 2015 @ 5:16 pm

TCA 2015: “I’m less concerned about his opinion than you might think I would be,” “American Idol” alum says of “Real Time” host

“American Idol” candidate Clay Aiken devoted a good-sized chunk of the panel for the upcoming Esquire Channel documentary series “The Runner-Up” to responding to criticism that Bill Maher had leveled at Aiken’s failed Congressional campaign last year, saying that he’s not overly concerned about Maher’s opinion, and that, while he supports gay marriage, there are many other issues to run on.

“I ran for Congress not because of same sex marriage,” Aiken said. “Am I a gay man? Yes. Would I like same sex marriage to be legalized around the country? Yes. But, are there dozens of other issues that are just as important and to other people more important? Certainly. So, I ran for Congress for that purpose.”

Maher took issue with Aiken’s bid for the second congressional district seat in North Carolina last year on a number of topics including his decision not to emphasize same-sex marriage in his platform.

During the Television Critics Association press tour panel in Pasadena, Aiken stressed that he was running with the constituency in mind, not Maher.

“I didn’t run with Bill Maher as a constituent, so I’m less concerned about his opinion than you might think I would be,” Aiken said. “That said, I think that you can only judge a campaign if you know what’s going on in the area. I grew up in North Carolina … so I understand the area; I understand the issues that are important to people.”

Aiken went on to take exception with anyone who might suggest that he should emphasize gay issues, because of his sexuality.

“My position on same sex marriage, my position on gay issues, has been on the forefront since I came out,” Aiken asserted. “To imply that, as a gay man, I have to speak to gay issues only, or more than anything else, would be the same as implying that a Jewish candidate should only speak up for Jewish constituents, or that a black candidate should only speak up for black constituents.”

During the panel, Aiken also decried the gerrymandering of congressional districts, noting that the district he ran in was so gerrymandered that it resembled an amoeba.

“One of the things that I hope we were able to shed some light on … is the political climate in the country now, and how so many of the districts that we have in this country are gerrymandered beyond recognition,”

Aiken said. “We’ve gerrymandered districts in a way that have not only made seats less winnable for people, but they’ve allowed our country to become so polarized because the only people who can win are people who play to the far fringes.”

“The Runner-Up” premieres on the Esquire Network in April.

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monstersandcritics.com

Esquire’s ‘The Runner Up’ Clay Aiken Addresses Bill Maher At Press Tour

Esquire’s ‘The Runner Up’ Clay Aiken Addresses Bill Maher At Press Tour

16TH JANUARY 2015 BY APRIL NEALE

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Clay Aiken may have lost the North Carolina’s state legislature position, but today at the TCA winter tour panel discussion for “The Runner Up,” Aiken answered our direct questions regarding his reticence to take a stand on gay marriage in his conservative state.

The documentary is set to premiere on Esquire Network in April, and it is described an unfiltered look at the congressional campaign of Clay Aiken (Aiken uses the F-bomb more than once). The series is produced by Lightbox, the production house of Academy and Emmy Award winning Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn.

“The Runner Up” follows a long tradition of the Chinn’s compelling documentaries filmed from inside political campaigns. With exclusive access, their cameras rolled throughout Clay’s campaign, including the May primary and the aftermath of the election this past November.

Clay, a former “American Idol” contestant and newcomer to politics, allegedly ran for Congress because he wanted to make a difference in his home state of North Carolina, but as a gay, single father Democrat running against an incumbent Republican in a conservative district, it seemed insurmountable. Clay’s celebrity often worked against him during the campaign.

Interesting to note, that the side chatter while all of this was being filmed was over the donors discovering the behind the scenes filming was for Aiken’s TV effort, and HBO pundit Bill Maher had taken aim with the former “Idol” during his “Flip A District” segments and commentary on Aiken’s reluctance to go whole hog on the important gay issues like marriage equality.

After it was announced that Esquire Network would be airing a four-hour docuseries about Aiken on his campaign trail leading up to his loss in November’s election, some of his fundraisers felt like they had unwittingly become part of a publicity stunt instead of a governmental election run. According to a story in The Advocate, TV host Michael Corbett and actor Steve Tyler, who were instrumental in Aiken’s Los Angeles fundraising, were “upset” that nothing had been said to them about this limited series:

Aiken didn’t inform them that his documentarians would be at the event, and the film crew allegedly lied to secure releases from those attending so they would be able to use whatever footage they wanted, telling people that the footage was for a BBC program set to air exclusively in the UK.

“This is not a reality series,” says Matt Hanna, head of original programming at Esquire Network, a NBCUniversal-owned cable network. “It’s a documentary. And from two acclaimed and award-winning filmmakers.” He went on to rebuff the accusation that partygoers were lied to, saying that the film crew said they were from a UK-based company, and that they kept a low profile to avoid altering the reality of what a modern American political campaign is like.

At today’s television critics’ association Esquire panel, Monsters and Critics asked Clay Aiken about the remarks Bill Maher had previously made with regards to his campaign.

Monsters and Critics: You took it on the chin quite a bit from Bill Maher on “Real Time with Bill Maher” about your campaign. And I’m wondering if in this documentary [that] you address it, and if you could tell Mr. Maher what you thought about his remarks about you distancing yourself from gay issues which he found..

Clay Aiken: Well, I don’t think that was his issue. I’ll answer a few of those things. First of all, I have no idea whether it’s in there or not, and I don’t know if I mentioned it. I mean, I certainly talked about it. I haven’t seen what they’ve done. And I certainly hope you all ask them some more questions so I can learn more about it myself. Yeah. Certainly, it was discussed amongst myself and the communications staff. I think his issue I think Bill Maher’s issue, if I remember correctly, and I may be wrong, so I believe his issue was he took issue with certain candidates he believed were distancing themselves from the present, not engaged.

M&C: It was actually about gay marriage. He used a quote that you had said.

Clay Aiken: What was that?

M&C: He was addressing a quote that he had you on film saying…

Clay Aiken: What was the quote?

M&C: …that you have an issue with it [and that it] wasn’t on your radar. That was the terminology.

Clay Aiken: Okay. Well, no. Okay. Well, then yes. Listen, I ran for Congress not because of same sex marriage. I didn’t run for Congress because of gay issues. Am I a gay man? Yes. And would I like same sex marriage to be legalized around the country? Yes. But are there dozens of other issues that are just as important and to other people more important? Certainly. And so I ran for Congress for that purpose. That was why. And I didn’t run with Bill Maher as a constituent, so I’m less concerned about his opinion than you might think I would be. That said, I think that you can only judge a campaign if you know what’s going on in the area. I grew up in North Carolina. I have spent, out of 36 years of my life, 33 in North Carolina and in that area, so I understand the area. I understand the issues that are important to people. That’s why I was running, and I ran on a myriad of issues and certainly didn’t distance myself from any one nor embrace any one more than any other. So I ran a campaign that was right for the 2nd District in North Carolina, and it might not have been right for somebody in California, but it was right for the people at home.

Jim Colucci/Must See TV: To follow up on that answer. Certainly, I know a lot of gay friends in North Carolina who would say that it is a very important issue and is on their radar. When you run as an openly gay man for any office in any state, particularly in North Carolina which had passed an anti gay marriage amendment, do you feel it’s your responsibility to come out on the right side of history?

Clay Aiken: I don’t think that I distanced myself from that. And I would take issue with anyone who said that I didn’t come out on the right side of history. My position on same sex marriage, my position on gay issues has been on the forefront since I came out. I mean, people know that. I’ve spoken up about it. But I’ll repeat that I didn’t run for Congress specifically for gay constituents. I ran for Congress for the constituents in that district, whether they were gay, straight, or not. And to imply that as a gay man, I have to speak to gay issues only or more than anything else would be the same as implying that a Jewish candidate should only speak up for Jewish constituents, or that a black candidate should only speak up for black

Jim Colucci/Must See TV: Well, I think they would if they were told they couldn’t get married. If Jewish constituents were being told they couldn’t have equal rights or black

(Producer)Jonathan Chinn: I just want to also say is that we just watched a clip in which I think Clay very eloquently sets up his reasons for running for Congress, and he places it in large part due to this personal experience he had outside of his own sexual identity, about two women who were raising kids who were special needs kids. And he says it. He used the F word and says that that was in large part. So I think let’s cut Clay a little bit of slack on this and maybe we can talk a bit more about the show. Clay’s already done all his campaigning.

Clay Aiken: I know. I’m back on the trail here.

Chinn: He’s back on the trails.

Clay Aiken: And you can’t even vote for me.

Chinn: I think, as a producer, one of the producers, I think it’s great that a show like this is sort of raising questions about political accountability, political responsibility. These are all things that interested us in the story, and I think Clay’s celebrity, the fact that he’s openly gay. There’s never been a gay Congressperson ever in the South ever, ever, ever. It’s yet to be done. So these are all things that certainly as the filmmakers, we didn’t shy away from and was a couple of the myriad of reasons why as documentarians, we thought that this was a fascinating race. And quite honestly, the celebrity was just sort of gravy in the sense that it does we were able to kind of play with how does politics and entertainment mix. But all these very sort of important political issues that our country is facing right now all come up in the series. So I think for all of you who are interested in getting into that sort of slightly more substantial stuff, I think you’ll really enjoy the series.

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tv.esquire.com/blog

THE RUNNER-UP: Esquire Network Follows Clay Aiken's 2014 Bid for Congress in the Unfiltered, All-Access Documentary Series

JAN. 15 2015

THE RUNNER-UP: Esquire Network Follows Clay Aiken's 2014 Bid for Congress in the Unfiltered, All-Access Documentary Series

the_runner_up_blog_660x300.jpg

Esquire Network will premiere an exclusive, all-access look at one of the most unique political campaigns of the 2014 mid-term elections – the improbable Congressional run of American Idol star Clay Aiken. Produced by Academy Award-winner Simon Chinn (Man On Wire, Searching for Sugar Man) and Emmy Award-winner Jonathan Chinn (30 Days, American High) through their company Lightbox, the four-hour original documentary series THE RUNNER-UP is set to premiere on Esquire Network in April 2015.

With exclusive access, Lightbox embedded inside Aiken’s campaign to represent North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District – from his candidacy decision through the shocking primary election (which ended in the death of Aiken’s Democratic opponent), and his defeat this past November to incumbent Republican Congresswoman Renee Elmers. Throughout, the documentary series shows Aiken, a gay Democrat and single father, working through strategy sessions with his team, prepping for debates and meeting with voters via town halls, bus tours and door-to-door canvassing.

THE RUNNER-UP spotlights what it takes to run an American campaign from the perspective of a candidate who is a newcomer to the political scene with few resources and little support. Throughout the campaign, Aiken struggles to convince voters – and America – to take him seriously as a political contender against those who would write him off as simply a reality TV star.

THE RUNNER-UP is produced by Lightbox for Esquire Network. Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn and Mitchell Tanen serve as executive producers for Lightbox.

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thetvpage.com

‘The Runner-Up’: Is Clay Aiken Quitting Music?

‘The Runner-Up’: Is Clay Aiken Quitting Music?

“I don’t know that I want everything to be about people clapping for me.”

BY SEAN DALY · JANUARY 18, 2015

Sorry, Claymates!

Clay Aiken says his days of making music are likely over.

The AMERICAN IDOL finalist put his show business career on hold last year during a failed bid for Congress in the state of North Carolina.

His campaign is the subject of Esquirenetwork’s new documentary THE RUNNER-UP.

“I am still trying to determine what it is that I want to do next,” he tells me.

“In order to go back to music, it becomes a little superficial, I think at some point. I don’t know that I want everything to be about people clapping for me.”

Clay, 36, says he is also concerned that his staunch left-leaning politics may have cost him the loyalty of some fans.

“When I decided to run, I recognized that if I am going to do this, I am going to alienate people,” he says. “That is how divisive politics is in this country.

“I flew through Atlanta on the way [to Los Angeles] and the lady at the counter when I went into the Delta Club said, ‘You know, I was such a supporter of yours until you became a Democrat.’”

“She is not anywhere near the first person who has said that to me. So I have to be prepared for the fact that I might not be able to go back to singing. I may have have isolated myself in that area.”

The openly gay father of Parker Foster Aiken, 6, was runner up on the second season of AMERICAN IDOL.

He lost to Ruben Studdard, who remains a friends and campaigned on Clay’s behalf.

“Losing AMERICAN IDOL didn’t mean that I had necessarily failed at anything,” Clay says.

“Losing the election meant that certain things that I thought were important to get done may not be able to get done. This election was certainly more important [to me].”

Clay also came in second place on the 2012 edition of CELEBRITY APPRENTICE.

“I am stepping away from competitions,” he says.

THE RUNNER-UP airs in April 2015 on Esquire.

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politicsnc.com

Clay Aiken Encore?

Clay Aiken Encore?

January 20, 2015 | by John Wynne

clayaiken.jpg?56bdf8

Clay Aiken gave a lengthy interviewabout his congressional campaign, which he noted was his “first.” The implication is that in a subsequent campaign, Aiken would do better. Maybe he’ll run again, lose, and run again after that, a la Mitt Romney.

Like Romney, Aiken says he’s learned a lot from his failures. Perhaps the most important lesson is to never again run in such a conservative district. Why Aiken would run in NC-02 in the first place was always a head-scratcher, perhaps motivated by an inaccurate view that Renee Ellmers was vulnerable in the general election.

While Ellmers might need to worry about a primary, she’s safe in the general, and certainly against another challenge from Aiken. Instead, the former American Idol contestant would be better-suited running in the district that intersects the 2nd – the 4th, currently held by David Price.

For Aiken, the timing might be perfect, as Price is getting up in age and is rumored to be considering retirement. In an open-seat race, Aiken would start out as the frontrunner, despite the bevy of prominent Democrats who live in this uniquely shaped Research Triangle-Fayetteville district. Some of the potential candidates might include former Rep. Brad Miller, Rep. Grier Martin, House Minority Leader Larry Hall, and former state Sen. Eric Mansfield.

A potential hurdle Aiken might have to overcome is the skepticism of donors, who were not happy with his decision to allow his campaign to become the subject of a documentary TV mini-series. It remains to be seen how broad this discontent with Aiken is, but one thing is certain: his support with “Claymates” is undiminished, and despite losing last November, established politicians could struggle against another Aiken bid.

A Price retirement, then, could well trigger a chain reaction pitting multiple Democrats against each other in a race that could provide a lifetime seat in Congress – retreads like Aiken and Brad Miller against up-and-coming Democrats who are ready for their time in the sun and are not going to wait any longer. It would be a heck of a primary.

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mashable.com

Clay Aiken Curses in "The Runner-Up" Trailer About His Failed Political Bid

]Clay Aiken curses in 'The Runner-Up' trailer about his failed political bid

the-runner-up-clay-aiken.jpg

Clay Aiken thinks on the campaign trail in 2014.

BY BRIAN ANTHONY HERNANDEZ

1 HOUR AGO

LOS ANGELES — Nice guys finish ... second? That's doubly true for Clay Aiken, who ended his American Idol run as runner-up in 2003 and then lost his bid for Congress in 2014.

The Runner-Up, whose trailer Mashable is exclusively debuting, below, explores his political defeat and his ambitious campaign leading up to Aiken's failure to win the seat in the House of Representatives in North Carolina's second district last fall.

Aiken's congressional primary opponent Keith Crisco notably died days after the Democratic primary election in May. Aiken was confirmed as the winner the following day after votes in the tight race showed Aiken edged out Crisco, 11,634 to 11,265.

Aiken, 36, lost to Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, 59% to 41%, in November's primary.

The Runner-Up, a four-hour docu-series, debuts April 7 at 10 p.m. ET on Esquire Network.

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hollywoodreporter.com

Clay Aiken on Donald Trump's Run for President: "He's Got Less of a Chance Than I Did"

Clay Aiken on Donald Trump's Run for President: "He's Got Less of a Chance Than I Did"

11:56 AM PDT 3/25/2015 by Michele Amabile Angermiller

The "American Idol" alum, who next appears on the Esquire Network docuseries "The Runner-Up," says he hasn't watched Fox's singing competition in 10 years.

[1]clay_aiken_reality_show_producer_denies_campaign_ruse.jpg

AP Images

Season 14 of American Idol is well underway, but Clay Aiken is not keeping up with the narrative.

Aiken, who last appeared on the show in season-five, singing a duet of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with a super fan on the 2006 finale, told The Hollywood Reporter he hasn’t watched the Fox singing competition in nearly as long.

“I haven’t seen that show in ten years,” said Aiken on March 24, following a screening of his new docuseries, The Runner-Up, which premieres on the Esquire Network April 7. Aiken's forthcoming show takes a compelling look inside his 2014 campaign for Congress in North Carolina.

During a post-screening Q&A, Aiken was also asked about his time on Celebrity Apprentice and real estate mogul Donald Trump’s recent announcement that he is forming an exploratory committee for a possible 2016 run for president.

Aiken, who noted that Trump will be “another colorful cast member” in the Republican race for President, is surprised the businessman is running.

"He tends to not like to do anything he is not going to be successful at — sticking his neck out” Aiken added, “I like him as a person. He has been nice to me and supported me, but I think he's got maybe less of a chance than I did.”

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The Runner-Up: Clay Aiken's Unconventional Campaign

The Runner-Up: Clay Aiken’s Unconventional Campaign

Friday, March 27 2015 James Lesch

Clay Aiken is the perennial runner-up. Breaking out in 2003 on the second season of American Idol, where he took second place to Ruben Studdard, he later went on to take second place on Celebrity Apprentice to Arsenio Hall. Now Esquire Network will premiere an exclusive, all-access look at one of the most unique political campaigns of the 2014 mid-term elections – the improbable Congressional run of Clay Aiken. Produced by Academy Award-winner Simon Chinn and Emmy Award-winner Jonathan Chinn, the four-hour original documentary series The Runner-Up is set to premiere on Esquire Network on Tuesday, April 7 at 10/9c.

The series gives exclusive access inside Aiken’s campaign to represent North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District – from his candidacy decision through the shocking primary election (which ended in the death of Aiken’s Democratic opponent), and his defeat this past November to incumbent Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers.

We caught up with Aiken to chat about his campaign as a gay Democrat and political outsider, working through strategy sessions with his team, prepping for debates and meeting with voters via town halls, bus tours and door-to-door canvassing.

How did this show fall into your lap?

After I announced in February, we had three production companies contact my campaign advisors and asked if they could come and film it. We just said no to everybody. I was not interested in anybody interpreting what we were doing in any biased way.

Then Jonathan Chinn reached out as our fourth person, and we had every intention of saying no, but somehow I noticed his resume and realized what they had done was all very reputable stuff.

So what made you change your mind?

After looking at what he had done I was still not really interested in doing it, but he wanted to come out and talk to us. I said, ‘Listen, if you want to come to Raleigh and talk to us that’s fine,’ and he came and he sat down with me at dinner one night and just really convinced me that what we were doing was something that would be important for people to see.

What do you think is the importance?

[it’s] a glimpse into a campaign that was a little more grassroots than a lot of the stuff that had been documented in the past. We were running a campaign with me, who admittedly was not familiar with politics. I recognize we ran a very interesting race not only because of who I am and where I come from, but because it was a gay candidate in a very Republican district.

Being gay and running in a Republican district, did you have any hesitation when campaigning in small towns?

No. I am bothered sometimes by the characterization and broad strokes that people paint the South or pant rural areas when it comes to acceptance and LGBTQ issues. There are certainly places in the South, and all over the country, that people don’t have the views of equality that I think they should, but I’ve never encountered someone being disrespectful to someone’s face about it.

Youre fearless.

Some people may call it hypocrisy, but to me people were always very respectful. Whether I was running for Congress or not, people are nice. Now, does that mean they might not vote for you? Does that mean they might not talk nicely about you behind your back? Does that mean they may go and talk to their families in the privacy of their own home about how they don’t think you being gay is right? Ehh, maybe. But no one’s been anything but respectful and I’ve had some pretty heated conversations with people about same-sex marriage.

And you were campaigning in North Carolina when the Court of Appeals struck down the states marriage amendment

I got into some very intense arguments, but people were still very respectful. They know I’m gay. They know what my position is and they wanted to make sure that I knew they didn’t want to agree with me, but they didn’t do it in a hateful way. Sometimes I get disappointed because people assume that when you’re in the South, that you’re just in the hotbed of hatred, but people are typically nice— they might not want to vote your way, but they tend to be, at least to your face, more respectful about it than I think a lot of people realize.

Aside from the campaign trail, did any of your opponents try and capitalize on homophobia when running against a gay candidate?

During the primaries there were some veiled attacks about me being gay. My opponent was saying that she had North Carolina values and there was a little bit of underground whispering within the African American community about me being gay. Ironically, that happened on the Democrat side during the primaries, people who should have been a little more supportive about that type of thing.

When I announced, Renee Ellmers’ spokesperson said something about how I represented San Francisco Values more than Stanford values. That got a lot of rebuke, even from the Republican Party. From what I understand she ended up firing that spokesperson. It’s very difficult to be overt with homophobia and not look like a bully nowadays, which speaks highly of how far LGBT acceptance has come.

In terms of LGBT acceptance, particularly in the political arena, how do you view closeted politicians?

I have nothing but respect for anyone’s right to determine when it is right for them to come out. It’s not my place to tell someone who’s gay and closeted to be out. It’s a personal journey for every single person. Every person that is gay took our own time to determine when it was right for use to come out. Anyone who says otherwise is being selfish.

What about in the instance of closeted politicians who are running on the platform of Anti-Gay legislation?

If you are voting against the LGBT rights of individuals to persecute, ostracize or alienate people who are gay and you are gay, then I have no respect for you. Now I imagine you’re asking this question because there’s someone that is speculated to be gay, and is voting against the rights of those who are LGBT. If that person is gay and is voting against the rights of individuals who are gay, then I have no respect whatsoever for them. If someone has proof that that person is gay I hope to God they come forward with it soon.

You would support outing a candidate in that situation?

If somebody who is gay is voting against gay rights, then screw them! You can’t be that much of a hypocrite. If someone has a smoking gun, against a congressman, in Illinois, who has shown that they’re gay and a hypocrite, I would support exposing that person.

I don’t support outing people — I don’t— but if you’re going to be voting against the rights of individuals, at the same time you are screwing your boyfriend, or your photographer, I don’t have any respect for you at all.

After it was all said and done, how did the campaign live up to your expectations of running for office?

It’s hard. I’m not an easily surprised person. I never go into anything with too many expectations. The one thing I took away that might be the most disappointing is the amount of emphasis that’s placed on money. To some people in politics, especially in campaigning, that is the only thing that matters. To some people, talking to constituents doesn’t matter. Getting out and being in the community doesn’t matter. That is a big part of the problem we have in this country right now.

Did you get out into the community a lot during your campaign?

I enjoyed going to parts of the state where people don’t typically see someone giving a shit about them: hanging out with people in diners in Bear Creek or doing Meals On Wheels in Spring Lake. Those things were not only more important to me, not only more powerful to me, but they’re also the type of things I haven’t gotten to do in the past twelve years, because the entertainment world did not give me the opportunity. I grew up in North Carolina. Everything I am [is] because of that state — I really hadn’t gotten to spend time in that part of the state. I appreciated being able to do it during the campaign.

Is this the last time well see Clay Aikens name on the ballot?

Do I have plans to never run again? It’s certainly not completely off the table, but it’s certainly not on the table right now. I will tell you point blank I’m not running again in 2016. If it’s down the way, and an opportunity presents itself and I think I have the ability to use the platform that I have — the microphone that I have— to make a difference. V

Written by Jimmy Lesch

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