Clay Aiken announces run for Congress

Former “American Idol” contestant Clay Aiken on Wednesday officially announced his campaign to run for Congress this year in North Carolina.

Aiken, a Democrat, will challenge Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District in November’s election. In-state Democrats had confirmed Aiken’s campaign plans to The Hill late last month. 

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Ellmers was first elected to the House in 2010, and the seat is in a Republican-leaning district. It had previously been held by a Democrat before redistricting.  

“The district where I'm running is represented by a congresswoman who I believe went to Washington with good intentions," Aiken, 35, said in a video.

He said, however, that Ellmers voted for military spending cuts and voted to allow the government to shut down last year.

"This is what's wrong with Washington," Aiken said. "That a congresswoman would go [to Washington] and vote against the best interests of North Carolina military families and those who depend on the military for their jobs. To do it when you know it's wrong is even worse." 

In the nearly 5-minute-long video, Aiken also explained he and his mother escaped his abusive father when he was young. His mother would play music to distract him, Aiken 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,” he said. “I’m not a politician. 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 … this is why I’m running for Congress.” 

Democrats in North Carolina have expressed concern they now have to manage a primary in a district that will be difficult to win for Democrats. Attorney Houston Barnes and former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco are also running in that primary. 

Aiken came in second place in “American Idol’s” 2003 season. He has since advocated for children’s disability rights. In 2008, he came out as gay, and has since promoted gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.