RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Former “American Idol” finalist Clay Aiken announced Monday that he is running for Congress again in North Carolina, this time looking to succeed retired U.S. Representative David Price.
In a video announcing his auction in the 6th Precinct, Aiken said he was joining the already packed field for the Democratic primary, which was delayed from March to mid-May due to litigation.
Aiken, 43, has had a career in music, theater and reality TV – in addition to political and social activism – since finishing second to Ruben Studdard in the TV singing competition in 2003.
“Hey, people. 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.
Aiken won the Democratic nomination for a largely rural Central Congressional District in 2014, beating former Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco. But he lost in the general election to incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers, winning 41% of the vote.
While that district was comfortably Republican, the proposed 6th District in which Aiken is running is majority Democratic. It includes all of Orange and Durham counties – home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, and the very wealthy western county of Wake.
The high-tech Research Triangle Park is in the 6th Ward and where Price has served almost continuously since 1987.
Aiken, who grew up in North Carolina and now lives in the Raleigh area, said he will work to promote inclusion, provide free, high-quality health care and fight climate change.
“As a strong and proud Democrat, I intend to use my voice to get real results for North Carolina families, just like David Price has done for decades,” Aiken said in A press release.
The winner of the 6th District primary would almost certainly win the general election. State’s Congress map is challenged in court as an illegal gerrymander, however, which means lines could be changed and candidates could reconsider which district they could run in. But any district in the Triangle area should favor a Democrat.
Announced 6th District Democratic primary candidates include Sens. Valerie Foushee of Orange County and Wiley Nickel of Wake County; Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam; and virologist Richard Watkins.
Aiken, who would be the first openly LGBTQ person elected to Congress from the South if he wins in November, said he would provide a counterweight in state politics to hardline Republicans such as Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Rep. American Madison Cawthorn. Many Democrats have called on Robinson to resign over his comments on sex ed in schools that critics say disparage LGBTQ people.
“As Democrats, we need to get better at speaking up and using our voices because these people aren’t going to calm down anytime soon,” Aiken says in the video.
Aiken said it was Price who helped him get interested in politics as a child. He told The News & Observer of Raleigh that when his eighth-grade middle school class 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 isn’t as strong as it was eight years ago, and he still hasn’t held elected office before, David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College, said in an interview. Monday. But Aiken proved to be a credible contender in 2014 and could benefit in the primary from efforts to tie himself to Price, he said.
The first two voters would advance to the second round if the leading candidate did not obtain more than 30% of the votes.