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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, 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.


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