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Elections 2014: Clay Aiken wins Democratic primary day after opponent's death

One day after his opponent passed away unexpectedly, former “American Idol” contestant and congressional hopeful Clay Aiken moved one step closer to representing North Carolina’s second district after being declared the winner of a close Democratic primary.

Aiken’s opponent, 71-year-old Keith Crisco, passed away Monday afternoon after a fall at his home in Asheboro and was declared dead when emergency responders arrived at the scene. In response to the news, Aiken offered his condolences and announced he would be suspending all campaign activities temporarily.

When news of Crisco’s death broke, Aiken had been been holding on to a slim lead of fewer than 400 votes after last week’s primary. On Tuesday, officials conducted the vote certification process that had previously been scheduled. It was determined that although both candidates picked up some more votes through absentee ballots that had to be turned in by yesterday, Aiken still had 40 percent of the vote, which was required to avoid a runoff election.

The final margin of difference between the vote totals clocked in at 1.37 percent, eliminating the possibility of a recount, which could have been requested if the final vote spread was lower than one percentage point. Campaign manager Christine Botta said, however, that Crisco had decided to concede today after looking at absentee numbers from two counties.

There is one more step left in the primary stage, as the results will still need to be reviewed and achieve final certification by the state elections board next week.

Aiken, 35, now faces a tough opponent in incumbent nominee Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican who has held the congressional seat for two terms and won her first when the Tea Party came into the fold in 2010. In the 2012 election, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the conservative-leaning district with 58 percent of the vote to President Obama’s 41 percent. ABC notes that the figure is wider margin than Romney picked up in North Carolina overall, which was 50 percent to 48 percent.

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