ROLEY, North Carolina. Former American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken announced on Monday that he is running for Congress again for North Carolina, this time seeking to succeed outgoing U.S. Representative David Price.
In video announcing your bet In the 6th district, Aiken said he is joining an already packed field 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’s long. 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 work — since finishing second to Reuben Studdard in a 2003 TV singing competition.
“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 the Democratic nomination from the predominantly rural central constituency, ahead of former Secretary of State for Commerce Keith Crisco. But in the general election, he lost to then-republican Renée Elmers, receiving 41% of the vote.
While this district has been conveniently Republican, the proposed 6th district in which Aiken is running is overwhelmingly Democratic. It includes all of Orange and Durham counties, home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, as well as the very wealthy western Wake County.
The Research Triangle Park Hi-Tech Park is in District 6, where Price has operated 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 loud and proud Democrat, I intend to use my voice to make a difference for North Carolina families, as David Price has done for decades,” Aiken said in a press release.
The winner of the 6th district primary is almost certain to win the general election. However, the state’s congressional card is being challenged in court as an illegal fraud, meaning the lines could be changed and candidates could reconsider the district in which they can run. But any area of the Triangle should favor a Democrat.
The announced 6th District Democratic primary candidates include State Senator Valerie Fushi of Orange County and Wiley Nickel of Wake County; Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam; and virologist Richard Watkins.
Aiken, who will become the first openly LGBTQ person elected to Congress from the South if he wins in November, said he would be a public policy counterweight to hardline Republicans like Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and Rep. Madison Cawthorne. Many Democrats have called for Robinson to resign over comments he made about sex education in schools that critics say demean LGBTQ people.
“As Democrats, we need to speak up and use our votes better because these people are not going to calm down anytime soon,” Aiken says in the video.
Aiken has said that it was Price who helped him become interested in politics as a child. He told The News & Observer of Raleigh that while his eighth grade high school student 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 have benefited in the primaries from trying to tie himself to Price, he said.
The top two candidates with the most votes will advance to the second round unless the leading candidate wins more than 30% of the vote.