The last time Clay Aiken was in a contest this tight, George W. Bush was president and Ruben Studdard was his closest challenger. Fast forward — oh, about a decade — and the one-time American Idol runner-up is on the brink of being nominated for Congress.
Aiken’s got his eye on the Congressional seat in North Carolina’s 2nd District. A position for a wannabe political trailblazer (i.e.: Clay) opened up when Republican Renee Ellmers decided not to seek re-election. Votes continue to be counted Wednesday, where the singer holds a slim lead over Keith Crisco in the Democratic primary.
Aiken, who is openly gay, has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community since coming out in 2008. The move to politics, however, would be a new one for the Broadway alum and single dad.
Clay, who announced his candidacy in February, says he’s “comfortable” with the way his campaign was run, but notes that his celebrity hasn’t always been an asset. While visiting polling places on Tuesday evening, Aiken confided to ABC News:
“There’s obviously a little bit of a hurdle that we’ve had to overcome. Obviously the name recognition is a plus — it gets people to the table. There is that challenge of getting people to see me in a different light, to change the lens that they’re looking at me through, but the name recognition has gotten people to the table and gives us the chance to actually talk to people. And once we actually talk to people, it’s easier to get them to look at me in a different way.”