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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, 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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