Clay Aiken to run for Congress in North Carolina (Video, 5 highlights)
The most famous reality show runner-up is competing again, this time in the political arena. Will the third time be a charm?
Clay Aiken, who came in second on "American Idol" season 2 in 2003 and Donald Trump's series "The Celebrity Apprentice" season 12 in 2012, is running for Congress in his native North Carolina. The 35-year-old father-of-one is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2nd Congressional District seat currently held by Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers. The area includes his hometown of Raleigh.
Aiken announced his candidacy on Wednesday, Feb. 5, following weeks of speculation. This marks his first foray into politics. The Democratic primary in North Carolina talks place on May 6, while the date of the U.S. Congressional eections is Nov. 4
"I'm running for Congress for the same reason I chose to become a special education teacher years ago -- to help people in need and to give them a voice," he says in his campaign slogan on his website, "Clay For North Carolina," where he is soliciting donations.
In a four-and-a-half-minute campaign video, Aiken, who identifies himself as a Democrat, talks about his personal life and also references "American Idol."
He appear inside a friend's home where he says he and his mother had lived when he was a baby, saying she escaped from his birth father, who he says what he says "could be a violent man who would get drunk and angry." He appeals to potential voters to "be like that friend," who "shelters those in their time of need." Aiken, who has a college degree in special education, also references his experience helping autistic children.
5 highlights from Clay Aiken's campaign video (which you can watch below).
1. Clay Aiken talks about mother's struggle
"I was one year[s] old and my mother knocked on that door with only a diaper bag, the clothes on our backs and me in her arms," he says. "She needed a place to stay where she could escape from my father and start a new life and she found that place here, in the home of a friend. For eight months, we stayed in living room and slept on mattress on floor with tarp hung around for privacy. My father could be a violent man who would get drunk and angry."
"She protected me not just from my father but from as many harsh realities as she could and more often than not, she'd distract me with music," he said. "So much of who I am was shaped in those early years and it's part of why I decided to run for Congress."
Aiken grew up with a stepfather, who died in 2002. The singer has a stepbrother and half-brother.
2. Clay Aiken references "American Idol."
In 2003, Aiken auditioned for "American Idol" at age 23 and received his "golden ticket" to advance in the competition. He had cared for the autistic son of a friend, Diane Bubel, and she helped convince him to try out for the FOX singing competition show after hearing him sing. The two formed the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which helps children with special needs, the year he appeared on the show.
"I've been fortunate in my life and if you only know the part of my story that begins with a golden ticket -- something that still seems unbelievable to me even to this day --you might wonder what would qualify me to run," he says. "Well, it starts from a life I remember all too well -- mom working nights at Sears, clothes from the thrift store, Christmases where I might only get small present but that would make it a present I would cherish."
"And school was the only chance I had to pull myself up to achieve a dream I long held, to teach, to reach children like me and those who faced even more adversities than I did," he said. "For most Americans there are no golden tickets -- at least not like the kind you see on TV."
Aiken received a bachelor's degree in special education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's College of Education in December 2003. As a student, he mentored a teenager with autism.
3. Clay Aiken served on a committee formed by U.S. President George W. Bush.
In 2006, then-president President George W. Bush announces he would appoint Aiken to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, citing how the singer has advocated for "several years for children with disabilities to be included in activities along with other children."
"I'm a Democrat, but it was when I was appointed by President Bush to serve on a special presidential commission to address the educational challenges of students with special needs, that was when I first realized that our problems won't be solved by only one party or the other," Aiken says in his video.
4. Clay Aiken says is not a politician.
"I'm not a politician," he says. "I don't ever want to be one. But I do want to help bring back, at least to my corner of North Carolina, the idea that someone can go to Washington to represent all the people, whether they voted for you or not, and maybe we can play a small part in igniting that change across the rest of our country. This is why I'm running for Congress. And in the weeks and months ahead, I'll need your help."
5. Clay Aiken references "God" in his video.
"We can all be like that friend that took my mother and me in," he says. "A friend who shelters those in their time of need and who helps open a door to a new life and a renewed country for all of our people. Thank you for watching and God bless you."
Other political issues Clay Aiken supports and opposes:
Aiken says he considers Washington dysfunctional and that he would focus on jobs, the economy and education if elected, the Associated Press reported.
According to the news wire, Aiken also stated that federal health care law needs to be changed but shouldn't be repealed.
The singer also supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage -- an issue he spoke about on "Face The Nation" in 2012.
Aiken, who is gay and a father to a 5-year-old son conceived through in-vitro fertilization with a female friend, told the Associated Press that he doesn't believe his sexual orientation will play a role in whether or not people vote for him.
"There are dozens of issues that are important to the people living in the district, and that is not one of them," he said.
Clay Aiken's chances of winning the North Carolina Congressional Election:
North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District is considered to be largely conservative, although Democrats have won elections there in the past.
The majority of voters in several of its counties, including Wake County, which contains Raleigh, voted for Democrat candidate and current U.S. President Barack Obama in the 2012 general election. Republican candidate Mitt Romney won 58 percent of the vote in the district that year, the Associated Press reported, citing a North Carolina Chamber analysis. Mitt Romney won 50.6 percent of the vote in all of North Carolina.
As of now, Aiken will face at least two candidates -- former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco of Asheboro and licensed professional counselor Toni Morris of Fayetteville -- in the Democratic primary, the Associated press reported.
USA Today quoted Ellmers, who currently represents the North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, as saying in a radio interview last week, when asked about Aiken's rumored plans to run against her: "As we know, he doesn't always fare that well. He was runner-up."
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