Aiken's primary opponent dies suddenly

 

Former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken's (D) primary opponent has died suddenly, his company confirmed to The Hill. 

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Former North Carolina Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco (D) was found dead Monday afternoon, an employee for his company, Asheboro Elastics Corp., said. According to The Courier-Tribune, he sustained injuries from a fall around 1 p.m. and was dead when emergency workers arrived at his home.

Crisco and Aiken had been in a too-close-to-call primary, with Aiken leading by 369 votes following last Tuesday's election for the nomination to face Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) in the conservative district. 

Both candidates were waiting on Tuesday's final canvassing results before deciding how to proceed. Crisco, who was 71, had been actively campaigning as recently as last week for the seat.

In a statement, Aiken said he was "stunned and deeply saddened by Keith Crisco’s death" and was "suspending all campaign activities as we pray for his family and friends."

"He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant. I was honored to know him," Aiken said of his former rival. 

The outpouring of support and shock in the Tar Heel State was bipartisan. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) noted that the two had built a "lasting friendship" when Crisco served in Gov. Betty Perdue's (D) cabinet. 

“My heart sank, like so many other people who admired Keith Crisco, when I learned of his sudden passing,” said McCrory. “While I was a mayor, and now as governor, Keith was a partner, collaborator and strong advocate for the state he loved."

In a statement, Ellmers said she was "deeply saddened by this sudden and painful tragedy and wish God's blessings for Keith's family through the coming days. His kindness and dedication to his principles were models we should all strive toward, and he will be dearly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with Keith's family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time."

Updated at 5:33 p.m.