May 12th, 2014
04:49 PM ET
9 years ago

Candidate locked in close primary contest with Clay Aiken dies

(CNN) - Keith Crisco, a businessman who was locked in a close primary race for a Democratic congressional seat in North Carolina with Clay Aiken, died on Monday.

He died at home in Asheboro around 1 p.m., according to the North Carolina Democratic Party. Other details were not immediately clear. He was 71.

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Crisco was running a very close second in the primary battle in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, around 300 votes behind Aiken.

Final results had been expected as early as Tuesday along with a decision by Crisco on whether he would ask for a recount if the situation hadn't changed.

Aiken tweeted that he was "stunned and deeply saddened" by Crisco's death and temporarily suspended campaign activities.

"He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant," Aiken said in the tweet.

Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller noted Crisco's accomplishments in the public and private sector.

"Keith was a brilliant problem solver who liked to make good, solid public policy. He would have made a great congressman," Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller said.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, the Republican who currently holds the seat and would face the primary winner in November, said she was "deeply saddened" by the news.

"His kindness and dedication to his principles were models we should all strive toward and he will be dearly missed," Ellmers said. "My thoughts and prayers are with Keith's family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time."

Crisco was a textile entrepreneur and co-founded Asheboro Elastics, which confirmed his death.

He was also a former state commerce secretary and was a White House fellow in the 1970s.

He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Jane, and three children and six grandchildren.

His campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

Democrats already faced an uphill battle to unseat Ellmers in the general election. She's in her second term in Congress.

CNN Political Director Mark Preston contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2014 • North Carolina • Uncategorized
soundoff (172 Responses)
  1. will

    to the person who said he was to old to run for office - just wait - if you are lucky you will have a different view of life when you are 70+

    May 12, 2014 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Aiken definitely liked the fact his opponent was behind him. He felt like a winner I'm sure.

    May 12, 2014 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  3. Dave

    Humanity is doomed.

    May 12, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  4. Ondrej

    "unfortunately, this means that Clay Aiken is the Democratic candidate".... well said.

    May 12, 2014 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  5. Balls of Steel

    How convenient.

    May 12, 2014 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  6. PaPilot

    Yeah... I'm sure it was an accident.

    May 12, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  7. mrl

    clay take him down?

    May 12, 2014 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  8. nuclear mike

    All this highlights is that running for any office has become more "Hollywood" than ever with no special qualifications necessary other than money and/or a hit recording...

    May 12, 2014 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  9. action

    House of cards be going on.

    May 12, 2014 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  10. Ken

    I suspect he died from dehydration due to throwing up all the time having to listen to Clay Akin. I get the same feeling. Just thinking about him and his singing makes me sick.

    May 13, 2014 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  11. Pamela

    Clay had won the race already by about 400 votes. Tomorrow morning the final count will be out including military, provisional & absentee ballots, of which there aren't many. There won't be any difference in percentages & Crisco was all ready to concede, according to his team. So even tho it's an easy joke, Clay had no actual reason to want him out. Now Ellmers Fudd, his sleazy GOP rival in the fall..... well, we can only pray that the congresswoman who's voted against her constituents time after time gets what's coming to her.

    May 13, 2014 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  12. miguel

    Aiken took out his political rival. The guy has ice water running through his veins.

    May 13, 2014 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  13. Terid

    While Keith Crisco may be an unknown nationally, he was a respected businessman who was involved in state & local politics in NC for most of his life. So yes, he has a legacy besides this dismissive headline. But yeah, Clay has already won, really.

    May 13, 2014 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  14. San

    One man spent a lifetime preparing for a final act of community service...the other is bored and wants more fame. At least, that is how it seems. He gets to take office, presumably, with a clouded name now. No one won but it sounds like the NC voters really lost the most this time.

    May 13, 2014 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  15. mediafactotum

    Now the fat is really in the fire. Crisco was known as a savvy, slippery political operator but was known to bring a lot of pork projects to his constituents. He came close to being canned by the voters.

    May 13, 2014 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  16. That's just crazy talk

    That ought to make things easier for the competition.

    May 13, 2014 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  17. Sara

    Clay you may sing but your not ment for the political ring.

    May 13, 2014 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  18. lean6

    Pretty sure ALL of Crisco's political opponents are "shocked and saddened" right now. I mean...the bonds that politicians share...the love spewed all over the news on a constant basis...of course! (sarc)

    May 13, 2014 04:35 am at 4:35 am |
  19. guest

    it's an extremely sad statement on the moral condition of our nation when someone such as clay aiken can even be considered as a candidate for public office

    shame on the democratic party and shame on those who voted for him

    seems multitudes of people who claim to be americans have forgotten our motto – "in god we trust"

    May 13, 2014 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  20. independant jim

    when a good person passes away he/she should be respected for their goodness and a memory should always burn bright it is hard to find good people in politics anymore

    May 13, 2014 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  21. Gurgyl

    --a colossal loss to the nation.

    May 13, 2014 06:59 am at 6:59 am |

    there should be an age limit also.

    May 13, 2014 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
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