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. just asking

    Rudy NYC
    New York has used the signature approach for decades. It works. Virtually no fraud at the polls.
    --

    how do you know this? you don't think people can learn to sign a signature that looks similar to another one? you can't be that naive can you? some people scribble their name in a way a third grader could reproduce it.

    what does the left have against photo ids? maybe they are much better at preventing fraud? i mean i know your party loves criminals but actively aiding them to commit voter fraud?

    May 20, 2014 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  2. Graeme from Ottawa

    Would not be a candidate if he was not a celebrity, definitely help!

    May 20, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  3. smith

    @Malory-The vast majority of donors to both parties donate $100 or less simply because the number of rich donors is tiny compared to poor and middle class donors. However, who do you think the parties care about more? The guy who gives $100 or the guy who gives a cool million?

    May 20, 2014 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  4. celebrity or not is irrelevant to this job

    irrelevant question since aiken has zero experience even running for class clown.

    can someone play in the nba with no experience playing basketball? same principle.

    May 20, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  5. Tom l

    Didn't you read what I said, Mallory? I'm sure she's the only one who has figured it out. There's definitely no voter fraud and if there is and can only come from the repubs.

    May 20, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  6. Tony D

    realmike
    Its a democratic process and any citizen who wants to run should. I would rather cnn report more important aspects like his credentials and positions on issues than this silly aspect of being a "celebrity"
    --

    Celebrity IS his only credential. If this guy was not gay, was not a celebrity, was not a Democrat, he would have been laughed at and ridiculed for his total lack of qualifications.

    May 20, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "add up all of the types of election fraud and it makes a difference, "

    Nope. Still doesn't make a difference. The incidence rate of any actual voter fraud is so small as to effectively not exist.

    "why are liberals and democrats so afraid of protecting the integrity of our elections?"

    Nobody's afraid of anything...other than the GOP/Teatrolls being afraid of the demographic shifts that have them running around assuming every brown voter is an illegal. The integrity of our voting systems is not under threat by voter fraud. Now, if you'd like to talk about the threats created by the GOP/Teatrolls' widespread voter suppression efforts, crossing off legitimate IDs from their "acceptable ID" lists simply because they're likely to be owned by a minority person, reducing the ability to do registration drives, banning registration drives from college campuses, creating more hoops to jump through for registration, reducing voting hours, reducing early voting time periods, passing laws that prohibit polling centers from remaining open even when there is a long line of voters waiting to vote, destroying voting machines, purging voter lists, etc....all of which they've been doing throughout the country in states they control in a desperate effort to try to change the demographic makeup of the voting public, the rules by which we vote and the availability of voting so that it is a battleground of THEIR choosing, rather than the one that it really is, which has become a huge inconvenience for them as the demographics in the country shift.

    May 20, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    "What is wrong with the voter registration card that they sent to me in the mail? What's wrong with signing a book and comparing it to signature that they have on file, created when you registered to vote."

    It's been working for me for nearly half a century now. Why Republicans now want to make it harder for me is questionable at best, eh?

    Guess they'd prefer I simply stay home and not vote if I don't feel like jumping through their self made hoops.

    Gotta love the party of freedom. You know. Like freedom to vote without the hassle and stigma they've decided is best for me to follow under their guidelines.

    May 20, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  9. land mine

    What's hilarious is trying to equate the number Rudy cited as a valid reason to initiate new voting rules that just so happens that every little change favors their party, sounds fair and balanced to me, you betcha!

    May 20, 2014 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  10. Ugly Truth

    Clay Aiken - no qualifications to run for office whatsoever.

    In other words, the perfect liberal Democratic candidate.

    May 20, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  11. Justin Leasure

    Clay Aiken is a celebrity?

    May 20, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. land mine

    Love the gop math, one dead vote equals many blah blah blah, too funny, its all to clear the type of voter your trolling for, your disgusting.

    May 20, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  13. land mine

    What else is clear is why you attack with lies, and false equivalents, when you try to defend the real numbers and facts, you don't do so well, funny stuff.

    May 20, 2014 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  14. what happened

    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.
    --

    OK, does anybody know where Hillary Clinton was when this happened? Has a cause of death been determined? Did they do an autopsy to see if he was poisoned or drugged?

    May 20, 2014 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  15. sly

    "I don know what is in Washington doesn't work so let's try something different."
    ======
    Washington, and America, are thriving.

    Record Stock Market. Record 401K's. Record housing prices. Record deficit reduction (40% this year!). Unemployment at a 9 year low. NO WARS (first President in 40+ years!). Health Care for 50 million banned by BigPharma.

    Thank you President Obama – you are doing the best job of any President since Ike.

    May 20, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  16. t3chn0ph0b3

    I don't know if you saw him on the Celebrity Apprentice, but if you did, you know just as well as I do that this guy has a really level head. That show is the epitome of stressful, and he held up like it was nothing to him. I'd vote for him in a heartbeat.

    May 20, 2014 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. Tom

    The funniest comment on this thread: intelligent people vote dem!

    May 20, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  18. Geoff Maguire

    Being a celebrity probably helped him in the primaries but the district demographic is so far right it makes Germany in the late 1930s look moderate. No way he makes it to congress

    May 20, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  19. Thomas

    Go All The Way Clay Aiken !

    Republican Renee Elmers needs to go back to whatever he used to do , maybe find a real job where he doesn't just take up space , collecting a check for kickbacks and golden hand shakes doesn't last forever .

    May 20, 2014 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    just asking

    Rudy NYC
    New York has used the signature approach for decades. It works. Virtually no fraud at the polls.
    -

    how do you know this? you don't think people can learn to sign a signature that looks similar to another one? you can't be that naive can you? some people scribble their name in a way a third grader could reproduce it.

    what does the left have against photo ids? maybe they are much better at preventing fraud? i mean i know your party loves criminals but actively aiding them to commit voter fraud?
    ====================================================================================
    How do I know it? I don't think I've ever heard of a cause of voter fraud at the polls in my entire life. You are making too many false assumptions when it comes to the signature check.

    How is someone going to be able to reproduce a signature that they haven't seen? You sign one book, and the signature is compared against a reference sample in another book. You don't like it because it is virtually fool-proof.

    May 20, 2014 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  21. goblackhawks

    He has as much experience as a community orgnzr who voted present 121 times.

    May 20, 2014 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    smith

    @Malory-The vast majority of donors to both parties donate $100 or less simply because the number of rich donors is tiny compared to poor and middle class donors. However, who do you think the parties care about more? The guy who gives $100 or the guy who gives a cool million?
    ----------------------------
    Don't be silly, tom. The difference in policies/agendas of Republicans and Democrats speak for themselves.

    May 20, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  23. Malory Archer

    smith
    @Malory-The vast majority of donors to both parties donate $100 or less simply because the number of rich donors is tiny compared to poor and middle class donors. However, who do you think the parties care about more? The guy who gives $100 or the guy who gives a cool million?

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

    Semantics smith – your comment is called semantics. While there may be MORE small donations, the fact remains that the VAST majority of the right's $$$ comes from big donors. Both parties may care about their wealthy donors more than their low-middle income donors, at least the Dems don't advocate for policies that outright punish the poor/middle class – paul ryan's latest budget proposals that would decrease taxes even further on the 1% while increasing the middle class tax burden by an average of $2k for example.

    May 20, 2014 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  24. Malory Archer

    Tom l
    Didn't you read what I said, Mallory? I'm sure she's the only one who has figured it out. There's definitely no voter fraud and if there is and can only come from the repubs.

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

    Good on ya tom for admitting that the reds are guilty!

    May 20, 2014 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  25. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    I get so sick of hearing Republicans yell and scream about celebrities when they're patron St. Ronnie was himself a B actor. And let's not forget Arnold, whom they were trying to get the rules changed for so he could run for POTUS, even though he was born in Austria. At least until they found out about his little faux paux with the ugliest nanny in the world.

    Who cares, he was on American Idol, at least he wants to make things better for Americans.

    May 20, 2014 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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