When I first heard a few weeks ago that Clay Aiken was considering a run for Congress, I thought it was just one of those rumors. I thought the guy lived in a different state.

But last night, my twitter feed told me different. According to the twitterverse, he’s looking at a run for Renee Ellmers’s seat in the 2nd Congressional District. And if it comes from Twitter, you know it’s true.

So, then I began looking him up. Turns out that he does live in North Carolina. He moved back to Durham about four years ago or so. While that makes him eligible, that doesn’t necessarily make him qualified.

Then I read an interview with him from last May. Aiken says he’s not easily star-struck but was three times–when he met Diane Sawyer, Tom Brokaw and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA). He was impressed with Sawyer and Brokaw because he’s a news junkie and he was impressed with Harkin because of the work the Senator has done with special education.

All right. That still doesn’t make him qualified but it does show that he’s well-informed and has a long-time interest in politics as opposed to looking for a new gig to keep him occupied. In a world where Congress is an entry-level political job for rich people, that’s more than some of our elected officials can say. Think John Edwards.

I’m glad to see Clay Aiken interested in North Carolina politics. We need new voices and new perspectives. A little star power, particularly directed at young people, can certainly help our cause.

Still, I wish he wouldn’t run in NC-02. I think we already have two candidates, Keith Crisco and Houston Barnes, who are well poised to give Ellmers a run for her money. Crowding the primary just increases the chances of a run-off. And, unfortunately, I don’t think the heavily rural, working-class district is ready to vote for an openly gay candidate.

Regardless of what he does, I hope Clay will be more vocal and visible in North Carolina politics. He’s not the kid on American Idol anymore. He’s a grown up who has money and star power. He could live anywhere he wants but he chose here. We could use more well-informed people who love North Carolina, not just politics, to get involved. Welcome to the fray, Clay.


  1. Kathy

    I am fairly familiar with Clay Aiken-he is a heck of a lot smarter than anyone thinks. He has managed to stay working for 10 years, again-more than many realizes, is a co-founder of and is very involved with his Charity that is extremely successful (National Inclusion Project). Clay has studied, paid attention too and has followed politics for years, he absolutely loves North Carolina and wants the best for his beloved home state.

    I honestly think Clay is going to run and he may not win. As a Clay supporter I say that’s okay. It is going to open doors for him to get elected to a lower seat, perhaps something more local in Raleigh or, as someone mentioned, a spokesperson for the party. I am moving to Raleigh soon and would love a leader such as Clay to support the city!

    Google some interviews of him and you will see a smart, educated, compassionate man. When he speaks you can see and hear the passion and intelligence.

    Good for Clay- go big or go home! After researching politics in the state I am convinced-NC needs someone like him!

  2. deb

    Boy, u you all really dont know this guy do you? Any part of N.C. would be lucky to have him…in fact, politically right now N.C. GOP and their insanity is the real joke that needs to be stopped. A young man who is not afraid to take on the right wing GOP IDIOTS of the state is exactly what is needed right now.

  3. Walt-in-Durham

    Isn’t this the guy who committed voting fraud by voting in Wake County when he lived in Orange?

    • Benj

      Oh, please….. I can count on both my hands & feet how many people I know who still voted in their hometown after they’d gone to college & moved away from home. It’s not like they were voting twice in 2 different places. Who cares?

  4. Gordon Trenchard

    Aiken has zero political experience or at least any that is relevant. He seems to be thinking that star power for the most part will get him nominated. If he were serious about this he would be staking out policy positions on a broad range of topics to demonstrate political knowledge and competence. Barnes is not a serious candidate either. He does not like in the district, has zero political experience, zero political platform, and appears to no have any legislative ideas other than being an apparatchik of the Democratic Party.

  5. Paleo Tek

    And Ellmers is one of the relatively more vulnerable members in the NC GOP House delegation. She won 2012 56%-41%, which is a pretty stiff headwind, but her “Shutdown for thee, but not for me” antics didn’t help her image any.

    Personally, I don’t think a career as an entertainer is particularly good training for a congressional seat. I’m sure he’s smart, definitely personable, but I have trouble getting excited about an Aiken run. I don’t think he’s a good fit for the second, and I don’t think he’s ready for Congress. Does Raleigh need a new mayor? 8^)

    That’s only partly in jest, btw. 20 years ago half the mayors of the 12 largest cities in the US were Republican. Now, zero are Republican. Being mayor is a good place for Dems to gain executive experience. Mayors of large cities aren’t likely to be Republican in the current climate, since Republican orthodoxy apparently now requires nineteenth or (at best) twentieth century values.

  6. Alex Jones

    Great commentary, Thomas. Sadly, you’re right about the Second District. Aiken could win in the Triangle, Triad or Asheville (and a few other places), but not there. His best move would be to become a spokesman for the party and maybe look at something else down the road.

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