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America's Favorite Loser: Why It's Time to Take Clay Aiken Seriously


Gerry Broome/AP Photo

Kevin Fallon



America’s Favorite Loser: Why It’s Time to Take Clay Aiken Seriously

Twelve years and a run for Congress haven’t helped Clay Aiken shed the ghost of ‘Idol.’ But as a new documentary on that political bid proves, there can be glory in second place.

Clay Aiken says “fuck” a lot.

Maybe more than you do. Certainly more than you’d expect him to. He says it within the first 20 seconds of The Runner-Up, a four-part documentary premiering on the Esquire network April 7 about his failed bid for Congress. And he says it many, many times after that.

It’s startling the first few times you hear it, and then becomes endearing. Clay Aiken, it turns out, is not who you expect him to be.

The former second-place finisher of American Idol and your aunt’s favorite pop star is now a straight-talking, politically minded policy wonk more interested in using his microphone to shame change-indifferent career politicians and crusade for education reform and veterans’ rights. And he’s at that glorious stage of a celebrity’s career, the one that not many public personas actually get to.

It’s the brazen stage. It’s, to use a term he’s quite fond of in The Runner-Up, the “fuck it” stage. It’s the stage where an American Idol and Celebrity Apprenticesecond-place finisher puts his reputation on the line to run for a House of Representatives seat in the 2nd District of North Carolina, agrees to have his efforts filmed for a documentary, and then comes in second again. It’s the stage where America’s Favorite Loser not only owns that branding, but also parlays the distinction into a far more important career than winning any of his various televised contests would have allowed.

Once we all get over the cursing, that is.

“People put you in boxes. They assume that since all they’ve seen of me is singing then that’s all that I do.”

“I think they glorify the fact that I cuss more than I anticipated they would,” Aiken tells me, a few weeks before The Runner-Up would premiere.

I tell him that it’s a good thing, because it drives home the point that everything we’ve thought about him may be wrong. That by latching on to the image of the gawky, closeted 24-year-old singing Barry Manilow songs to Paula Abdul, we’ve missed out on a crucial truth: Clay Aiken is no longer ridiculous.

“Well that’s always been our issue,” he says, bringing it back to his congressional run like the excellent politician he’s become. “People put you in boxes. They assume that since all they’ve seen of me is singing then that’s all that I do. That I can’t walk and chew gum other than that.”

“It’s interesting that you saw me as someone who doesn’t cuss,” he continues, “but the bigger problem when we were running was that people saw me as someone who wasn’t able to run, or wasn’t qualified for Congress.” And then, the reason he agreed to participate in The Runner-Up in the first place: “Hopefully—hopefully—the end result of this will be to change people’s minds somehow. But not simply just let them know that I cuss a lot.”

First things first: Yes, Clay Aiken ran for Congress. And, as is his wont, he didn’t win.

In November, Aiken, running as a Democrat, lost the seat he was vying for in North Carolina’s 2nd District to incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers by 18 points. It’s a race that popped in the headlines an inordinate amount of times. Initially, and obviously, because it means our manifest destiny as a celeb-crazed culture was finally complete: An American Idol contestant ran for Congress.

But then the race got dramatic. Like, crazily so.

The Democratic primary was too close to call, a nail-biter even tighter than the notoriously slim margins to which he lost to Ruben Studdard in 2003. Then, as word got out that his opponent Keith Crisco was about to cede the contest, Criscodied. Clay Aiken had killed Keith Crisco.

That is a joke. What is not a joke is that Clay Aiken beat a dead man by 400 votes in his run for Congress. Then in the general election, he’d go on to be runner-up. Again. You can’t make this stuff up.

The soap opera of it all was fortuitous for documentarians Simon Chinn (Oscar winner for Searching for Sugar Man and Man on Wire) and his Emmy-winning cousin, Jonathan. Aiken was courted by a handful of production companies to film his congressional bid, most of them reaching out hours after he announced his candidacy. “Two of them I looked up and they had done something reality show-ish,” Aiken remembers. “I was like, ‘You gotta be fucking kidding me. This is not happening.’”

Aiken had no intention of allowing the Chinns to film him either, recalling how rudely standoffish he acted during their initial meeting to prove his disinterest. But Jonathan was a sweet talker.

He crystalized the usefulness of the documentary regardless of the election’s outcome. That anything they capture about the corruption of the electoral process and Aiken’s pursuit to bring attention to the issues he was running on would be exhibited whether he won or lost. “That got me listening,” Aiken says.

It’s those issues he was running on that got Aiken dragged through the press throughout his campaign. Or rather, the issues he wasn’t talking about.

The kindle for the firestorm was a scathing screed from Bill Maher just before the election that blasted Aiken for, according to Maher, distancing himself from President Obama to appeal to the more conservative voters in his district. He also took him to task for not using the fact that he is a gay candidate in North Carolina to energize the liberal base, instead focusing on “this pipe dream of trying to make the Duck Dynasty types vote for a guy who had his eyebrows done.”

Outlets ran with Maher’s comments, twisting them to say that he was upset that Aiken wasn’t running more on gay issues specifically—something the gay-focused media blew up even more.

In 2008, Aiken joined the long line of celebrities to have unveiled his homosexuality in one of People’s famous “Yes, I’m Gay” magazine covers. Immediately, as is its tendency when a public person comes out as gay, culture-at-large put a mandate on him to become a speaker for gay issues—whether or not he wanted to be—and proceeded to wag its finger at him when he didn’t. When he announced his congressional run, that mandate became even more severe, and the finger-wagging all the more rigorous.

Aiken says it was a frustrating position to be in. It also misrepresented his political intentions, and his intentions as a gay man. Mostly, he says, it wasn’t fair.

“You know what?” he says. “I would have done better for gay rights just automatically than my opponent would have. As a gay man, I’m not going to vote against any LGBT rights.”

This is where it gets complicated, and political. “I needed to win to do that,” he says. “I think sometimes people lose sight of the ring in order to have activism. I ran in a very conservative district—a very conservative district in which I never had people talk to me about gay stuff at all. Not even the people who were upset at me for being gay.”

“I was the celebrity candidate, not the gay candidate,” he says. “I’m gay, but it doesn’t define me any more that it defines anyone else. But for a group of people, they make the mistake of feeling like gay people have to speak about only that in order for there to be an effect.” He gets it, but he disputes it. “You have to have someone stir the turd or no one’s going to smell it. And we have people in that category in all kinds of activism areas. But at the same time you have to have people who normalize the situation. It takes all kinds.”

It’s a nuanced, slightly controversial view on activism, and, as he says, one that this “small group of people” does not share. And making it even more problematic for him is that, with the ever-intense rise of social media and the culture of controversy, those people have a powerful megaphone.

“They think their megaphone is louder than it is,” Aiken says. “And unfortunately they end up being people who end up too often preaching to the choir, instead of preaching to the folks who need to be reached.”

There was a different megaphone, however, that was causing problems for Aiken even after he lost the election. The documentary was announced the day after the election, raising alarms that the whole race was a publicity stunt meant to get Aiken back in the spotlight—a political campaign doubling as a sort-of viral marketing campaign for the film.

It’s an accusation that Aiken denies vehemently. One, because he had no desire to participate in a documentary in the first place—he was the one who was pursued. But also because of the logistics of the whole thing. “I thought they did a horrible job of announcing it,” he says. “It was tacky when they did it, honestly. We just finished the damn campaign.” Still, he concedes that timing was suspicious. “I might have thought the same thing myself,” he says. “It wasn’t.”

If not a publicity stunt, then is The Runner-Up an attempt to finally, after all these years, shed the ghost of American Idol? After all, Aiken has become an outspoken activist for rights for the disabled and those with special needs, as well as a legitimate politician.

“I never necessarily tried to get away from it,” he says. “I understood that I wouldn’t have the platform and the microphone that I have if it weren’t for that show. Who are we kidding?” There is, however, a but. “I will say this year has been the first time that I have been frustrated and wanted to.”

If it weren’t for being American Idol’s Clay Aiken, he says, he would have never been able to run for Congress in the first place. But it so clearly, and even understandably, became a credibility issue when the campaign kicked into high gear.

“It very possibly might have been a noose around my neck,” he says. Being that kid from Idol was a hurdle, and might have been the hurdle he wasn’t able to clear in the election. He tried, staunchly adhering to a no-singing policy during the campaign, and not bringing up American idol.

“But I can’t stop you,” he says. “I got twenty bucks that says you use the words three times in this article. You can’t stop people from doing it, but, shit, that has nothing to do with what I’m doing right now.” (We just counted… we’ve already used the words seven times. Are you on Venmo, Clay?)

Getting people to take him seriously is a journey that Aiken has been making in baby steps. Certainly in the 2nd District of North Carolina, where he debated intelligently and impressively, he’s accomplishing that. “But if you live in Oregon, you saw the headline ‘Clay Aiken Running for Congress,’ you laughed your ass off, and then you went back to work. That’s all you ever heard about it. We certainly haven’t changed the narrative anywhere else.”

Accordingly, a 2016 congressional run is out of the question. 2018 is still in the realm of possibility, but unlikely. He sticks by his opinion that he can affect change as well from outside the House as he can from inside of it, but he maintains he’ll be back in politics eventually. There’s too many issues he cares about to stay out completely.

“I would not say that I would never run again,” he says. Translation: Fuck it.

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Clay Aiken Featured in Esquire Docuseries "The Runner-Up" April 7

Clay Aiken featured in Esquire docuseries ‘The Runner Up’ April 7

April 3, 2015


Clay Aiken’s run for a House seat was chronicled for Esquire for a four-part series starting April 7, 2015. CREDIT: Esquire

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Friday, April 3, 2015

Clay Aiken has a mellifluous singing voice that melted millions of viewer’s hearts in 2003 as runner up during what is now considered an epic season two of “American Idol.”

That fame carried him to Broadway, concerts at Chastain Park Amphitheatre and a 2012 stint on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

So skeptics had a laugh when they heard last year he was pursuing a Congressional House seat in a heavily Republican district as a gay Democrat. Esquire Network decided to follow him around, turning his quixotic campaign into a four-hour docuseries called “The Runner Up,” debuting April 7 at 10.

It’s no spoiler to say he lost by a wide margin. That was practically a given from day one. But the journey is fascinating nonetheless.

In the first episode, Aiken comes across as a sincere political neophyte but also a bit of a control freak, wrangling with his staff over the placement of a single campaign sign. He gets angry when a Democratic primary opponent smears him in a TV ad. And he has a surprising potty mouth. In the first episode alone, he utters various curse words at least a half-dozen times.

“When people hear Clay Aiken is running for Congress,” Aiken said, “they say what the f***? We called it what-the-f*** mountain for a long time!”

“You get pigeonholed when you’re in the public eye,” he added. “You get put in the box and people think you can only do one thing.”

And then he gets to the crux of the matter: “I am running because there are people in my district and my home who are being ignored. I want to try to give a voice to them.”

Jonathan Chinn, an executive producer with credits such as Morgan Spurlock‘s FX series ”30 Days” and Emmy-winning 2001 docuseries”American High,” said he thought at first that Aiken’s campaign was a joke. But when he met with the North Carolina native, he realized Aiken was a viable candidate.

“He was well versed on the politics of his district and state,” Chinn said. “It wasn’t a stunt at all.”

Aiken was understandably wary of being filmed and had been approached before. “I think he said no to all other suitors,” he said. “We threw a bunch of awards and credits at him. Somehow, I managed to persuade he would be safe in my hands.”

This is a documentary, not a reality show. The cameras followed him around to most events and meetings, but the producers didn’t “stage” anything. Esquire, Chinn said, let them do their thing while Aiken “had zero editorial input.”

“We rolled with the punches,’ he said,” and they gave us good access.”

Aiken purposely refused to sing in public while running for Congress (though he will be heard in private during the series.) He didn’t want to use his celebrity in that way to draw votes. The novelty of his campaign did garner him plenty of press. But he actually struggled to raise funds.

“You see his idealism get a little bit crushed by the reality of politics,” Chinn said. “The role of money in politics is moving in a scary direction.”

At the same time, Aiken in interviews still appears interested in running for office again in the future. “He’s gotten bit by the politics bug,” Chinn said.

“I don’t think what I tried to do I am finished being able to do,” Aiken told reporters at the Television Critics Association confab in January.

Chinn said four episodes was about right given the amount of footage and the way the campaign rolled out, he said. “Six or eight would have been stretching it,” he said.

Ultimately, Chinn felt Aiken was never quite able to shake the fact he was an entertainer, although he had a small grace period after eking out a victory in the Democratic primary over a veteran politician who died soon after the primary. Renee Ellmers, the Republican incumbent, saw his past as “his Achilles’ heel, a burden he carried until the end.”

During the campaign, fans would be so wowed by his celebrity, they often didn’t hear what he was saying. As his campaign consultant Betsy Conti said, “They just want a selfie with the candidate.”

“A lot of people want to talk about ‘American Idol,’ ” Aiken said early on, with a tone of frustration. “Until I can get past that, I’m going to continue to struggle.”

And while his sexual orientation didn’t overwhelm his efforts, there were awkward moments when he was forced to address same-sex marriage in North Carolina and other related issues.

Ultimately, Chinn hopes the documentary will give people a much more three-dimensional feel for who Aiken is, warts and all. “The real Clay Aiken is actually more interesting dare I say than the slightly packaged UNICEF ambassador we’ve seen up to this point.”

“The Runner Up,” 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, Esquire Network

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Q&A with Clay Aiken on New Documentary Series "The Runner-Up"

Q&A with Clay Aiken on new documentary series ‘Runner-Up’


The Fresno BeeApril 5, 2015


Clay Aiken is shown on the campaign trail in the Esquire Network series “The Runner-Up”

LIGHTBOX ENTERTAINMENT — Lightbox Entertainment

PASADENAClay Aiken feels he ran an honest campaign for Congress

• He sees gay issues as just one of many important topics

• Another run for office possible, not probable


Clay Aiken placed second on the sophomore season of “American Idol” that aired in 2003. After a string of album releases, a stint on Broadway and touring, the North Carolina native decided to run for office in the state’s 2nd Congressional District.

He came in second to Rep. Renee Ellmers.

Aiken’s second-place finish serves as the basis for his new Esquire Network series, “The Runner-Up.” The documentary series takes a look at one of the most unique political campaigns of the past election year. Aiken struggles with his desire to be seen as a viable candidate and his need to convince voters to take him seriously.

The well known runner-up talks about the series and his career.

Question: Would you have done anything differently in your campaign?

Answer: I don’t know. I feel like we ran a very good campaign. I don’t think that I would have changed anything. I really am happy with the way we ran the campaign. I think we ran an honest campaign. I think we talked about issues and got to talk about things that a lot of people in the same position in a different race might not have been able to, so I’m happy with the level of success in that area that we had.

How much did it matter the President didn’t campaign for you?

I’m new. This was my first campaign, which is probably pretty evident, if you see this. You run a campaign based on what constituents you are trying to serve. I don’t think we ever expected for a second that President Obama was thinking, hey, I’m going to stump for Clay Aiken. I just don’t think it was on his radar. Far bigger fish to fry. So it wasn’t a part of the discussion necessarily.

Did you feel like you had a chance?

There were moments throughout the year where I thought I got this in the bag. We’re going to win this. We’re going to win it. And now with the clarity of looking back, I think that you live in a bubble when you’re in a campaign, and all the stimulus that comes at you is usually positive and makes you feel like we’re going to win.

Did you honestly think you could win?

That’s a tough question. I certainly don’t want to think that way. Obviously in retrospect, you look back and wonder was it possible. It’s a very difficult district. I don’t want to believe that it’s unwinnable, because if someone doesn’t run, then we don’t have the opportunity to make that change. So I like to believe that all races are winnable if you get your message out there.

How important were gay issues to your campaign?

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.

Would you run again?

I ran because I thought it was important to try to use what platform and microphone I had, the voice that I had to bring attention to issues. I have learned so much in one year that I also recognize that there are a lot of weaknesses in the political process. And I’ve learned that it might be possible to it might be even easier to make change or effect change outside of the political, outside of elected office. Does that mean I won’t run again ever? No. But does it mean that I recognize that’s not the only way to effect change? Certainly.

Contact Rick Bentley: rbentley@fresnobee.com, (559) 441-6355 or @RickBentley1 on Twitter.

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newsobserver.com (Under the Dome blog)

Hold On, Claymates: Stay Tuned for Unvarnished Aiken

Hold on, Claymates: Stay tuned for unvarnished Aiken

04/06/2015 12:00 AM

Former reality show contestant Clay Aiken’s congressional race was one of the most watched in the nation last year, but none of the profiles of the candidate and his campaign or other reporting last year offered the unvarnished look at the behind-the-scenes operations that is in “The Runner Up,” a documentary series on the Esquire Network.

Aiken, a Democrat who came to fame with a second-place showing on the American Idol TV show in 2003, lost by a wide margin to incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers last fall.

But the first hour of the four-hour series, which premieres Tuesday, focuses on the Democratic primary between Aiken and businessman Keith Crisco.

Hold on tight, Claymates.

The episode shows Aiken, a first-time candidate, learning how to canvass, obsessing over his campaign signs, and assessing his staff.

Aiken was angered by a campaign ad that talked about him not showing up for meetings of a presidential commission for people with disabilities. “This is the first time I’ve ever disliked somebody,” Aiken says. “I want to beat Keith, and I don’t like that I feel that way.”

The episode is peppered with jokes between Aiken and his campaign team about Crisco’s age and how he looked to be close to death.

And then Crisco died.

Crisco died at age 71 of heart problems shortly after the primary – and the day before Aiken’s narrow, 390-vote, primary victory was confirmed.

A remorseful Aiken wished for closure. “He died before that happened,” Aiken said. “I think that’s the thing that bothers me the most.”

Aiken was a Democrat and gay man running in a conservative, Republican-leaning district against a Republican incumbent. But in interviews throughout the campaign, he insisted he could win.

He lost by more than 17 percentage points.

In a Q&A in Esquire magazine’s April issue, Aiken said he did not regret running.

“You live in a bubble when you are in a campaign,” he said. “I could be in the most conservative town in the district and walk down the street and 15 people would say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m a Republican, but I’m going to vote for you!’ And when this happens in these strongholds of Republicans, you think Man, I’m doing well here. I’m going to win this thing.”

The disclosure last year about the filming of the documentary ruffled the sponsor of a California fundraiser.

After the campaign, producer Steven Tyler said fundraiser attendees had been “duped, taken advantage of, and lied to,” because they were told the footage would air on the BBC, not in the United States.

Aiken addressed the controversy in a videotaped message closing the campaign, saying 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.

Lynn Bonner

Read more here: http://www.newsobser...7378156.html#st

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newsobserver.com (Happiness is a Warm TV blog)

TV Review: Clay Aiken Makes for a Frank "Runner-Up"

TV review: Clay Aiken makes for a frank ‘Runner-Up’



04/06/2015 3:30 AM


Clay Aiken is the subject of a new four-part documentary series on the Esquire Network called "The Runner-Up." LIGHTBOX ENTERTAINMENT LIGHTBOX ENTERTAINMENT

One thing you can’t call Clay Aiken in “The Runner-Up,” a new docuseries that chronicles his 2014 campaign for a North Carolina Congressional seat, is “phony.”

Aiken, followed by a film crew from near the start of his primary race in early 2014, doesn’t play nice guy for the sake of cameras. The former “American Idol” and “Celebrity Apprentice” star lets f-bombs fly, complains about members of his staff, talks frankly about his changing views on religion, and makes several unfortunate comments about the age and appearance of his opponent, the 71-year-old Keith Crisco.

Those comments – the type many of us make, if we’re being honest with ourselves, about people all the time – are mostly unfortunate because Crisco would die suddenly less than a week after the primary election ended.

Several times during the first hour of the four-part series, which begins at 10 p.m. Tuesday on the Esquire Network, Aiken and his staff make jokes about Crisco’s age and how bad he looks, commenting that he looks to be “at death’s door” or that they’ll have to pry the election “from his cold, dead hands.”

Viewers in other parts of the country may be surprised by Crisco’s death at the end of the first episode, but viewers in central and eastern North Carolina will not. Crisco’s death was big news, so the quips are jolting. But would they have been if Crisco had not died? No.

Aiken’s openness – in the first installment, at least – is commendable. He is frank about his insecurities and frustrations as a candidate, he doesn’t try to hide his anger or temper his language when Crisco’s campaign goes negative, and he says things that may shock and turn off some viewers.

But it’s refreshing to watch – and Aiken is highly watchable, as his career as an entertainer has so far proven. Whatever you think of Aiken and his politics, he doesn’t hesitate to say what he thinks in front of the cameras or to them, even if it makes him look less than perfect. (It’s also worth noting that those aren’t qualities that often make for a successful politician.)

The series is by Simon Chinn (“Man on Wire”) and Jonathan Chinn (“30 Days”), both Academy Award-winning documentary filmmakers, and they had full access to Aiken throughout the campaign.

And considering the ire Crisco raises in Aiken in the primary, we can’t wait to see ole Clay when he goes up against Renee Elmers in the main election.That should be entertaining.

Cain: 919-829-4579;


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""The Runner-Up" Review: Clay Aiken's Challenging Campaign for Congress

'The Runner-Up' review: Clay Aiken's challenging campaign for Congress

April 6, 2015 by DIANE WERTS. Special to Newsday


THE SHOW "The Runner-Up"

WHEN | WHERE This four-episode docuseries premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. on Esquire.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT "American Idol" finalist runs for Congress? Check the calendar, this isn't April Fools' Day. But that's the kind of crazy train on which Clay Aiken jumped on when he decided to run for North Carolina's second-district Congressional seat last year.

"Clay has no political experience, he has no political cred, he has no -- we don't know, really, what he knows," one woman tells the "Runner-Up" camera. She happens to be Aiken's political adviser. That pretty much sums up the challenge. Of course Aiken is also a Democrat in the conservative Republican South. And he's gay.

He also proves in this docuseries to be a micromanaging worrywart, spending time obsessed with yard signs, while his uber-experienced Democratic primary opponent runs crushing negative TV ads using a war chest that outranks Aiken's by a factor of 25.

But our title 35-year-old -- he lost to Ruben Studdard on "Idol" in 2003 and lost to Arsenio Hall on "Celebrity Apprentice" in 2012 -- is a stunningly un-self-conscious subject, bluntly giving voice to his every hope, fear, frustration and catty comment. That's entertainment, all right.

MY SAY But is it compelling? Aiken's conflicted feelings set us up for our own.

He says he wants to "speak up for people who're not being listened to." But what are his concrete political goals? That's not clear. While nobody wants policy papers here, a little more meat would've been nice. Are we cheering for his victory, or not?

Even Aiken isn't sure, confessing on primary morning "I don't know whether I would rather win or rather lose. . . . There is a real part of me that just says if I lose, I don't have to deal with this [expletive] anymore." He means the mudslinging and the daily minutiae and, hey, wait. Isn't he running for, uh, Congress?

So what to make of the man and his docuproject? Hard to say after previewing only Tuesday's intro hour. It sure does have a doozy of a conclusion (especially if you've forgotten the post-primary shockeroo).


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Clay Aiken's Candidate Days Featured in Docu-Series

WASHINGTON — The runner-up label seems to be part of Clay Aiken's narrative now, whether as an entertainer or political candidate.

Aiken came in second to Ruben Studdard on TV'sAmerican Idol singing competition show in 2003 and lost to Arsenio Hall on Celebrity Apprentice in 2012. After putting his singing career on hold, Aiken ran for Congress last year as a Democrat and lost to GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in a heavily Republican district in North Carolina.

A four-part documentary series focusing on Aiken's congressional campaign begins airing Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on the Esquire Network. The title, of course, is The Runner-Up, but Aiken says he believes he still came out a winner even if the voters gave Ellmers a third House term.

]"I've got a microphone," Aiken told USA TODAY in an interview last week. "If I use that microphone for people who didn't think they had a chance ... that's even more powerful than winning."

That means talking more about veterans' issues, jobs and the economy and what Aiken said he believes are the flaws in the political process — such as the gerrymandering of congressional districts.

In the documentary, the travails of a first-time political candidate are apparent. Aiken shows his frustration with his campaign staff and makes uncharitable comments aboutKeith Crisco, his rival for the Democratic nomination who died after an accidental fall about a week after the primary. Crisco, 71, was a former North Carolina secretary of Commerce.

"I have a lot of regret in how I felt during the primary about a man who did a lot of great things for this state," Aiken said.

Aiken, who touted his previous experience as a special education teacher in his campaign announcement video, said he learned priorities are out of whack in politics. One example he cited: The constant need to raise money, which he said took him away from listening to the needs of North Carolina's 2nd District residents.


In the end, Aiken raised and spent about $1.2 million in the race. "I said throughout the year the people I'm running for don't have $5 to give to my campaign," he said. "There were people who argued I spend all my time with people who could give $2,600."

The Runner-Up will air every Tuesday in April. Aiken said he has not decided what he'll do next, but didn't close the door on a political race after 2018.

"I imagine I'd get involved and run for something again," he said, without specifying which office.

As you might expect in politics, the House GOP campaign committee is ready.

"Given that Aiken lost by 18 points in 2014, the NRCC would be first to roll out the red carpet for him to make another run," said Ian Prior, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Follow @ccamia on Twitter.

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People's Biz: Documentary of Clay Aiken's Run for Congress Starts Tuesday

People's Biz: Documentary of Clay Aiken's run for Congress starts Tuesday

By Paul Woolverton | Posted: Monday, April 6, 2015 6:28 pm


The Runner Up

A promotional photo for "The Runner Up," a documentary about entertainer Clay Aiken's 2014 run for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District. The four-part series begins broadcasting 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 7 on the Esquire Network.

Political nerds seeking an inside look at a Congressional campaign and others with an interest in former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken will want to tune into "The Runner Up," a four-part documentary that starts airing at 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 7, on the Esquire Network.

The series charts Aiken's 2014 attempt to win the 2nd Congressional District seat held by Republican Renee Ellmers.

In Fayetteville, the Esquire Network is on channel 114 on Time Warner Cable, channel 191 on the Dish Network and 380 and 1380 on Centurylink Prism.

Part one focuses Aiken's primary against fellow Democrat Keith Crisco, the former N.C. Secretary of Commerce. Aiken narrowly defeated Crisco in a fierce contest.

The first episode mostly ignores the third Democratic candidate, Toni Morris of Fayetteville. She unexpectedly nearly forced Crisco and Aiken into a run-off primary, something Aiken was desperate to avoid. The episode discusses that risk without naming Morris.

It shows Aiken getting dressed - literally putting on his pants - before heading out of the house to campaign. We see him traveling throughout the district, including parts of Cumberland County, to meet the voters. He frequently praises his staff, but often argues with them.

Campaign signs were a sore spot for Aiken. Some disappeared less than 24 hours after they were placed. He harangues staffers about how to place his signs at just the right angle to be visible to voters driving by.

It's striking, too, that Aiken finds that the entertainment industry, noted for its share of meanness, "looked like kindergarten and nursery school compared to this." He was feeling sore after Crisco bashed him with a negative television advertising.

Meanwhile, Aiken compares Crisco's visage to that of the evil Mr. Burns character on "The Simpsons." Later he says he wants to beat Crisco in a way that he never wanted to beat his opponents on "American Idol" and "Celebrity Apprentice."

"And I don't like that I feel that way. But I feel it," Aiken says.

There are unfortunate comments about Crisco being close to death or looking close to death. Crisco died in a fall less than a week after the primary. As much as Aiken, in his words, "hated" Crisco, Crisco's death clearly upset him and he felt some guilt for it.

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Clay Aiken Docu-Series to Premiere on Esquire

Clay Aiken Docu-Series to Premiere on Esquire

By Michele Amabile Angermiller

| April 07, 2015 2:35 AM EDT

The political baptism of Clay Aiken will be explored with the premiere of the new docu-series, The Runner-Up, premiering Tuesday night (April 7) on the Esquire Network.

From the very first frame, the cameras follow him from his initial days stumping door to door to the nail-biting drama leading to the results of the primary election as the American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice alum campaigns for a North Carolina Congressional seat in 2014.

Last month, Aiken -- joined by producers Simon Chinn (Man on Wire, Searching for Sugarman) and Jonathan Chinn (30 Days) -- sat for a screening of the very first episode at The Andaz Hotel in New York City. The premiere-airing tonight at 10 p.m. -- showcases every step of the campaign -- warts and all.

“This is our year,” said Aiken, who said watching the show was like “going to summer camp and seeing the slide show at the end of the summer of all that you went through. This is probably the same in a way for us but this is not anywhere near as fun as summer camp. I imagine the slide show will be a little less fun.”

Aiken promised everything the viewers will see is “real,” but not in any way “reality television.”

“It’s real but it’s not a reality show in any way. Idol is its thing and I did Apprentice which is a reality show, but those are scripted,” he said. “The number one rule for me when I agreed with them to do it was “stay the hell out of my way.” Don’t come asking me to do anything-if you missed it, you missed it. We are running a campaign, and you have got to get the heck away from us, and they did that. “

What the cameras did capture was Aiken-a Democrat- unfiltered. He curses like a sailor, micro-manages his staff -- a key example is when he obsesses over the proper way signs are displayed for oncoming traffic -- and says some politically incorrect statements about his Democratic opposition, Keith Crisco, who attacked him in campaign advertisements stating he did not show up for meetings of a presidential committee for people with disabilities. He also takes selfies on the campaign trail with unsuspecting voters who did not even realize he was running for office, records robo-calls with his cell phone, and stews over how publicity for his campaign is being run. All of this -- and the nail biting drama of waiting for primary results -- is captured in four days worth of footage. And that’s just the first episode.

“Clay is an engaging character. He swears a lot, he’s charming. He’s lots of things,” said Simon Chinn after the screening. “It was sort of an impossible journey with almost insurmountable odds. You know that is going to make high drama.”

Jonathan Chinn said that shortly after Aiken announced he was running for office, he thought, “this is not the Clay Aiken I imagined. He seemed sincere, and quite articulate. His biggest concern was that having cameras around him would make it seem like he was capitalizing on his celebrity. He was clear if it felt like that at all he had no interest in doing it.”

He said that he decided to work with Jonathan and Simon because they framed the concept of the show in a way that appealed to him.

“Jonathan knew that the reason I ran in the first place was I got a microphone and I could use it to speak up for people that don’t have a voice and talk about issues that were forgotten,” he said. “We made the point that this could be an extension of that if I was going into places where people were being ignored, seeing how they lived and how ineffective government now is affecting them, we might be able to show something.”

Also, he felt it was important for people to see that he really was serious about the campaign.

“I’m not naive at all. A lot of people heard I was running for congress and said, ‘what the hell?’ We called it ‘what the f mountain?” that we had to climb throughout this particular campaign. And I know we ran a serious campaign and a very good one in a very difficult, gerrymandered district. “

What will surprise people, Aiken said, is that he really isn’t a competitive person, despite the fact he competed on two shows.

“I’m not a competitive person which I think people will find incredibly ironic. It’s eye opening. I think I learned more about myself this particular time than the other two things,” he said. “I emphasize with any politician who is in it for what they believe is the right reason. I don’t always agree with them and their reasons, but those politicians that run-either Republican or Democrat -- for positive reasons because they want to do better, I emphasize the pain that can come with it.”

Nowhere is this more evident than when Aiken appears hurt by the negative campaign ads lobbed at him by Crisco he says on camera that it’s “the first time I ever disliked someone.”

Afterwards, Aiken said that he didn’t, in fact, dislike Crisco, but it was “tough to be insulted on local television.”

He added, “both of us wanted similar things."

During the screening, Aiken covered his face while watching a scene where he said Crisco looked like he was at death’s door -- a jarring statement considering Aiken had no way of knowing Crisco would pass away from an accident shortly after the primary. As soon as Jonathan and Simon learned of Crisco’s passing, both high-tailed it back to North Carolina and got Aiken’s reaction-24-hours after he found out.

“I learned about myself and human dynamics and what people will do when they are fighting for something. It was the first time I ever really felt competitive in my life, and I think it might have something to do with the fact that when I was on Idol I was competing for myself,” he said. “When I was on The Apprentice I wasn’t competitive because I was competing in a way for myself. This time to me it was about competing for other people. I was trying to win, but I was winning for a purpose and I found myself to be a lot more cutthroat when there was that kind of purpose.”

That, however, is politics, and the remaining three episodes will have plenty of drama -- Jonathan Chinn promises future episodes “get better”-- as viewers get a fly on the wall view of Aiken battling Republican incumbent Renee Elmers.

“I hope that the things I am passionate about come through and you get to see it,” said Aiken, who lists Veterans rights and income inequality as key issues.

Does Aiken have any plans to continue in politics now that the election is over?

“I don’t know if there is post politics,” he said. “We’ll see.

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Clay Aiken on a Second Run for Office: "I Think It'll Happen"

Clay Aiken on a Second Run for Office: ‘I Think It’ll Happen’

Daniel D’Addario @DPD_

1:18 PM ET

The second district Congressional race in North Carolina got a great deal of media attention last fall, beginning with a turbulent and closer-than-expected Democratic primary, narrowly won by Aiken just before the untimely death of the Democrat who ran against him. Aiken’s celebrity also fueled interest, as did his unlikeliness as a candidate in a deeply red district: He’s an openly gay single father.

In conversation with TIME, Aiken discussed his quixotic run, his disdain for Ellmers and whether he’d run for office again.

TIME: Is it painful for you that you appear in, and are now promoting, the story of your loss?

Clay Aiken: The truth is, when we agreed to let them come we didnt know we weren’t going to win. And they were not the first people to approach us. In the week after I announced, we had three groups reach out and ask us to do the same thing. We dismissed all of them out of hand, I’m not interested in this, I’m running and I’m not going to put up with that. [Producer] Jonathan Chinn was the fourth to reach out and he came better-prepared, armed with recommendations from people I knew and trusted, and a resume that said he was not going to do something disrespectful or smutty. I still was apprehensive but he asked to meet with me. I reluctantly said yes. I did not expect the primary to be as tough as it was, but we had some time. He made his pitch. I said if they stayed out of the way and there were things they couldn’t come to, I agreed to allow them to be around.

That was sort of the only connection we had. His crew came, and they did their part with very little from me except an interview every few weeks. In a very stressful period of time, over a year, you gain rapport with the people who are around. It became therapeutic to have someone to talk to about how stressed I was. When they asked me to help talk about this [to the press] I agreed, with parameters, that I would do it. I didn’t know this was going to be a loss. I’ve lost three things now on a large public scale! You have to find a win within every loss. There are ways to find wins even within our losses. I hope those are evident. I haven’t seen any of this. I certainly find ways to see wins, and I hope that becomes evident.

It’s hard to imagine that you really believed you could win; the district is, in recent history, very red. Did you really think you could turn it blue?

I don’t think anyone looks at the demographics of North Carolina’s second district and thinks, We can turn this blue. Certainly, I’m a Democrat, and I’m proud to be a Democrat. I’m a lot more moderate than a lot of Democrats in this country would like me to be. A lot of North Carolina Democrats are like me. Districts have been so unfairly gerrymandered that we see hundreds of people on both sides of the aisle who don’t necessarily have qualifications, capability, the empathy for constituents to be in those seats, but they are there because their state legislature have allowed them to be chosen. The fourth district got gerrymandered into the second district. My representative was not only one of those people, but a caricature of what is the worst of Congress, a person who has very little core and just does what the party leadership tells her. I’m not going to get too political and campaign here.

Without running against someone who would make people pay attention to her, she would stay in that seat indefinitely. She ran in 2012 against a very capable, qualified candidate and refused to debate him, didn’t run ads, did nothing, and she didn’t win by the margin she should have. I wanted to make people pay attention to the race. I go back to calling this a win. She’s nervous now. She’s prob not nervous about a Democrat but she’s nervous about a primary. She’s going to get primaried in 2016 and I think she’s going to go. I’m hesitant to feel excited about who might replace her, but at least we played a role in loosening that jar.

And when you’re running, you live in a bubble. That’s something you recognize. You live in a bubble when you run for office. I could go into the biggest Republican stronghold — and people would run up to me and say, “I always vote Republican, but I’m voting for you.” When ten people run to you and tell you that, you don’t see the 50 people who are not voting for you. Most of the stimulus that comes your way is positive. In the Mitt Romney documentary, he was shocked when he lost. I empathize with him. I have a small understanding of what it feels like to think you’re going to win. A week or two before the election, I started to understand this was not going to happen. There were stretches up to early October when I thought we had this.

Did you experience negativity because you were a gay candidate?

I didn’t, really. I equated it occasionally to being a double hyphenate. Everybody seems to have a hyphenate in politics. Barack Obama is the black candidate, Hillary Clinton is the female candidate, Bobby Jindal is the Indian candidate. I was the celebrity candidate. In North Carolina, where people have followed me and watched me, I was so much the celebrity candidate that the gay issue took a backseat. I feel I have survivor’s remorse, because I haven’t been subjected to the same discrimination people have been subjected to. You walk into a place where you think people will react because I’m gay and they’re excited that they saw me on TV the day before. They forget to be homophobic.

I’m always a little bit, not offended, but incredulous when people ask, “Why didnt you run in Massachusetts or New York or Los Angeles, where it’s more liberal.” Why would I run in a place that’s not home? People ask why I still live in North Carolina. I have the means to move wherever I want to. There are thousands of gay people in North Carolina who don’t have those means. Should I abandon them or stay and fight for them?

People have a lot of preconceptions about celebrities—

If they don’t, the opposition will create them. It was low-hanging fruit for the opposition. Our polling said that was the weakest argument against me. That has to do with the fact that I didn’t come into Hollywood the normal way. The people of North Carolina sent me to American Idol as their representative and voted for me, and then I moved my butt back home. [Aiken currently lives in Manhattan.]

Rep. Ellmers used [my celebrity status] as her attack a lot, tellingly. I think it might have been a wink and nod to the gay thing. She used that a lot in fundraising. Our obstacles were people seeing me as qualified or capable, which is ironic, given that Rep. Ellmers was a nurse before getting into politics. Our polls showed people saw me as trustworthy, relatable, likable. they saw me as more local. They did not see me as someone qualified or capable to do the job.

We called it “What-the-F— Mountain.” People hear Clay Aiken is running for Congress, and the first reaction is “What the f—?” We didn’t get all the way there but we got to second base camp.

So now that you’ve made headway, would you ever run again?

It’s not something I’m ruling out. I learned a lot about the political process and the efficacy of being in office. I got great advice from Democrats who are in office. I’m not convinced being in Congress is the best way to make an impact. I got this opportunity to have a voice where people can pay attention. Congress, at the time, felt like an opportunity to do that and get rid of someone who was clearly not doing that. I certainly am not going to say I’m not going to run for office again. I’d be lying; I think it’ll happen. In the meantime, i’m still learning.

Does it bother you that you’ve lost, publicly, in three competitions?

I didn’t choose the title. Who wants to always be known as incapable of winning? I don’t like that, obviously. It’s been 12 years since I publicly lost my first thing. From that, I was able to be successful. It’s been another chunk of time since I lost my second thing. And we just lost a third thing. There’s an unsinkable quality. For better or worse.

I tried to fight for people who never had a chance of winning. There are a lot of people who don’t have a chance to win. I don’t think winning needs to be the end-all and be-all. I’ve got to put a positive spin on things. I’ve come real close in three things and haven’t won anything. I’m still okay. I’m still happy, love my life, and am proud of what I’ve done. I’m only 36. You don’t have to win — you just have to do your best. If the saying “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” is true, I’m made of steel at this point.

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Clay Aiken Talks His Docu-Series "The Runner-Up"

Clay Aiken talks his new docu-series, "The Runner Up"

By WILL MENDELSON April 7, 2015

Clay Aiken isn't so "invisible" anymore.

While I still love jamming to his 2003 hit single, Aiken has shed his music persona (for the time being, at least) to focus on his new docu-series, "The Runner Up," that premiered on the Esquire Network last night.

The series details Aiken's, 36, run for a North Carolina Congressional seat in 2014. We sat down with Aiken and talked about the show and, of course, his days on "American Idol."

How did the docu-series come to be?

Right after I announced my run, my former manager when I was singing knew Jonathan Chinn. He convinced me that he would do this documentary well, and I told him that he'd have to convince everyone on my staff.

Are you nervous about watching yourself?

It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life!

Weirder than "Idol?"

Well, I didn't watch "Idol," since it was live! Watching myself on the documentary, while I'm being filmed cussing and in my underwear, was weird! It was a therapeutic process, being filmed every step of the way. I told everyone from the beginning that my priority is to run this campaign, and to run it well.

So did you always want to run for Congress?

I've always been interested in politics. I'm a political junkie. But I never had intentions to run for congress. But this was a need and I had a unique ability to bring peoples' attention to politics, and I thought it was the right time to do it. And I don't think it was the wrong time to do it, even ultimately having lost.

When you lost the race, what was that like?

We knew all along it would be tough. The district where I ran is a very, very Republican district. We knew it would be hard. So we decided to find our victory by bringing attention to some issues. I have a big mouth. We made a lot of people know that they matter.

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You Have Never Seen Clay Aiken Like This: The Runner-Up is Amazing TV

You have never seen Clay Aiken like this: The Runner-Up is amazing TV


Clay Aiken in Esquire's The Runner-Up. (Photo by Lightbox Entertainment)

by Andy Dehnart 7 APR. 2015 | 3:54 PM

Fuck people who have a problem with that. Fuck ‘em.”

That’s Clay Aiken, American Idol 2 runner-up and The Celebrity Apprentice runner-up, interviewed in Esquire’s new documentary series The Runner-Up, which debuts tonight and follows his run for Congress last year. Of course, the outcome of the election is well-known by now, and the title essentially gives it away, a reference to the consistent outcome of Clay’s attempts to win very different kinds of contests.

Produced by Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn (“Searching for Sugar Man”), The Runner-Up is a stunning unscripted television series not just because Clay Aiken says “fuck” a lot, nor because he gets emotional like when talking about his position on issues close to him–though both are remarkable.

No, it’s stunning because that Clay Aiken is a direct contrast to the version of him we’ve seen on television twice now. He was much more open and candid on Apprentice–it was, after all, after he came out–but this is finally a fuller picture of Clay. We see him in public, campaigning, and in private, complaining. There’s a particular type of vulnerability that isn’t very common from politicians or from reality television, and not just when he’s in his boxer briefs getting dressed.

Jonathan Chinn on filming The Runner-Up

The first episode focuses on the primary, and even if you know the shocking outcome of that particular election, it’s extraordinary television, especially considering all of Clay’s unintentional foreshadowing.

I talked to executive producer Jonathan Chinn, who has previously worked on reality television such as Kid Nation, American High, and 30 Days, about the series’ origin and production.

He told me that for this kind of series, “You have to throw away a lot of the tools you have as a reality producer and give in to the verite gods. A lot of interesting stuff can happen, or nothing interesting can happen. It’s all a little bit out of our control.”

The idea for the series came from Clay Aiken’s remarkable campaign announcement video, which prompted a March meeting with producers. “Can’t say that I spent much of my career wanting to make a documentary about Clay Aiken,” Chinn said, but after meeting with Clay, he added, “I was immediately struck by his political savvy. The person that I met was not the Clay Aiken that had been packaged to me as a viewer of American Idol or Celebrity Apprentice. He was quite different.”

Clay Aiken’s deal with filmmakers

The show didn’t start production until about five days before the May 6 primary, and that footage fills most of tonight’s premiere. Interestingly, there was no contract between the filmmakers and Clay “outside of an appearance release that he signed allowing us to use the footage. He has no financial gain from this project; we don’t have a deal with him.” Chinn said that was important because “this is not a reality show where we’re dealing with a celebrity who’s trying to control their image or is looking for monetary gain.”

They did have a handshake agreement, though. “What [Clay] needed assurances about was that we were not going to interfere with his ability to campaign and, at that point in time, win an election. That was mostly about the sort of nitty gritty in terms of the logistics of shooting. He didn’t want us using a lot of boom mics that might spook people, he really wanted his campaign team to have the ability to ask us not to film something if they felt that it was going to be harmful for the cameras to be there. He need that assurance,” Chinn told me.

“The assurance that I needed from him was that he was going to have no editorial control whatsoever. He basically needed to trust us to do what we do as storytellers. We weren’t interested in getting into an editorial partnership with him,” Chinn added. “We just had to have complete freedom to make the documentary we wanted to make.”

Clay and his campaign staff were followed by a small crew, usually about three to four people, though sometimes it would be a single producer with a camera. Production was slow during the summer months after the primary and ended about a week after the midterm election. While the documentary is truly cinema verite, in that it just followed the action wherever it was going, filming “was not a 24/7 kind of thing,” Chinn said.

Not affecting the election

The filmmakers did “everything we could do to not affect the outcome” of the election, and Chinn said, “we didn’t want to affect the campaign positively or negatively.” That–and equal time laws–explain why it’s airing well after the election.

After Esquire announced The Runner-Up, a report in Variety claimed donors at a fundraiser were upset about being filmed for the series because they said the crew “told them that it was for a BBC documentary that would not air in the U.S.”

Chinn said that this was always an Esquire series, and thus the report about it initially being a BBC show was inaccurate. “The idea of it airing it overseas is a fallacy,” he said. “It makes no sense that this show would go overseas. Nobody [there] knows who Clay Aiken is. It was never a consideration of ours that we would try to hook up with overseas partners. This was always very much an American show for a U.S. audience–not just because of Clay Aiken, but also because I’m not sure if people overseas have that much interest in the American political system, which ultimately is what this doc is about.”

Chinn said the documentary could have potentially had an expanded scope. “We actually tried to get access to Renee Ellmers’ campaign,” he told me. “We were rejected; they weren’t interested in having a crew around them.”

Clay Aiken says “fuck” a lot

The series aims to “show people their preconceived notions of Clay Aiken might be wrong,” and that includes all the swearing, which is delightful. “The truth is, cutting out the stuff where he doesn’t swear wasn’t an option–he swears all the time. In the case of his potty mouth, that is who he is, and sanitizing it would be disingenuous,” Chinn said.

Producers also wanted to explore Clay as a gay man running for Congress in the South, where there has never been an openly gay representative, and look at politics through this one local election.

“What we tried to do was sort of strip away a lot of the stuff that was slightly uninteresting,” Chinn said, such as the “mechanics of running a campaign,” and instead “focus on the stories that we felt would be accessible to people–the personal stories, and the political stories.”

“Ideally, it’s very ambitious–and maybe a little high-minded and lofty–but ideally, people will watch the four episodes, which isn’t asking too much, and actually take a couple minutes out of their day to think about the state of politics in America,” Chinn told me. “If this series can entertain people, show a slightly different side of Clay Aiken, and get people to think about such things as campaign reform and gerrymandering, even for a short while, I would be happy.”

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The Runner-Up on Esquire Recap: Premiere – Clay Aiken Is Back!

The Runner-Up on Esquire Recap: Premiere – Clay Aiken Is Back!

Posted by: Todd Betzold

It has been a while since we have seen Clay Aiken on television, but he was back tonight and on the Esquire channel for the premiere of The Runner Up, his documentary series covering his Congressional run in North Carolina. The former American Idol runner-up let the camera follow him around for The Runner Up on Esquire and now we get to see the celebrity try to make his way into politics. Check out what happened on The Runner Up2015 premiere below in our The Runner Up on Esquire recap from tonight!


Warning: This post contains spoilers on The Runner Up on Esquire, so stop reading now if you don’t want to know what happened!!!

We start with Clay getting ready for the day and why do we need to see him in his underwear??? He then heads out with Betsy Conti, his campaign advisor, to do some canvassing. He chats with some people, but he doesn’t think people are taking him seriously and want to talk about American Idol.

The local residents don’t seem to take him seriously. He said he started this journey with eight people he did not know and they are telling him what to do on his campaign. It seems like they are all related working his campaign.

Clay’s mother is not happy to see him running and thinks that Washington is corrupt and doesn’t want them dragging him down. He said he grew up in the church, but he is not as religious now and not sure if that is because of the church’s stance on sexual orientation. He said people tell him a gay man can’t win in North Carolina.

Out on the road, Betsy said that Clay gets the attention of the voters, but they aren’t listening to what he says and just want a selfie with him. Gene Conti, another campaign advisor, said that Clay’s opponent, Keith Crisco, is very strong and has a lot of income sources. Betsy said the people who normally vote in midterms would be voting for Keith. Because of that, they need to appeal to people that don’t normally vote.

To be honest, Clay does have some valid points and he is surprising me tonight. He is good with his words and people like him, so it is a matter of making sure they believe he can do this. However, it is time for the attack ads to begin and we see Keith go after Clay and the appointment he got from President Bush to a committee for kids with special needs. As it turns out, Clay missed all eight of the meetings for that committee, so they called him “No Show Clay Aiken” and Clay is pissed! We hear the F-bomb dropped a lot by Clay and we are liking it! His campaign is working on turning this attack ad around, but they don’t have a big budget to work with on The Runner Up 2015.

To counterattack, they sent out a press release saying that Keith’s company sent jobs overseas and he has an American company. The paper put it on their website, but it was not actually put in the paper and Clay is pissed again! They put up campaign signs along the highway, but the next morning they were all missing!

Clay is working hard, but he doesn’t seem to trust his campaign team. He needs to let go a little, girl! It is the day before the primary election and Clay sends out his operations manager to work on the signs. He is stressing out big time and doesn’t want to come in second place again!

The next morning comes and Clay heads out to vote and he sees none of his campaign signs at the polling place! He votes and said it is the first time he has voted for himself since American Idol! Clay is working his way around the polling places and he is not happy to see no signs.

He said when he lost to Ruben Studdard, he was okay with it. When he lost to Arsenio Hall on The Celebrity Apprentice, he was okay with it because he liked them both. He does not like Keith Crisco and wants to beat him!

The polls have now closed and it is waiting time to see the results come in! This is a close one and they are within a few hundred votes, but Clay is leading right now. It is so close that Keith Crisco will probably demand a recount of the votes and Clay just wants him to concede!

Six days after the election, Clay is declared the winner of the election, but not on the terms he probably wanted! Keith Crisco passed away!!!! Clay said he could see his declining health and thinks this did him in. He said he grew to hate him during the campaign and he treated him like a dick and he hates that. He heard Keith’s team was going to call and concede that day and he felt he would have gotten closure then, but he never got that and it will bother him.

But we move on with the campaign next week, but what did you think of tonight’s premiere?

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The Frequently Great Esquire Network Stumbles With Just So-So Clay Aiken Docuseries

The Frequently Great Esquire Network Stumbles With Just So-So Clay Aiken Docuseries

The Runner-Up (Esquire Network, 10pm)


In its short lifetime, NBC’s Esquire Network has managed to carve out its own identity as a cable network where reality TV is often smart, beautifully produced and engaging with shows like Brew Dogs and Friday Night Tykes that feature people with stories that viewers want to know better.

Which is almost true of its four-episode docuseries The Runner-Up with Clay Aiken, who much of America remembers came in second place on American Idol‘s second season and just about no one remembers came in second place on a season of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice.

On Idol, Clay was a loveable, sweet and innocent kid who later came out as gay. He could also sing, so much of America embraced him – for the long haul. He had a respectable music career for several years after the show.

On Esquire’s The Runner-Up, which follows Clay’s very real 2014 run for a congressional seat in North Carolina, Clay isn’t loveable. He’s real. He’s chubby, in his 30s and dropping F bombs like crazy.

He’s also not very nice or engaging as he competes with the 70-something Keith Crisco, who spent vastly more money than Clay to end up in a race that was too close to call.

More tragic, and the most poignant moment in tonight’s The Runner-Up premiere, Clay was declared the winner a day after Keith died falling down stairs outside his home.

That event is touching and tragic, but so far not enough to sustain interest in The Runner-Up.

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Clay Aiken, was your bid for Congress just an excuse for a new reality TV show?

Clay Aiken, was your bid for Congress just an excuse for a new reality TV show?

By Ben Terris April 8 at 5:00 AM

Last year Clay Aiken, the former “American Idol” runner-up, ran for Congress. He never had much of a chance of winning, running as a Democrat in a heavily Republican district against incumbent Rep. Renee Ellmers — especially since voters still couldn’t help but see a 24-year old spiky-haired reality-show singer when they looked at the now 36-year old politician.

Those who got to see Aiken in action may have been surprised by just how candid, foul-mouthed and well-versed on the issues he had become. But those who didn’t get to see him in action then will get to see him now: On Tuesday, the Esquire network aired the first of four installments of “Runner Up,” its documentary on Aiken’s congressional run. When Esquire first announced the series (made by Simon Chinn, the Oscar-winning producer of “Man on Wire” and Searching for Sugar Man”) it was met with derision: Of course Aiken had a reality series in development; perhaps this was what this whole congressional run was all about?

Below, Aiken responds to that charge and other questions (edited and condensed for clarity):

When Esquire announced the filming of the show right after the election, the reaction wasn’t great. Were you surprised people felt hustled, like you were after another reality show the whole time?

I would have thought the same f—ing thing. I thought Esquire and the network did a horrible job of announcing this. I fought with them and was angry with them. Until that point we had had nine moths of a good relationship. I was more p—ed off than other people were.

So how did this project come to be in the first place?

The filmmakers came to me. They were the third or fourth group that tried. I had said no to all of them, I had even said no to them. But they came back and were pretty persuasive and persistentt. . . I knew my chance of winning was a small one, but there was a large percentage of a chance that I could bring attention to issues like how much time is spent raising money in politics. . . It’s f—ing b——-.

Was everyone on your team aware that this movie was being made?

I said I’ll be okay with the movie only once [the filmmakers] personally get everyone else on the campaign to agree. They had to specifically get their buy-in.

There were reports that people at fundraisers felt like they had the rug pulled out from under them when they heard about the film. How do you respond to them?

I don’t know what to say about that specifically. I was very separated from whatever the producers and what they were doing. I don’t know. . . . But I will say that for nine months of working with these folks, I never saw them do something that upset or offended anyone. I know what they told every group that they went in front of. The person who complained was well aware that they would be there and what they were doing. He spent a lot of energy trying to get himself attention so I would take his concerns with a huge grain of salt.

Are you worried that having a movie like this reinforces the idea that you are nothing more than a reality star?

No. I think the only reason I was willing to let me do this was because I felt comfortable that it wasn’t going to be reality TV-ish. And I’ve only seen 20 minutes, but what I’ve seen and what I’ve heard is that it’s clearly not a reality show.

Do you think, and do you hope, that people will watch this and learn to no longer see you as just a singer?

That was always our biggest challenge and our biggest problem; to get people to see me as not just a singer. . . Admittedly I hope that people who see it recognize that I was serious and not just a 24 year old from “Idol.” If I told you that I wasn’t nervous about how it came across I’d be lying.

Will this be part of a process that helps you run again?

Will I run again? For that seat, not likely. In its current gerrymandered state we know what to expect of it. But that doesn’t mean I wont run for something if I see a need. It won’t be 2016, and it won’t be 2018. Probably. ​

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Clay Aiken: My Campaign Faced So Much Cynicism, We Called It 'What The F**k Mountain'

Clay Aiken: My Campaign Faced So Much Cynicism, We Called It 'What The F**k Mountain'

The Huffington Post | By Paige Lavender

Posted: 04/07/2015 5:55 pm EDT Updated:

04/07/2015 6:59 pm EDT

Clay Aiken, the runner-up from the second season of "American Idol" who lost his bidfor Congress in North Carolina in 2014, told HuffPost Live he faced a great deal of cynicism when he first announced his political plans.

"Yeah, there was cynicism. I mean, we called it, we called it 'What The Fuck Mountain' for a while," said Aiken, who's been busy promoting a documentary series he filmed for the Esquire Network called "The Runner-Up." "We called it that for a while because it was that reaction that people had when they found out Clay Aiken's running for Congress. 'What the,' you know?"

Aiken, a Democrat, was defeated by Rep. Renee Elmers (R-N.C.) in the race to represent the state's 2nd District. He recently told Time another run for office could be in his future.

Clay Aiken Doesn't Mind If He's The 'Universal Punchline For Everything Gay'

Clay Aiken Doesn't Mind If He's The 'Universal Punchline For Everything Gay'

The Huffington Post | By Curtis M. Wong

Posted: 04/08/2015 9:36 am EDT Updated:

04/08/2015 10:59 am EDT


" veteran and former North Carolina Democratic House candidate Clay Aiken joked that he's become the "universal punchline for everything gay" in an interview with HuffPost Live this week.

Pointing to the number of tongue-in-cheek jokes that "Family Guy" and

have had at his expense, Aiken said he let most of the humor roll off his back. Nonetheless, he said he was concerned about its impact on young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults who are coming to terms with their sexuality.

"It doesn't hurt me, it's not me that is affected by it," Aiken, 36, said. "I don't worry about the person who just got picked on, I worry about [LGBT] kids."

He went on to note, "What does that make that 15-year-old in Indiana feel like?"

Aiken is currently promoting "The Runner-Up," a four-part documentary series about his congressional campaign, which airs on The Esquire Network.

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The Runner Up is Annother First Place Doc for Esquire

The Runner-Up is Another First Place Doc for Esquire by MIKE MCCOMB • APRIL 8, 2015


The Runner-Up (Photo: Lightbox Entertainment / Esquire)

Remember last year when Clay Aiken, formerly of American Idol and the Celebrity Apprentice, ran for a congressional seat in North Carolina? It turns out his campaign granted access to award-winning documentary producers Simon and Jonathan Chinn (Man on Wire, American High, and 30 Days), resulting in Esquire’s new docu-series The Runner-Up, which debuted Tuesday night.

The four-hour series, which will air in one-hour installments, tracks Aiken’s progress through a hotly contested primary up through election night in November 2014. Tuesday’s episode focused on the democratic primary, which took place May 6. The series doesn’t directly examine political machinery or the policy points of the candidates in play. Instead, this series seems to be examining the weird quirks of electoral politics, popularity, marketing, name recognition–the nuts and bolts of a campaign that have no individual impact on outcomes but must work in concert to achieve success.

For example, one of the first segments we see has Clay and his campaign manager canvassing a neighborhood to drum up support. From Clay describes in the scene, he is terrified of the prospect of having doors slam in his face. Meanwhile, the producers do some person-on-the-street interviews, showing that although locals recognize the name, many have not considered him as a political entity. This question is probably the most common conundrum for outside viewers of the election last year, but The Runner-Uphighlights the issues that motivated Clay to pursue the office. This was not a ploy to keep his name in the papers or extend his 15 minutes post-Apprentice. Rather, he was deeply troubled by education “reforms” taking place in North Carolina and nationally.

The episode concluded with the bizarre turn of events capping the primary election. Aiken won the democratic primary over opponent (and experienced politician) Keith Crisco, but by a margin close enough to trigger a recount. Aiken was declared the winner the same day Crisco died in a slip and fall accident. Although the campaign continues, the episode closes with Clay considering the bizarre interactions that happen because of politics.

Although we know the outcome of the final election1, the Runner-Up is already shaping up to be another fascinating documentary series produced for Esquire.

  1. spoiler: he isn’t Congressman Clay Aiken

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TV Picks: "Veep," "The Runner-Up," "Cucumber," "Banana"

The relevant part, written by Robert Lloyd on April 11:

Second-season "American Idol" and something-season "Celebrity Apprentice" silver medalist Clay Aiken's 2014 quixotic campaign for a North Carolina congressional seat is the subject of "The Runner-Up," a locally colorful, four-part documentary from the Esquire Channel. (Spoiler alert from actual history and the title: After winning the primary against a better-heeled and experienced opponent, Aiken lost to Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers.) Like Selina Meyer, Aiken has a dedicated team, which is presented as characters, or rather the suggestion of characters, most memorably young communications director Tucker Middleton, who watched Aiken's "Idol" as a 13-year-old. ("Tucker, you're grinnin' like a possum eating bumblebee," someone tells her -- I think I heard that right.) But the focus is mostly on the candidate, an appealing if sometimes fretful sort -- his handlers call him "a challenge" -- who supports special-needs education, marriage rights and, like any sane person, a depolarized, depoliticized Washington, a local celebrity-hero and man of the little people "who will advocate for us and not for big business and special interests." (Policy remains vague; it's the process and personalities that matters here.) Still, the sharp elbows of politics leave Aiken conflicted: "I don't know whether I would rather win or rather lose," he says, getting ready to lose. "I've come in second before, I can do it again if I have to."

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The Runner Up Episode Two: Go for the Jugular

The Runner-Up Episode 2: Go for the Jugular

by MIKE MCCOMB • APRIL 15, 2015


The Runner-Up (Photo: Lightbox Entertainment / Esquire)

The second episode of The Runner-Up picks up a few weeks after Clay Aiken’s victory in the 2014 North Carolina 2nd District primary. Don’t worry about the characters from last week’s episode–Clay has a brand new campaign team including campaign manager Ellen Zeng and finance manager Nick Leisey. This week’s episode focuses on Clay preparing for a debate with his opponent Congresswoman Renee Ellmers. Along with the prep, we learn some of the nitty gritty of what it is like to be on the campaign trail when all politics is local.

One of the struggles central to this week’s episode is Clay’s reluctance to engage in politics as usual. He hates the bickering, the backbiting, and the blustering that happens throughout anything remotely political. Unfortunately, a political debate is antithetical to Clay’s vision of how he wants government. In an early prep session, he tries to answer questions without engaging his opponent, but he comes across as a know-it-all. When he listens to various ad hominems and non sequitors from his opponent, Clay fails to resist rolling his eyes. His advisers tell him his goal is to generate a reaction from his opponent and to get the electorate to fire her. Every answer needs to have some nugget of vitriol, otherwise Clay is wasting valuable time. How is a guy whose brand is based largely on his likable personality supposed to proceed?

Campaigns are won and lost based on how much money is raised. Ellen informs us that a successful campaign of this nature would require $1.8 million. Clay and co. has raised less than $800,000 with a little over two months to go. Part of the problem is that Clay is reluctant to use his contacts from his American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice days, mainly because he wants to combat the image that he has gotten bored after going Hollywood. This also means Clay doesn’t want to bank on his pipes, even though his foundation the National Inclusion Project has blossomed using such tactics. Instead, we see Clay phoning potential donors in what is referred to as “call time.” Unfortunately, Ellen tells us “call time” should clock in at 40+ hours a week1 and Clay is not anywhere close to those hours. He does host a fundraiser with guests Ruben Studdard and Fantasia, so he hasn’t completely severed ties with Idol.

The dynamics discussed in the debate prep show just how fine a line Clay–or any candidate, really–has to walk:

  • Male/Female: if he comes across as too aggressive, voters may view him as a bully.

  • Southern propriety: Clay needs to be a gentleman or he risks getting Bless Your Heart’d.

  • Democrat/Republican: the second district is gerrymandered to be Republican-leaning.

  • Older/Younger: this ties in with southern propriety, but he has to respect his elder or someone will cut a switch.

Clay asks if the gay card gives him a pass, but Ellen tells him to 1) not frame it as a “pass”, and 2) not really.2 As the final debate prep gets underway, Clay finds himself feeling hamstrung because every answer has to be perfectly balanced.

“…as an entertainer…”

The producers of The Runner-Up filmed three groups of potential voters–democrats, republicans, and undecideds–watching the debate as it aired in early September. Clay has to battle extreme nerves while answering the first question while Ellmers condescends to her opponent every chance she can, prefacing every response with “As an entertainer, you fail to understand…” The tone does not go unnoticed by the home audiences, and it may have contributed to the “really, queen?” shade thrown Ellmers’ way when she tries to brand the “Aiken/Obama Economy.” From the clips we see, Aiken performed well and held his own in the debate.

The episode ends with Clay and his team reading news reports and internet comments about the debate. The gap between the candidates is closing, going from 17 points to 8 points (in a Republican poll!).

Next time on The Runner-Up: Clay has to court the fringe voters (ain’t no party like the Tea Party) and gay rights comes to the fore.

  • A full-time job.

  • Keep in mind, a gay marriage ban was passed in North Carolina a couple years prior.

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Clay Aiken, Judith Miller Visit Bill Maher

Clay Aiken, Judith Miller visit Bill Maher

By Hal Boedeker Staff writer contact the reporter

Clay Aiken and journalist Judith Miller will be interview guests on 'Real Time With Bill Maher'

April 15, 2015

There could be fireworks this week on "Real Time With Bill Maher."

Journalist Judith Miller will be the top-of-show guest at 10 p.m. Friday on HBO. Miller is promoting a book, "The Story: A Reporter's Journey," in which the Pulitzer Prize winner recounts her time at The New York Times. She also looks back at her flawed reporting, before the Iraq War, about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. What kind of discussion will she have with the fiery Maher?

Former "American Idol" contestant Clay Aiken, who ran for the U.S. House in North Carolina, will be the mid-show interview guest.

The panel will be correspondent Michelle Caruso-Cabrera of CNBC, historian Jon Meacham and Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress.

Meacham won the Pulitzer Prize for biography for "American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House." His other books include "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" and "American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation." He and Maher should have an interesting conversation about religion.

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Exclusive: Clay Aiken Talks Disabilities, New Horizons And National Inclusion Project

Exclusive: Clay Aiken Talks Disabilities, New Horizons And National Inclusion Project

By Renita Manley-Garrett on April 17, 2015


Clay Aiken will be honored at this weekend’s New Horizons Havana Nights Gala in Burbank, and talked with Look To The Stars about what the cause means to him.

Congratulations on receiving the Celebrity Advocate Award from New Horizons! How will this honor continue to propel your advocacy for people with developmental disabilities?

The Advocate Award highlights to an expanded audience the work that we have been doing at the National Inclusion Project. The inclusion of individuals with disabilities in all activities is the right thing to do and I appreciate their recognition of my involvement and the success we are achieving.

You are a staunch supporter of people with developmental disabilities, you are also the founder of the National Inclusion Project. How was your passion for this cause born?

During high school and college years I had the opportunity to work with summer camp programs at my local YMCA. As I worked with kids and could see the fun that they had and the friendships formed I noticed that we had a special camp for individuals with disabilities. I challenged this separation and asked why not include everyone together? The simple answer at the time was that we did not know how and that it would not work. I found the answers unacceptable and knew at that time I wanted to make a difference and include all kids. This experience was a key factor in my decision to major in special education.

The National Inclusion Project’s initiative “Let’s All Play” is widely used across the nation. Congratulations on that! What makes this research based initiative unique? How is it changing lives and the perceptions of individuals with developmental disabilities?

The uniqueness comes in the fact that we establish true partnership with organizations around the country. We don’t just write a check and we don’t just do a one-time training. We work closely with community organizations to give them the best possible resources so that they can successfully include individuals into their fantastic programs.

We start with the mindset and beliefs that everyone can make a friend, everyone can participate, and everyone can be successful and then we equip professionals with best practices that make the implementation of those beliefs possible.

The results have been overwhelmingly positive as entire organizations have seen their cultures change toward inclusion.

You were once a special education teacher and you served on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

What are some legislative changes you’d like to see involving children and adults who have developmental disabilities?

ADA is celebrating 25 years this year. While being a landmark in legislation and setting the stage for some progress over the last several decades in this area, I think most understand that legislation can only go so far because you can’t force heart or culture change simply through a new law. I believe that we need to continue to educate leaders, teachers, parents, everyone about different abilities and how inclusion benefits society. Our “Let’s ALL Play” model has been implemented in over 120 programs across the country since 2008 and we see kids of all abilities participating and making friends.

Viewers are starting to see an increase in the amount of people with developmental disabilities in television commercials, sitcoms, and on the big screens. What are your thoughts on this increased inclusion?

It is overdue – all elements of media should reflect society and respect the value of individuals.

What more can be done to decrease the gap between these individuals and the world?

As society we owe everyone the opportunity to be included in life’s activities. Getting people off the sidelines, playing together, working together, we learn about differences and likeness. Participating together we will remove stigmas and friendships will be formed benefitting all for a lifetime. Together we are better!

What should your fans and people in general understand about people with developmental disabilities?

Take the opportunity to get to know someone with different abilities, your personal experience will be speak for itself. Hopefully you will have the opportunity to become friends and be a beacon for others.

What keeps you motivated to be an avid supporter of not only people with developmental disabilities, but such a wide range of humanitarian causes?

One of the most rewarding aspects of what we have been able to do at the National Inclusion Project is to open doors, to help provide opportunities for people of all abilities to be included. These experiences and the positive impact inspires myself and our entire team to work harder and try to do more.

What advice do you have for your fans who want to support people with developmental disabilities or your fans who wish to become advocates/humanitarians?

Many of my fans are already supporters and to them I extend my sincere appreciation. However, I would like to see all of the fans and their friends become supporters and advocates for inclusion. The National Inclusion Project’s mission is so much bigger and more important than just me and our team. We have made great strides but have only scratched the surface.

To find out more about the New Horizons 2015 Gala, click here.

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My NYC: Clay Aiken Talks Broadway and Burgers

My NYC: Clay Aiken talks Broadway and burgers

By WILL MENDELSON April 16, 2015

Clay Aiken may hail from North Carolina, but he now calls NYC his home.

We caught up with the singer, actor and politician and grilled him on his NYC picks, from his favorite shows to his favorite food.

Favorite Broadway shows

"Matilda," "On the Twentieth Century"

Favorite theater

The Shubert

Favorite restaurant

Brindle Room (227 E. 10th St., Manhattan): "Best burger I ever had."

Favorite borough for Italian food

The Bronx: Arthur Avenue

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The Runner-Up Episode Three: Into the Belly of the Beast

The Runner-Up Episode 3: Into the Belly of the Beast

by MIKE MCCOMB • APRIL 22, 2015

NUP_166848_0005-300x169.jpg The Runner-Up (Photo: Lightbox Entertainment / Esquire)

This week’s episode of The Runner-Up brings up the alleged elephant in the room: Clay Aiken’s sexual orientation. As you may know Aiken is gay, which, like his eye and hair color, has not been a part of his political platform in his run for North Carolina’s 2nd congressional seat. With three weeks to go before the election, Clay has decided on doing a bus tour of the district to get to know the constituents. Meanwhile, Amendment 1, a constitutional ban on gay marriage voted on in the 2012 election, has just been overturned by the North Carolina Supreme Court.1 Like it or not, Clay is forced to address the issue at his appearances, which are challenging enough as a moderate democrat in a republican district.

What political lessons were we able to glean from the candidate this week?

The DCCC Gets a C-

Much like in last week’s episode, fundraising is a major concern for the Clay Aiken campaign. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a national group designed to help candidates within the party win elections, has set fundraising goals for the Aiken campaign to gauge viability. Although the campaign has struggled to meet those goals, the objectives are met only to have the goalposts move a little bit further down the field. Ultimately, Clay wants to appear on the DCCC’s Red to Blue list of seats that are up for grabs. Keep in mind, 2014 was a drubbing for the democrats, so the DCCC had to focus on keeping current seats blue before trying to turn red seats. However, Clay did have a point when he called out the DCCC for stringing him along, drawing the analogy of Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown. The relationship ends with Clay hanging up on his DCCC rep mid-sentence.

Get on the Bus

Since the campaign isn’t raising enough money for ads, Clay wants to travel through the very-oddly shaped district to meet with voters and the people he will represent. His campaign manager Ellen thinks this is a terrible idea (Clay should be fundraising), but Clay says he would rather lose doing the campaign in the style he wants to do it. The 21-day tour gets off to…about as much of a start as one could hope in a mid-term campaign for a candidate with very little chance of winning. The first stop has a couple dozen people, many of them staff and volunteers, plus a tracker. A tracker is someone who works for the opposite side and records everything a candidate does in the hopes of capturing a major blunder so that it goes viral. Clay tells us he has no problems with cameras watching his every move thanks to American Idol (and probably this documentary), but the video of tens of people at a rally is not going to get Renee Ellmers to shake in her boots.


NC-2 is drawn to be a republican district. As a result, Clay has learned some harsh truths about politics. First, many people he has encountered will be voting for the republican because s/he has an R following their name. Clay lectures one voter at a county fair about not talking about the issues, which is a cringey moment even though it ends with him telling the voter he knows she is never going to vote for him. At least the tracker wasn’t there? Clay also shares that the only people that come up to talk to him are the people who are already planning on voting for him, so there isn’t an opportunity to convince someone who is sitting on the fence…if those people exist anymore.

As he laments the disappearance of moderates in government, we learn that part of Clay’s strategy is to bridge the gap as much as possible with his republican counterparts. This includes participating in a panel with the Tea Party of Moore County. He opens with a joke about why on earth he is in the room that goes over like a lead balloon.2 To make watching this less uncomfortable, I strongly suggest treating it like a community forum scene from Parks and Recreation. In his closing, Clay plays up the point that he was present and participating in the forum, unlike the elected representative who has claimed to be a Tea Party supporter though her actions have not always lined up with the group.

Identity Politics

Clay’s bus tour coincides with the North Carolina Pride festival, which he chooses not to attend. Although he is a candidate who happens to be gay, Aiken is adamant that LGBT issues are not central to his campaign. He goes so far as to say he is offended by the supposition, even though he points out in an interview that he would be the first out congressperson from the south were he to win. That doesn’t stop people asking him for his thoughts about the recent overturning of Amendment 1. Although his personal reaction has been positive, his political reaction can best be described as clumsy. He refers to the issue as “not yet settled” and defers to the eventual Supreme Court case.3 Even as a non-answer, it does not come across as particularly polished.

Next week on The Runner-Up: Political ads! Election day! The bus gets towed?!

  • 1 Yay!
  • 2 To be fair, I sat in on a democratic public forum once where each candidate was asked whether or not they were now or ever in the John Birch Society, so the pendulum swings both ways.
  • 3 April 28, y’all!

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How to Score a Date from Clay Aiken



During Tuesday morning’s fun and informative interview with Howard, career runner-upClay Aiken revealed that it is easier to score a date with him than you might think – even though he hasn’t gotten any since before his 2014 congressional run.

“If I want you, how do I get you? How do I do you?” Howard asked, wondering how one gets to date the former the American Idol star.

As it turns out, all you have to do is send him a friend request on Facebook.“That’s how that one went down,” Clay explained, refering to one of his last dates.

(Peace and love, peace and love: DO NOT send Clay a friend request now - after today's interview he is no longer accepting Facebook friend requests for dates!)

But it must be hard to weed out the fame-seekers, right? Not so for Clay. “My bullshit detector is pretty fucking good,” he exclaimed.


Nice dimples Mr. MacFarlane

Howard and Robin were truly concerned that it’s been a year-and-a-half since Clay has had a man. Though when questioned on whether he’d turn to hookup app Grindr for help, Clay immediately shut it down, telling them he’s “not as much of a whore as people would like to think” he is.

“Here’s the honest truth: When people ‘friend’ me … if it’s a guy who’s really cute, I’ll accept him. And then I’ll look at the pictures and delete them.” But if you play your cards right, you might just catch him on your lucky day and score a date, just like his last boyfriend.

“Who’s your Hollywood crush?” Howard prodded. To everyone’s surprise, Clay admitted: “You know what’s crazy, Seth MacFarlane is sort of my … I like dimples.”

Unfortunately, that one might not pan out exactly as he would like.

Watch Clay on The Runner Up Tuesday nights in April on the Esquire Network. And listen to Clay Aiken with Howard any time on the SiriusXM App.


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Clay Aiken Talked About Dating On Facebook And That Seth MacFarlane Is His Celebrity Crush

Clay Aiken Talked About Dating On Facebook And That Seth MacFarlane Is His Celebrity Crush




In the wake of Bruce Jenner’s revealing 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer, Clay Aiken stopped by The Howard Stern Show this morning where he talked about his own experience with formerly living in the closet and eventually coming out publicly as a gay man. The former North Carolina congressional candidate and American Idol runner-up has been notoriously private regarding his personal life, as well as fairly conservative when it comes to social views, so this was an unusually candid interview for him.

The biggest reveal was probably that Aiken claims that he didn’t even realize that he was gay to begin with until he was 24 years old, and that, as an adolescent, he dated girls and did “all of the normal high school stuff” (ie: boning chicks, I assume) before his realization years later.

Howard also pressed him about his current love life, getting him to admit that Seth MacFarlane is one of his big celebrity crushes, and that he largely turns to Facebook to meet men because he “doesn’t leave his house.” Which makes me kind of sad for Clay Aiken, actually. Apparently, the last guy he dated was a law professor who eventually put an end to the relationship, or as Aiken puts it, “Who the f*ck breaks up with Clay Aiken?”

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