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Incumbent U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers is dismissive of singer’s challenge
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
RALEIGH, 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.
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.
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:
McIntyre’s decision to step aside will give Republicans a prime opportunity to pick up a House seat
WILMINGTON, North Carolina (CFP) — Saying it is time for a “new chapter,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre has announced he will not battle to keep a seat he won by just 650 votes in 2012.
“I am grateful to all of the Democrats, Republicans and independents with whom we have successfully worked through nine elections over 18 years,” McIntyre said in a statement announcing his retirement. “My family and I are ready for a new chapter and excited about new opportunities to continue helping North Carolina.”
McIntyre’s 7th district, which takes in the southeastern corner of the state including areas around Wilminton and Fayettevile, was one of five Democrat-held seats in the South that Mitt Romney carried in 2012.
As Romney was clobbering President Obama by 19 percentage points, McIntyre, a member of the House’s moderate Blue Dog Coalition, barely escaped with a victory over Republican State Senator David Rouser.
Rouser is running again in 2014. McIntyre was also facing a potentially competitive Democratic primary against New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield, who has criticized McIntyre for not beng sufficiently supportive of the president.
McIntyre is white; Barfield is black. Overall, the district is 30 percent black, which means the black vote could tread close to a majority in a Democratic primary.
Of the five Democrat-held Southern districts that Romney carried, McIntyre is so far the only retirement.