by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Failed American Idol participant Clay Aiken is running for Congress again as a Democrat from North Carolina.
Aiken, a native of Raleigh who became famous in 2003 for placing second on the musical game show American Idol, on Monday announced his candidacy for the state’s Sixth Congressional District, saying he would promote progressive policies. Aiken also took second place as a contestant on the game show Celebrity Apprentice, hosted by then-real estate mogul Donald Trump.
Aiken’s candidacy comes as a surprise to those who watched his failed 2014 campaign, when he lost to then-Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers by an 18-point margin. He has also said he experiences nervousness when confronted by political trackers at campaign events. He even admitted in an Esquire documentary on his run for Congress that his “butthole clenches up” when he catches sight of them.
“Do you see that douchebag with the blue shorts? He’s with the enemy. He’s trying to catch me doing something stupid,” Aiken told an aide. “Every time that tracker comes around it’s like my butthole clenches up! I can’t talk.”
Republicans held the sixth district for decades—first under congressman Howard Coble from 1985 to 2015 and then under congressman Mark Walker from 2015 to 2021. This is Aiken’s second run for a congressional seat. In 2014, he made it to the general election for the state’s Second District because his only Democratic opponent died before primary votes were tallied.
Nevertheless, Aiken said in his video announcement that he would run on opposing “backwards-ass policies like the voter suppression bills and the bigoted bathroom bill.”
Aiken has announced his congressional bid but cannot officially file for the office. Candidate filing remains shut down during the court fight over new N.C. election maps.