Aiken: People need 'to see me in a different light'
May 20th, 2014
08:44 AM ET
8 years ago

Aiken: People need 'to see me in a different light'

(CNN) - Clay Aiken says his "American Idol" fame is both a blessing and a curse as he runs for Congress in his native North Carolina.

"It's both. You know, you've got to get people to see me in a different light. Getting the opportunity to talk to people about the issues that are affecting them and talk about how I want to help people, gets people to see me in a different light. It's a blessing in the fact that it gets me in the room, but I have to overcome the fact that people see me in one way and not the other," Aiken said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show.

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Aiken is the Democratic nominee in North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District. He'll face off in November in an uphill fight against Republican Renee Elmers. The two-term incumbent representative earlier this year took a swipe at Aiken, saying that his performing career wasn't going well and that he was bored.

Asked about those comments, Aiken said "of course. I'm not naive to the fact that this a challenge that I have to overcome. It's a mountain to climb, but we've had quite a bit of success in the past three months in climbing it and we'll continue to do that the next six."

Aiken's celebrity status gives him instant name recognition in the district, where he grew up, and should allow him to raise a lot of campaign cash. But the second congressional district, located in the central and eastern parts of North Carolina, is GOP country. The two-term Ellmers won 56% of the vote in her 2012 re-election, slightly underperforming the GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who beat President Barack Obama 58%-41% in the district.

But Aiken remains optimistic about his chances.

"This district is about a third independent. And so it has swayed conservatively in the past. But also, more historically, even more further back in the past, it's gone to a Democrat," Aiken said. "People are tired of partisan politics. You've got everyone who votes because people in the media talk about R and D. But people at home, they don't talk about party. They talk about the things that are important to them."

Aiken gained national attention when he came in second to Ruben Studdard in the second season of "American Idol." In 2008 he came out as gay, and he's criticized North Carolina's ban on same-sex marriage. While he isn't highlighting same-sex marriage on the campaign trail, he says he isn't downplaying the issue.

"I don't know that we're necessarily particularly specifically down playing anything. We're up playing the things that are affecting people's lives. The fact that students are coming out of college with average of $29,000 worth of debt. The fact that the unemployment rate is not lowering, is not going down as fast as it could be. Veterans affairs. Education in general. We're talking about the things that are affecting people's lives and that's not necessarily one of them," Aiken added.

Last week results from the May 6 Democratic primary indicated Aiken had beat his main opponent, Keith Crisco, by fewer than 400 votes. A third Democratic candidate trailed further behind. The final results were announced one day after Crisco died suddenly at his home.

Asked about his opponent's death, Aiken said "it's a difficult thing for everyone to have to deal with."

CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story


Filed under: 2014 • North Dakota
soundoff (82 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    You have to be seen as who you are. We have enough frauds and fakes in Washington, already.

    May 20, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  2. Dead Bear

    @Rick McDaniel... The biggest frauds in Washington are the members of your beloved GOP. Just ask the oil and gas industry or casino magnates that bought them.

    May 20, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  3. HenryMiller

    "...talk about how I want to help people..."

    Being a Democrat, this guy's notion of "helping people," despite his personal net worth of $6 million, is to force others to pay for that help. His notion of "help" also likely includes treating people like they're too foolish or incompetent to be allowed to make their own decisions.

    May 20, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  4. smith

    Sorry Clay your going to get crushed.

    May 20, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  5. seanny

    "We're talking about the things that are affecting people's lives and that's not necessarily one of them," Aiken added."
    I can guarantee that the NC LGBT community strongly disagree with you, Mr. Aiken. Their lack of civil rights affects their families each and everyday. Who would vote for someone who does not respect the needs of his own people?

    May 20, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  6. Malory Archer

    HenryMiller
    "...talk about how I want to help people..."

    Being a Democrat, this guy's notion of "helping people," despite his personal net worth of $6 million, is to force others to pay for that help. His notion of "help" also likely includes treating people like they're too foolish or incompetent to be allowed to make their own decisions.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    And you know this because.... .... ?

    May 20, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  7. TONE

    HenryMiller

    "...talk about how I want to help people..."

    Being a Democrat, this guy's notion of "helping people," despite his personal net worth of $6 million, is to force others to pay for that help. His notion of "help" also likely includes treating people like they're too foolish or incompetent to be allowed to make their own decisions.

    The red states in this country under republican take over are the ones benefitting from my hard earn tax dollars they are the ones who gave mega tax cuts to the rich knowing that they will not create any jobs, how irresponsible, and reckless, because they know that this policy was tried before by bush and it crashed the economy. So people in red states have no jobs, welfare is the only way out for them, until you republicans remove idiots from office in your state you will always be called welfare states.

    May 20, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  8. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I hope you have a thick skin Clay because you're going to need it. The GOP plays dirty. They're going to dig up every man you've ever interacted with and the bible thumpers are going to go wild. You'll be every abomination they can come up with. Good luck Clay and stay strong.

    May 20, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  9. land mine

    His own people, nice. Maybe don't talk so much, huh?

    May 20, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Aiken said. "People are tired of partisan politics. You've got everyone who votes because people in the media talk about R and D. But people at home, they don't talk about party. They talk about the things that are important to them."

    Unfortunately, the things are are important to every day people going about their daily business is become less and less important to those who worship the power and greed they have over every day people going about their daily business and their message is getting droned out by the pandering and the media induced bickering from Republicans.

    I'll give Aiken kudos if he can continue to bring focus to every day people without the pander and the false promises we've seen from the Republican Party this past two decades.

    May 20, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  11. hammerhead

    they do you see you in a different light ...dont worry

    May 20, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  12. smith1

    if the guy only has 6 million then he is way behind the repo congress and senate. He is smart and young something the old dumb rhinos don't get. I guess he should be a bigger star like Regan to get GOP support or maybe like a Nuggent. Get real. The guy seems to have a good grasp of politics. At least is has more brains than a palin a bachman or a cruz

    May 20, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  13. RS

    Seems like lots of people like to pass judgement, but how many have actually met Aiken, heard him speak, or talked with him? I have. I was surprised at the depth of his knowledge of the issues–who would have expected it from a singer (because entertainers can't have brains, right)? But he knows what he is talking about, he has traveled to several foreign countries, worked to give a voice to those who aren't heard, and he speaks from his heart, he's not just saying what he thinks people want to hear. I hope he has an opportunity to become a member of congress.

    His opponent is there to suck up to the party-line and seems to have forgotten she has people back home who she should represent. The district is heavily gerrymandered (what else, it's NC). It will be an uphill climb. Good luck to him.

    May 20, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  14. Vijay

    Clay will win... Wishing him good luck and a nice long political career ahead of you.

    May 20, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  15. Logic

    For the people of his district, I doubt his celebrity makes a difference. The staunch republicans voted for a teabag do-nothing and will likely again. Kid actually has a decent political message that may turn some heads, but in this district, they would vote for a dead republican before a live democrat.

    May 20, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  16. James

    "The biggest frauds in Washington are the members of your beloved GOP. Just ask the oil and gas industry or casino magnates that bought them."

    It never ceases to amaze the idiocracy displayed by progressive. When it comes to FRAUD, your side takes the cake as evidenced by the voter turnout from our dead citizens. BAAAHH

    May 20, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  17. Take Me To The River....

    To Henry Miller:

    Let's see-if Clay has $6 million in net worth then he must have earned about $10 million in gross income and paid some serious taxes to the Feds (which in turn went towards military, education, science, welfare, hiways, bridges, paying the republican "do nothing" congress ...etc. etc. etc. ).... which means he's walking the walk as well ....

    I'm sure he has paid FAR more than you in taxes (and he's a young guy)....wanna bet ?

    Also: Isn't the right wing TRYING to tell women what to do? Bet Clay would let them make up their own minds.

    So basically Henry, you have no idea what you're talking about. Put on tri-cornered hat, dangle a few teabags, wave your flag and load your musket!!!!!!

    BTW the REAL Henry Miller (Tropic of Cancer) would be rolling .....

    May 20, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  18. John

    @Dead Bear – you shouldn't throw stones when the DEMS are responsible for most of the decline of America. Your days of contempt for the American people are numbered. The GOP did what it has to do to stop this administration from more damages

    May 20, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  19. Chris-E...al

    Sorry the Right will make a clay pot out of you Buddy . You best start spinning your wheel ?

    May 20, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  20. king

    I dont care who the dem is i want to know if he will move this country forward. Unlike the repubs who are just coming to congress to stop our momentum and allow china to pass us by

    May 20, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Weren't all the lefty tools in here a day or two ago attacking TEA Party people as people with no experience? So what about this 'guy'? No experience either. I eagerly awaiting your attacks on his lack of experience.

    May 20, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. Woodrow

    Does his celebrity help or hurt? Oh, please. The guy wouldn't be running, let alone getting the dem nomination, if not for his celebrity and the $ it attracts. Another politician wannabe who's practical experience involves getting on a stage. As for helping people - GET OUT OF THE WAY SO WE CAN HELP OURSELVES!

    May 20, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  23. Malory Archer

    James

    It never ceases to amaze the idiocracy displayed by progressive. When it comes to FRAUD, your side takes the cake as evidenced by the voter turnout from our dead citizens. BAAAHH

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Evidence please? That being said, mail-in voter fraud has far outweighed "dead" voters in the last few elections, and it's a known fact that reds vote absentee on a much greater scale than Dems.

    May 20, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  24. Rudy NYC

    James

    "The biggest frauds in Washington are the members of your beloved GOP. Just ask the oil and gas industry or casino magnates that bought them."

    It never ceases to amaze the idiocracy displayed by progressive. When it comes to FRAUD, your side takes the cake as evidenced by the voter turnout from our dead citizens. BAAAHH
    ---------------------------------
    And what was the voter turnout from our dead citizens? Wasn't it something like 0.00000006% of voters?

    May 20, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  25. Carol

    I think Aiken has done a lot of good. Maybe he can bring some humanity to the fray.

    May 20, 2014 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
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