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American Idol Clay Aiken denigrates political rival U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers in radio interview

Aiken, defeated by Ellmers in November, calls her a “bitch,” an “idiot,” and an “old snatch” on Howard Stern’s show

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

north-carolina mugRALEIGH (CFP) — American Idol Clay Aiken has publicly denigrated Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, who beat him handily for a North Carolina House seat last November.

U.S. House candidate Clay Aiken

U.S. House candidate Clay Aiken

In an April 27 interview with shockjock Howard Stern, Aiken called Ellmers a “bitch” and an “idiot. He also claimed that Ellmers had been “a condescending old snatch” during their campaign debate and that “her self-esteem is just in the floor, under the floor.”

Aiken was on Stern’s show to promote a documentary entitled The Runner-Up, airing on the Esquire Network, which chronicled his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Ellmers.

In response, Ellmer’s office released a statement saying Aiken’s “crude language and disrespectful demeanor towards the congresswoman has proven to the American people why he is a runner-up.”

Aiken, 36, shot to fame in 2003 when he came in second place on American Idol. Last year, he made his first bid for political office in the Tar Heel State’s 2nd District, located in and around Raleigh, trying to become the first openly gay person elected to Congress from the South.

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers

Ellmers beat him handily, 59 percent to 41 percent, in the GOP-leaning district.

Aiken’s campaign took a bizarre turn last May when the man he narrowly defeated in the Democratic primary, Keith Crisco, died from a fall less than a week after the vote.

Listen to Aiken’s comments on Ellmers, which begin about 1 hour 40 minutes into Stern’s show:

Southern Politics 2014: The Year In Review

2014 was a much better year for Republicans than for reality stars revamped as politicos

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states smA congressman man caught kissing. Reality stars trying to remake themselves as politicians. A snowstorm that threatened to torpedo a sitting governor. A top U.S. House leader unceremoniously unseated in a primary. And a flap over a fan during a heated debate.

Those were just some of the strange and unlikely events in Southern politics in 2014, a year that ended with Republicans roaring through the region like Sherman in reverse. Here are some of the memorable moments:

Loose Lips Sink More Than Ships — Republican U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, a married Christian conservative from northeast Louisiana, was caught on videotape passionately kissing a female staffer who was, ahem, not his wife. He refused to resign but decided not to run for re-election. Then, he changed his mind and ran again, with his wife’s vocal support. But his constituents were less forgiving than the missus, and he finished a distant fourth in the primary.

Snowmageddon — When a January snowstorm paralyzed metro Atlanta, Republican Governor Nathan Deal took the heat for a sluggish state response and his initial attempt to shift the blame elsewhere. But Democratic hopes that this snowy debacle might bury Deal had melted by November, when he was comfortably re-elected.

Taking Aim At Obamacare — Alabama Republican U.S. House candidate Will Brooke posted a YouTube video, entitled “Let’s Do Some Damage,” in which he fired bullets into a copy of the Obamacare bill. The gambit gained him a bit of attention, though, alas, not enough to win the primary in his Birmingham-area district.

Strange Bedfellows — Bill Clinton and Rudy Giuliani both waded into the Florida governor’s race this year, cutting ads for Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican Rick Scott, respectively. However, their shoes were on the other feet in 2006, when Crist was a Republican (before becoming an independent and then a Democrat.) Back then, it was Crist who enjoyed Giuliani’s support, while Clinton backed his Democratic opponent.

Overheated Debate — Speaking of the Florida governor’s race, a televised debate between Crist and Scott came to an abrupt halt when Crist insisted on putting a small fan at his feet under the podium, in apparent violation of the debate rules. Scott first refused to take the stage until the fan was removed, but he eventually relented — after seven awkward minutes of scrambling by the debate moderators. In the end, Scott won a narrow victory.

Real Mean Politics — Three reality TV stars — American Idol Clay Aiken, former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards and former South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel — all vied for political office this year. But political reality proved harsh, as all three lost badly. However, Aiken is turning his unsuccessful U.S. House campaign in North Carolina into — wait for it — a new reality show.

Biggest Upset — In an outcome that shocked the political world, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia lost his Richmond-area seat to Dave Brat, a little known college professor who ran at Cantor as a Tea Party insurgent. Weep not for Cantor, though. He bounced back with a job on Wall Street.

Worst Campaign — Texas State Senator Wendy Davis tried to parlay her filibuster against a bill restricting abortions in the Lone Star State into the governor’s mansion. But a series of gaffes — including questions about the veracity of her rags-to-riches story as a single trailer-park mom made good — sunk her chances, and she lost by a staggering 20 points.

Weirdest Campaign Appearance — Matt Bevin, who was challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a GOP primary in Kentucky, appeared at a rally hosted by a group that supports legalizing cockfighting. While insisting he didn’t condone cockfighting, Bevin didn’t help himself when he told a radio reporter that the Founder Fathers were “very actively involved” in the blood sport. Perhaps not surprisingly, McConnell won rather handily.

Best Don Quixote Impression — Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel — peeved that he was defeated in a GOP U.S. Senate runoff by crossover votes from Democrats and independents — launched a three-month court fight to overturn the result. Alas, his windmill tilting came to naught, and U.S. Senator Thad Cochran kept the seat.

Best Houdini Impression — Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee faced voters for the first time since lurid details emerged from his bitter 2001 divorce during which he admitted a string of extra-marital affairs and — perhaps even more damaging for an avowed right-to-life lawmaker — encouraging his first wife to have two abortions. However, GOP voters in his district proved surprisingly forgiving, handing DesJarlais a narrow primary victory. He went on to win re-election in November.

If You Can’t Override, Indict — Texas Governor Rick Perry was indicted on charges of abuse of power and coercion over his veto of a funding bill for an Austin prosecutor who refused his demand that she resign after being arrested for driving with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit. A defiant Perry vowed to fight the charges, noting that in America, “we settle our political differences at the ballot box,” rather than in criminal court.

Double Dipper — Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul announced he would run for re-election in 2016, even as he is also considering a White House bid. One pesky little problem, though: Kentucky law doesn’t allow somebody to be on the ballot for two offices at once. Paul’s supporters are trying to find a way to work around that technicality.

Democrat Dam Breaks in Upper South — While the general election was grim for Democrats across the South, the news was especially depressing in Arkansas and West Virginia, which had been places where the party of Jackson was still competitive. In Arkansas, Republicans took all seven statewide constitutional offices and every congressional seat for the first time since Reconstruction. In West Virginia, the GOP took all three U.S. House seats and captured control of the state legislature for the first time since 1931.

“D” Is The New Scarlet Letter — Three sitting Southern Democratic U.S. senators — Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — all went down to defeat, paving the way for Republicans to take control of the Senate. Republicans also took away an open seat in West Virginia that they hadn’t won since 1942.

American Idol Clay Aiken loses U.S. House bid in North Carolina

Aiken, who came in second in the popular reality show, was defeated in a Raleigh-area district

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com

north-carolina mug

Democratic U.S. House candidate Clay Aiken

Democratic U.S. House candidate Clay Aiken

RALEIGH  (CFP) — American Idol finalist Clay Aiken has been defeated in his first bid for public office, a U.S. House race in his native North Carolina.

Aiken, 35, running as a Democrat in the state’s 2nd District, located in and around Raleigh, was defeated by incumbent two-term GOP U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent in the November 4 vote.

“The result did not go the way we wanted it tonight, but we’ve walked down this path once or twice before,” Aiken told election night supports at a restaurant in Sanford, alluding to his controversial second-place finish on Idol.

The Esquire Network announced November 5 that Aiken’s campaign would be the subject of a TV reality series set to air in 2015. In a statement, the network said it had been filming Aiken’s campaign since February, and the series would “capture the internal workings of an American campaign — the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Aiken was seeking to become the first openly gay member of Congress from the South.

His campaign took a bizarre turn in May when the man he narrowly defeated in the Democratic primary, Keith Crisco, died from a fall less than a week after the vote.

Clay Aiken’s opponent in North Carolina U.S. House primary dies in fall

Keith Crisco dies as absentee ballots were still being counted in razor-close contest with Aiken

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

north-carolina mugRALEIGH (CFP) — American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken’s opponent in the Democratic primary for North Carolina’s 2nd District U.S. House seat, Keith Crisco, died May 12 after a fall at his home in Asheboro, his family confirmed in a statement.

U.S. House candidate Keith Crisco

U.S. House candidate Keith Crisco

Crisco’s death came as provisional and absentee ballots were still being counted from the May 6 primary, with Aiken leading by just 369 votes. Crisco, 71, a businessman and former state commerce secretary, had not conceded the race.

Aiken, saying he was “stunned and deeply saddened” by Crisco’s death, announced that he was suspending all campaign activities.

“He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant. I was honored to know him,” Aiken said in a statement.

Crisco’s death will mean that Aiken will be his party’s nominee for the seat now held by Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, who beat back a Tea Party primary challenge from Frank Roche, a Raleigh radio talk show host.

Ellmers also released a statement of condolence, saying Crisco’s “kindness and dedication to his principles were models we should all strive toward, and he will be dearly missed.”

The 2nd District includes parts of Raleigh and suburban areas to the west, southeast and northeast..

Democratic U.S. House candidate Clay Aiken

Democratic U.S. House candidate Clay Aiken

Aiken, 35, a Raleigh native, was a special education teacher when he rocketed to fame in 2003 by coming in second on the Fox network’s popular singing competition. He is making his first bid for political office. If elected in November, he will be the first openly gay congressman from North Carolina.

American Idol Clay Aiken holds tiny lead in North Carolina U.S. House primary

If his lead holds, Aiken will face Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers for 5th District seat in November

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

north-carolina mugRALEIGH (CFP) — American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken is holding a razor-thin lead in the Democratic primary for North Carolina’s 2nd District U.S. House seat, just enough to avoid a runoff.

Democratic U.S. House candidate Clay Aiken

Democratic U.S. House candidate Clay Aiken

With provisional and absentee ballots still to be counted, Aiken had 11,634 votes, compared to 11,265 votes for Keith Crisco, the former state commerce secretary, and 5,593 votes for Toni Morris, a professional counselor who sought the 2nd District seat in 2012, according to tallies from the State Board of Elections.

In order to avoid a primary runoff in North Carolina, a candidate has to win more than 40 percent of the vote. The current vote totals show Aiken clearing that hurdle by just 237 votes.

State law also calls for an automatic recount if the margin of victory turns out to be 1 percent or less. It currently stands at 1.3 percent.

Despite the narrow margin, Aiken told supporters at a victory rally in Raleigh that “we are feeling incredibly comfortable tonight.”

“People are ready to see a change in Washington, and we’re going to bring it to them,” he said.

Aiken, 35, a Raleigh native, was a special education teacher when he rocketed to fame in 2003 by coming in second on the Fox network’s popular singing competition. He is making his first bid for political office. If elected in November, he will be the first openly gay congressman from North Carolina.

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers

If his lead holds, Aiken will face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers in November. Ellmers beat back a Tea Party primary challenge from Frank Roche, a Raleigh radio talk show host, with 58 percent of the vote.

Roche had criticized Ellmers for her support of an immigration reform bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Ellmers is one of the few House Republicans who supports the measure, and Roche’s challenge was seen as a test of how strongly that issue resonates within the GOP electorate.

The 2nd District includes parts of Raleigh and suburban areas to the west, southeast and northeast.

Click here to watch video of Clay Aiken’s victory speech.

 

American Idol Clay Aiken running for U.S. House in North Carolina

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers is dismissive of singer’s challenge

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

north-carolina mugRALEIGH, North Carolina (CFP) — American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken is running for the Democratic nomination for North Carolina’s 2nd District U.S. House seat in 2014, trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a second-term Republican.

American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken

American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken

Aiken announced his run in a You Tube video video posted February 5,  in which he lambasted Ellmers for votes she cast that led to sequestration cuts in military spending and last year’s government shutdown.

“These votes hurt North Carolina,” said Aiken, who said Ellmers cast those votes to please GOP House leaders. “That’s what in the end convinced me that if I didn’t do something about it, then I couldn’t complain if no one else did.”

The 2nd District is home to Fort Bragg, a major military post where the budget sequestration led to the loss of civilian jobs.

Aiken, 35, a Raleigh native, was a special education teacher in 2003 when he shot to fame during the second season of American Idol. He went on to become a best-selling recording artist and starred on Broadway.

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers

Asked about Aiken’s challenge in an interview with WMAL radio in Washington January 29, Ellmers was dismissive.

“Apparently, his performing career is not going so well, and he’s very bored,” she said, pointedly noting that he had not won on either American Idol or another reality show, Celebrity Apprentice.

“I guess the next step is Congress. You know, we don’t have a very high approval rating, so I guess the bar’s a little lower for him,” she said.

After Aiken’s announcement, Ellmers’ campaign released a statement saying the singer’s “political views more closely resemble San Francisco than Sanford” — a not-very-subtle allusion to Aiken being openly gay.

Two Democrats were already running in the 2nd District — Houston Barnes, an attorney from Durham, and former State Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco. Barnes told the Charlotte Observer that he will exit the race to give Aiken a better shot at the nomination.

Ellmers, a former nurse who was elected in the Republican wave of 2010, is facing a primary challenge from Frank Roche, a conservative radio talk show host.

Armed with an endorsement from Sarah Palin, Ellmers won the seat in 2010 by less than 1,500 votes over the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Bob Etheridge, after a recount.

However, after Republicans took control of the state legislature, the 2nd District’s lines were redrawn to make it more Republican. Mitt Romney carried the district with 57 percent of the vote in 2012, so Democrats will likely have an uphill battle to flip the seat in 2014.

View Clay Aiken’s announcement video:

American Idol Clay Aiken considering run for U.S. House in North Carolina

Aiken, a gay rights activist who finished second in the popular singing contest in 2003, is reportedly considering a run against GOP U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers.

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

north-carolina mugRALEIGH, North Carolina (CFP) — American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken is reportedly considering making a bid for North Carolina’s 2nd District U.S. House seat in 2014.

American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken

American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken

Two Democratic sources familiar with Aiken’s plans told the Washington Blade newspaper that Aiken has been in discussions with Democratic campaign operatives about a race against incumbent U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a second-term Republican.

Aiken, 35, a Raleigh native, has not publicly confirmed that he plans to run in the 2nd District, which takes in part of the city Raleigh and suburban areas to the south and east.

Two Democrats are already running in the 2nd District — Houston Barnes, an attorney from Durham, and former State Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco.

Ellmers, a former nurse who was elected in the Republican wave of 2010, is facing a primary challenge from Frank Roche, a conservative radio talk show host.

Armed with an endorsement from Sarah Palin, Ellmers won the seat in 2010 by less than 1,500 votes over the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Bob Etheridge, after a recount.

However, after Republicans took control of the state legislature, the 2nd District’s lines were redrawn to make it more Republican. Mitt Romney carried the district with 57 percent of the vote in 2012, so Democrats will likely have an uphill battle to flip the seat in 2014.

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