Clay Aiken Wants to Make History With 2nd Run for Congress

'American Idol' star would be first openly gay lawmaker from the South
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2022 1:23 PM CST
Clay Aiken Launches 2nd Bid for Congress
Clay Aiken gives a concession speech in Sanford, NC, on Nov. 4, 2014, after losing to Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers.   (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Corey Lowenstein)

Reality TV star Clay Aiken is taking another shot at running for Congress—and this time, if he wins the Democratic primary, he'll have a strong chance of making it to Washington. The 43-year-old of American Idol fame said Monday that he is planning a run in North Carolina's redrawn and heavily Democratic 6th Congressional District, the Washington Post reports. Part of the Piedmont Triad-area district is currently held by 81-year-old Democratic Rep. David Price, who announced his retirement last year. "One of my first experiences in politics and government was asking Congressman Price to speak to my eighth grade class—an invitation he graciously accepted,” Aiken said. He is a legendary legislator ... and he leaves big shoes to fill. I’d be honored to take his place."

Aiken lost a longshot bid in the state's conservative 2nd Congressional District in 2014. The Democratic primary in the district that year was too close to call, until Aiken's opponent died in a fall, and the 6th District primary is expected to be just as competitive. If Aiken does win the May primary, analysts predict he will win in November, which will make him the first openly gay member of Congress from the South. "There has never been an out lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans congressperson elected, from the South, in US history," former UNC political scientist Andrew Reynolds, who has been informally advising Aiken, tells the News & Observer.

In his campaign announcement video, Aiken said he was tired of divisive politicians like Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn, People reports. "These folks are taking up all the oxygen in the room and I gotta tell you, I am sick of it," he said. The Post notes that Aiken, Celebrity Apprentice runner-up in 2012, defended Donald Trump against accusations of racism in 2016—but after the Unite the Right rally in 2017, he said Trump was "actually racist" and called himself a "dumb***" for defending him. (More Clay Aiken stories.)

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