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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, 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:

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