Clay Aiken has decided to throw his hat into the political ring. According to the Associated Press, the former American Idol runner-up submitted paperwork on Thursday, February 26 to run for Congress in North Carolina. Aiken, a Democrat, has his eye on the 2nd district seat held by Republican Renee Ellmers.
The 35-year-old Aiken, who lives in the Raleigh-Durham area, cites lowering unemployment and veterans’ issues as top priorities. He also believes changes can be made to President Obama’s health care law, but does not want to repeal it.
Aiken will first attempt to win the Democratic primary which will be held in May. Keith Crisco, former State Commerce Secretary, and licensed professional counselor Toni Morris are also in the hunt for the nomination.
After years of speculation about his sexuality, Aiken came out as gay in 2008. Will this revelation hurt him in the Republican-leaning district? Aiken doesn’t believe so, stating that he doesn’t think his sexual orientation will play a role in whether or not people vote for him.
Aiken’s intention to run for Congress was announced via a web video on February 5. The video has received several thousand hits on YouTube. “I’m not a politician – I don’t ever want to be one – ” Aiken says in the video, “but I do want to help bring back, at least to my corner of North Carolina, that someone can go to Washington to represent all the people whether they voted for you or not.”
Aiken, best known for finishing second to Ruben Studdard on “American Idol” in 2003, has since released albums, performed on Broadway, acted on television and in movies, and competed in the fifth season of “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Aiken faces an uphill battle, not only due to his sexual orientation and the politics of the district he hopes to represent, but also in the financial realm. While his campaign has raised over $100,000, incumbent Ellmers, who also faces a primary challenge, had over $260,000 on hand as of December 31.
It will be interesting to see how the primary and, should Aiken win, the general election plays out. While there are currently six gay, lesbian and bisexual members of Congress, none of these members represent states in the Southeast. Is this conservative-leaning region of the country prepared to elect an openly gay representative, especially one without political experience? Only time will tell, but the odds on Aiken’s joining Congress seem long at best.