Clay Aiken running for Congress: Can he win in North Carolina?

Clay Aiken, the former American Idol contestant, seeks the Democratic nomination for the North Carolina Congressional seat held by Rep. Renee Ellmers. Aiken is running in a solidly Republican district.

By , Associated Press

Former "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken is running for Congress in North Carolina.

Aiken said Wednesday he'll seek the Democratic nomination for the seat currently held by Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers.

The 35-year-old Aiken is expected to face former state commerce secretary Keith Crisco of Asheboro and licensed professional counselor Toni Morris of Fayetteville in the Democratic primary.

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Aiken is an openly gay father, and has been a special education teacher in Wake County. He says he decided to put his entertainment career on hold and seek to represent the state's 2nd Congressional District. He opened his campaign with a short video on his website describing his life, including being raised in a home torn by domestic violence.

He says he considers Washington to be dysfunctional and will focus on jobs and the economy and the importance of education.

Could Aiken win? The Christian Science Monitor's Peter Grier thinks it will be an uphill battle in a state that's solidly Republican and a district that went to Mitt Romney and John McCain in the last two presidential elections. But he writes that it "isn’t an impossible dream."

The Second District was represented by a Democrat, Rep. Bob Etheridge, from 1997 until 2011. Mr. Etheridge lost to Ms. Ellmers in the GOP landslide of 2010. Aiken could easily raise lots of money, which can make a big difference in a House race. Plus, he’d be running in a state that isn’t shy about electing celebrities. Remember Rep. Heath Shuler?  He’s a former NFL quarterback who was also a three-term conservative Democratic lawmaker from North Carolina’s 11th District. (Mr. Shuler declined to run for reelection in 2012 after redistricting made the 11th more Republican.)

Ellmers faces radio talk show host Frank Roche of Cary in the Republican primary.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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