Clay Aiken Announces Congressional Run

Singer details impoverished past and political goals in campaign video

February 5, 2014 10:40 AM ET
Clay Aiken
Clay Aiken
Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images

Congressman Clay Aiken? The North Carolina-based pop singer, actor and American Idol runner-up announced his candidacy for Congress in a video posted to his campaign web site Tuesday.

Clay Aiken: Through the Years

"I'm not a politician — I don't ever want to be one — but I do want to help bring back, at least to my corner of North Carolina, the idea that someone can go to Washington to represent all the people whether they voted for you or not," Aiken said in the video. "And maybe we can play a small part in igniting that change across the rest of our country." 

Aiken answers critics of his qualifications by detailing his impoverished upbringing and early career as a special education teacher for children with autism. The Democrat noted it was his 2006 appointment by President George W. Bush to serve on an education commission concerning children with autism that kickstarted his idea to enter politics. "That was when I first realized that our problems won't be solved by one party or the other," he said. "More families are struggling now than at any time in our history and here in North Carolina, we've suffered more than our share of pain."

In the video, the singer chastises Renee Ellmers, the district's current Republican congresswoman, for voting for military cuts and the 2013 government shutdown. Ellmers' district, which includes the capital city of Raleigh, was controlled by Democrats until 2010, but voted for Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election. 

Aiken shot the video in the home of a family friend who sheltered the singer and his mother from his abusive father when Aiken was a child. "My father could be a violent man who would get drunk and angry," admitted the singer. "He decided that mom was the reason for the pain in his life. I saw later, when I was older, the pictures of bruised face and blackened eyes in police photographs."

Aiken still has to win the Democratic primary in May to run against the winner of the Republican primary, but the race has already gotten personal. Last week, Ellmers said in a radio interview, "As we know, he doesn't always fare that well. He was runner-up." In an e-mail to Raleigh newspaper News & Observer on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Ellmers called the openly gay Aiken "a performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco than Sanford.”

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