Clay Aiken Launches Second Bid for Congress in North Carolina

Democratic nominee Aiken signs an autograph for a constituent after a campaign forum in Cary
Clay Aiken, seen here during his first bid for Congress, is back on the campaign trail.
REUTERS/Colleen Jenkins

Nearly two decades after rising to fame on “American Idol,” Clay Aiken is taking a second shot at politics — this time in North Carolina’s redrawn Sixth Congressional District.

Aiken, a Democrat, announced his candidacy in a January 10 campaign video, marking his first foray into electoral politics since he dove into the 2014 race for North Carolina’s Second Congressional District — a GOP stronghold. He pulled off a narrow victory in the Democratic primary competition before losing to Republican Renee Ellmers in the general election.

Aiken’s political endeavors represent a departure from the entertainment work on which he built his reputation. He first introduced himself to America in 2003 when he finished behind Ruben Studdard during the second season of “American Idol,” though he subsequently re-appeared in music, television, and on Broadway. He also co-founded National Inclusion Project, a non-profit aimed at helping children with disabilities.

In his second campaign, the North Carolina native is setting his sights on a seat encompassing parts of the district that has been occupied by Congressmember David Price, who is retiring at the end of his term. Aiken kicked off his campaign video by re-introducing himself and reminding local residents of his North Carolina roots.

“These days my life looks a lot more like yours than Justin Bieber’s, that I can promise you,” Aiken said in his campaign video. “But one thing for me that’s never changed is how much I love my home state. North Carolina is the place where I first discovered that I had a voice — and that it was a voice that could be used for more than singing.”

Aiken blasted some of the most extreme Republicans in his state, including Congressmember Madison Cawthorn and homophobic North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, as he made the case for more level-headed leadership. He also used the video to slam what he described as “backwards ass” policies in the state, citing “bigoted bathroom bills” and voter suppression.

“These folks are taking up all the oxygen in the room and I’m gonna tell ya, I am sick of it,” Aiken said. “And I’ll tell you something else: As Democrats, we have gotta get better about speaking up and using our voices, ’cause those folks ain’t quieting down anytime soon. That’s why I’m running for Congress.”

The 43-year-old candidate listed a series of issues in need of attention, including climate change, income inequality, systemic racism, gun violence, voting rights, and healthcare.

“In Congress, I’ll use my voice to advocate for common-sense policies that encourage continued job growth and healthy communities,” Aiken said on his campaign website. “Many of these political battles divide us as people, threaten our democracy, and weaken America. North Carolinians are worried about affordable health care and rapid inflation. They are worried about their retirement savings and are frustrated by crowded interstates and infrastructure that hasn’t kept up with our rapid growth. These are the issues that matter, and these are the issues I will focus on in Congress.”

North Carolina’s Congressional primary elections will be held on May 17.