An “American Idol” runner-up announced on Monday, January 10 that he will be running for congress in North Carolina.
43-year-old Clay Aiken placed second on the second season of the reality singing competition in 2003. He later transitioned to a career in politics. In 2014, Aiken won the Democratic primary in North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district. However, he later lost to Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers.
Now, Aiken is trying again. This time, he’s aiming to take the seat of retiring Democratic representative for North Carolina’s 4th district, David Price. In the overwhelmingly Democratic district, the winner of the Democratic primary is all but guaranteed to win in the general election. However, Aiken will first have to beat out several challengers in the primary.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the other announced candidates include Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, state Senators Wiley Nickel and Valeri Foushee, and virologist Richard Watkins.
Aiken Calls Out Republican Politicians By Name in Announcement Video
In a video announcing his congressional bid, Aiken begins by addressing his past as a reality television contestant. “Most of you probably remember me like this…skinny,” he says, nodding to a photo of him singing on “American Idol.”
He goes on to explain that a lot has changed for him in the almost twenty years that have passed since his time on “American Idol.” “I came home, I came out, I became a father. These days my life looks a lot more like yours than Justin Bieber’s, that I can promise you,” Aiken says.
The singer-turned politician doesn’t just reflect on how his life has changed in the past two decades. He also talks about how daily life for all Americans (Facebook and Twitter were invented, for example) and politics in North Carolina have changed.
“For decades, North Carolina was actually the progressive beacon in the south. We had the best roads and the best schools because back then the loudest voices in our government were progressives who actually made sure our state was always moving forward. But then, things changed,” Aiken says from atop a stool in the video.
He cites a wave of “backwards-a** policies,” mentioning voter suppression and the “bigoted bathroom bill.” Aiken then calls North Carolinian Congressman David Madison Cawthorn a “white nationalist” and the state’s lieutenant governor Mark Robinson a “hateful homophobe.” North Carolinian Senator Jeff Jackson called for Robinson to resign in October after a video of the Lieutenant Governor calling homosexuality and transgenderism “filth” made its way to Twitter.
“These folks are taking up all the oxygen in the room and I gotta tell you, I am sick of it,” Aiken says. “As Democrats, we have gotta get better about speaking up and using our voices. Because those folks ain’t quieting down anytime soon…if the loudest and most hateful voices think they’re gonna speak for us, just tell ’em I’m warming up the old vocal cords.”
At the end of the video, gay pride flags bearing Robinson and Congressman Madison Cawthorn’s faces come down from the top of the screen. “Just think how excited these guys are gonna be when we elect the south’s first gay congressman,” Aiken says.