Clay Aiken–American Idol star, Broadway and concert performer, best selling author, UNICEF ambassador, unwed father–is running for United States Congress in his home state of North Carolina. Aiken, a special education teacher who was first runner-up on American Idol in 2003, created the National Inclusion Project (formerly the Bubel/Aiken Foundation) in 2003, and accepted a UNICEF ambassadorship in 2004, working in Afghanistan and Somalia.
Aiken says when he was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006 for a two-year term on the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, he
first realized that our problems won’t be solved by only one party or the other.
And that message is pretty clear in his campaign video. Aiken is looking to defeat incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers. In his video, Aiken explains that Ellmers took orders from her party leadership, voting 10 times for spending cuts that hurt the military and military families, cuts that she admitted would hurt the district and the country, impacting 5,000 military children as well as civilians who provide services to military families. (North Carolina is home to Fort Bragg). Ellmers also followed GOP party lines, when she voted 21 times for the government shutdown in 2013, even though she predicted it would be a “disaster” for the economy.
Aiken points out after voting to shut down the government, Ellmers said she needed to keep getting her Congressional paycheck. (To which I say, “Um duh, and what about those folks in your district who were impacted by your actions?”).
This is what’s wrong with Washington, that a Congresswoman would go [to Washington] and vote against the best interests of North Carolina military families and those who depend on the military for their jobs. To do it when you know it’s wrong is even worse.
Aiken is very pro-military, and one hopes that means “pro-bringing home troops, and supporting families, veterans, widows, and children” rather than “let’s go blow shit up.”
Aiken’s good will towards the military and his celebrity status may serve him well in the election, though some voters may be put off by his 2008 People cover story in which the singer disclosed he was gay. That shouldn’t be an issue, but in 2012, North Carolina voters voted 61% to 39% for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Aiken also has a son with his best friend Jaymie Foster, the sister of his record producer, David Foster. They share parenting duties and responsibilities.
In a statement, Ellmers spokesperson Jessica Wood used traditional code words and phrases to attack Aiken, contrasting Aiken’s supposed “San Francisco” values with Ellmers’ support of families.
Wood called Aiken a “performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco than Sanford.”
Wood added, “Renee best represents the values of the voters in the 2nd District and remains focused on fighting for their families.”
The statement garnered swift criticism from a former executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. In an email to Wood, Dan Gurley, who is gay, criticized the statement and its tone.
“I’m sure you thought you were being clever with your statement yesterday when you said the following, ‘and Aiken, a performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco than Sanford,’” Gurley wrote. “Well, you weren’t. You were offensive and childish, and if you worked for me or any client of mine I’d fire you. Surely you know better than this. You have offended many on both sides of the political aisle with your ill thought out comments. Not only are you uncreative, but your [sic] small minded.”
Ellmers publicly opposed North Carolina’s anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment in 2012, so snidely whispering “homo” about Aiken is really dumb.
For his part, Aiken has been thoughtful and gentle in his assessment of his opponent, saying:
The district where I’m running is represented by a Congresswoman who I believe went to Washington with good intentions. I’d like to think that people don’t go there with anything else.
But he added
This is what’s wrong with Washington. That a Congresswoman would go [to Washington] and vote against the best interests of North Carolina military families and those who depend on the military for their jobs. To do it when you know it’s wrong is even worse.
For Aiken, it was Ellmers voting record that
in the end, convinced me that if I didn’t try and do something about it, then I couldn’t complain if no one else did.