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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, 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.

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