ROLY, North Carolina. Former American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken announced Monday that he is again running for Congress from North Carolina, this time seeking to replace outgoing US Representative David Price.
In the video announcing your bet Aiken said he is joining an already overcrowded field in the 6th arrondissement for the Democratic primary, which has been pushed back from March to mid-May due to litigation.
Can you believe it’s been almost 20 years since I first shared my voice with you? It takes a long time. A LOT has changed!
We need powerful voices more than ever, which is why I’m running for Congress.
– Clay Aiken (@clayaiken) January 10, 2022
Aiken, 43, has made a career in music, theater and reality television – in addition to political and social activism – since finishing second to Ruben Studdard in a television vocal competition in 2003.
“Hey guys. It’s been a long time. Now I know I look a little different these days, but we’ve met before,” he says in the video.
In 2014, Aiken won a Democratic nomination from the predominantly rural central constituency, beating former Secretary of State for Commerce Keith Crisco. But in the general election, he lost to then-Republican Rene Elmers, receiving 41% of the vote.
While this constituency was conveniently Republican, the proposed 6th constituency, in which Aiken is running, is overwhelmingly democratic. It includes all of Orange and Durham Counties, where the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University are located, and the very wealthy western Wake County.
Research Triangle Park is located in the 6th arrondissement, where Price has been operating almost continuously since 1987.
Aiken, who grew up in North Carolina and now lives in the Raleigh area, said he will work to promote inclusiveness, provide free, high-quality health care and combat climate change.
“As a loud and proud Democrat, I intend to use my voice to make real results for North Carolina families, as David Price has done for decades,” Aiken said in a press release.
The winner of the primary in the 6th arrondissement will almost certainly win the general election. However, the state congressional card is contested in court as an illegal fraud, which means that lines can be changed and candidates can reconsider the constituency in which they can run. But any area of the Triangle should give preference to a Democrat.
Announced primary candidates for the 6th District Democratic Party include State Senator Valerie Fushi of Orange County and Wylie Nickel of Wake County; Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam; and virologist Richard Watkins.
Aiken, who will become the first openly LGBTQ person to be elected to Congress from the South if he wins in November, said he would counterbalance hard-line Republicans like Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Rep. Madison Cowthorne in public policy. Many Democrats have called on Robinson to step down because of comments he made about sex education in schools that critics say are demeaning to LGBTQ people.
“As Democrats, we need to speak better and use our votes because these people won’t calm down anytime soon,” Aiken says in the video.
Aiken said it was Price who helped him become interested in politics as a child. He told The News & Observer of Raleigh that when his eighth grade was studying the 1992 election, Aiken asked his teacher if he could invite a politician to speak and contacted Price, who agreed.
Aiken’s celebrity status is no longer as strong as it was eight years ago, and he still hasn’t held an elected office before, Meredith college political science professor David McLennan said in an interview Monday. But Aiken proved to be a credible candidate in 2014 and could benefit from the primary if he tried to tie himself to Price, he said.
The top two candidates with votes will advance to the second round if the leading candidate does not receive more than 30% of the votes.