American Idol season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken is considering a career change and might run as a Democratic candidate for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District in the 2014 midterm election according to a Washington Blade report published on Thursday evening, Jan. 2, 2014. The report listed two unnamed sources leaking the Raleigh native's plans to challenge two-term Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers, saying "Aiken is 'actively considering' it and 'sounding and acting like a candidate.'"
Aiken, 35 supposedly has been speaking with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) about a potential run. The DCCC would not comment either way if Aiken is in fact considering a run. The only remark was from the DCCC's Southern regional press secretary David Bergstein who attacked current Rep. Ellmers saying she "is responsible for the most unpopular and reckless Congress in history," and "it's up to potential candidates to talk about whether they're interested in running for Congress, not us."
Additionally, Aiken has been consulting with veteran Democratic political strategist Betsy Conti. Conti previously worked with former North Carolina Gov. Bev Purdue and Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic Presidential nominee. Aiken has also met with a Hart Research Associates pollster in Washington D.C. "to examine polling data."
Aiken is best known for placing second place in the 2003 season of Fox's American Idol, where he amazed the public and judges with his voice, but lost to Reuben Studdard. He went on to have a successful recording career selling over six million albums with his first album going multi-platinum. He has also appeared in 2008 and 2009 on Broadway in Monty Python's Spamalot.
Aiken, a liberal Democrat who came out as gay in a 2008 interview with People Magazine has advocated to Congress on Capitol Hill in 2010 for an anti-bullying bill on behalf of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) to pass a Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act.
Aiken has a Bachelors degree in Special Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and his background in education has influenced his activism. He founded "National Inclusion Project, formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation" whose focus is "children with disabilities." In 2004 he served as an "ambassador for the United States Fund for UNICEF," and from 2006 to 2008 he served on the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
Aiken's chances or any other Democrat's are not strong; the 2nd Congressional District has solidly gone Republican since 2008, when Republican Presidential candidate John McCain won the district by 13 percent and 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney won it by a larger margin of 16 percent in 2012. Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist also has put the district in the Republican column for the 2014 midterm election. New candidates from the President's party never fare that well in the midterm election of his second term.
Aiken is not the only Democrat interested in running against Ellmers, lawyer Houston Barnes already declared his candidacy, while former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco also plans to run. The deadline to file a candidacy is Feb. 28, 2014 while the Democratic primary is on May 6, 2014.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.