The one-time American Idol contestant and star of Broadway’s Spamalot, Clay Aiken, has just announced that he is running for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd District. The incumbent, Rep. Renee Ellmers, greeted the announcement with the class and open-heartedness that we have come to expect from Republican members of Congress: “Apparently his performing career isn’t going so well and he’s bored.” She then added that he was only the runner-up on American Idol.
There are reasons aplenty why Congress is less popular than staph infection and root canal surgery, and Ellmers’ response to Aiken’s candidacy pretty much embodies all of them. And, actually, her observations could not be more wrong. Aiken has parlayed his fame and wealth into helping others less fortunate. Having grown up in a home riven with domestic violence, he knows the powerlessness and helplessness that defines life for millions of Americans and, as a gay man in a conservative part of North Carolina, has felt his sting of ignorance more than once.
Before rocketing to fame via American Idol, Aiken was studying to be a special education teacher and has focused on issues of that sort since. He has set up a $2 million foundation to help children with disabilities and has been a vocal and involved citizen in his district.
And dig this crazy quote he gave the News and Observer, “I saw this as the best place I could serve, because I think Washington, in general, is dysfunctional. I think it’s high time we put people in Congress who are not beholden to their party, and not beholden to anything but the people who they live around and grew up around, in my case.”
People are just sick enough of Congress to vote for change. And Aiken seems like a fresh blast of it coming out of North Carolina.
Oh, yes, as my friend Nick, who lives in North Carolina, has informed me, “Ellmers has already begun the gay-bashing. Her spokesperson described Aiken as ‘a performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco than Sanford.’”
Sheesh. Every time her office opens its collective mouth, Ellmers loses another 1,000 votes. And, in an evenly divided district, that will be the key to victory for Aiken. Allow your opponent to dig her own grave.