Clay Aiken, who stole many a Middle American heart in 2003 when he competed on American Idol (eventually placing as the second season’s first runner-up), announced Monday that he’s running for Congress in North Carolina’s 6th District via a chatty campaign video. In it, he reintroduces himself by referring to some images from his Idol days and says, “I know I look a little bit different these days, but we’ve met before. I’m Clay Aiken. Most of you probably remember me like this: Skinny.”
It’s going great so far! In a smart blazer, queerish lavender shirt, and jeans that suggest at least an undercurrent of hip with-it-ness, Aiken runs down his last 20 years (after Idol, the “bright-eyed kid from North Carolina” came home, came out, became a father), gives a brief history lesson on what cell phones used to be like, and positions himself as a progressive alternative to the likes of white nationalist North Carolina rep Madison Cawthorn and the state’s virulently homophobic lieutenant governor Mark “What Is the Purpose of Homosexuality?” Robinson. Referencing the antics of Cawthorn and Robinson, as well as the likes of QAnon-adjacent reps Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Bobert, the “loud and proud Democrat” Aiken says, “I’m sick of it!,” in a bit of overly gesticulated adamancy that reminds me a lot of The Comeback’s Valerie Cherish.
“Just think how excited these guys are gonna be when we elect the South’s first gay congressman,” says Aiken with a chuckle. “Make ‘em proud!”
Aiken makes his progressive platform clear in the video, calling out voter suppression and North Carolina’s now repealed HB 2, its notorious anti-trans “bathroom bill” that was passed in 2016. On Aiken’s website, he pledges:
In Congress, I’ll use my voice to advocate for common-sense policies that encourage continued job growth and healthy communities. Many of these political battles divide us as people, threaten our democracy, and weaken America. North Carolinians are worried about affordable health care and rapid inflation. They are worried about their retirement savings and are frustrated by crowded interstates and infrastructure that hasn’t kept up with our rapid growth. These are the issues that matter, and these are the issues I will focus on in Congress.
The current rep of the district in which Aiken is running, David Price, announced his retirement in October. A primary election will take place in May, with other reported Democratic candidates including Sens. Valerie Foushee and Wiley Nickel, as well as Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam. Aiken previously ran for North Carolina Congress in 2014, losing to incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers.
In an interview with the Raleigh-based News & Observer, Aiken called Cawthorn “a bozo.” So that’s fun!