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‘American Idol’ Star Clay Aiken Running for US Congress

Former “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken has formally declared his candidacy for US Congress as a Democrat looking to unseat a Republican incumbent in his home state of North Carolina.

USA Today reports the 35-year-old singer, who placed second to Ruben Studdard on the second season of the popular television program in 2003, will challenge Rep. Renee Elmers, chairwoman of the Republican Women’s Policy Committee, in November’s midterm election.

Aiken posted a YouTube video announcing his candidacy in which he spoke of his “Golden Ticket” that was punched when he finished second on “Idol.” He detailed his upbringing by his single mother, as well as the abuse both of them suffered at the hands of his violent father. He also talked about his years as a special education teacher and as a humanitarian worker for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Somalia and Afghanistan. Aiken touted his bipartisan appeal, alluding to his appointment by then-President George W. Bush to a special education commission.

“That was when I first realized that our problems won’t be solved by only one party or the other,” said Aiken. “Instead, it’s going to require all of us.”

Aiken stressed that he is “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 and represent all the people, whether they voted for you or not,” he said.

Star power aside, Aiken will have his work cut out for him as he attempts to unseat a Republican incumbent in a conservative district. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney captured 58 percent of the vote in the Second Congressional District, which is located in central North Carolina.

Aiken will also have to content with at least two Democrats, including former state commerce secretary Keith Crisco.

Aiken, who has enjoyed a successful post-“Idol” career that includes numerous albums as well as television and Broadway appearances, is also gay, which could damage his prospects with more socially conservative voters. He has been outspoken in his opposition to the state’s voter-approved constitutional amendment banning not only same-sex marriage but also civil unions.

Rep. Elmers dismissed Aiken’s challenge in a radio interview last week by deadpanning, “As we know, he doesn’t always fare that well. He was runner-up.”

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