Clay Aiken finds rough reception compared to ‘14 campaign

FILE - Clay Aiken performs at the "American Idol" farewell season finale in Los Angeles on April 7, 2016. The former “American Idol” runner-up announced on Monday that he's running for Congress again in North Carolina, this time seeking to succeed the retiring U.S. Rep. David Price. In 2014, Aiken won the Democratic nomination for a largely rural central congressional district in 2014, edging former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco. But he lost in the general election to then-Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers, receiving 41% of the vote.(Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

RALEIGH — Musician Clay Aiken, who last week announced his intent to run for Congress in the new Triangle-area 6th District, has come under fire from other candidates and influential progressives for his late entry into the race. 

Nida Allam, a Durham County commissioner also in the race, seized on a tweet congratulating Aiken on his second campaign from Meghan McCain, former co-host of The View and the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. 


Allam linked to her campaign donation page and said, “If you’re looking for a candidate in this strong Democratic seat who *isn’t* being backed by Republicans..” to attack Aiken for the apparent support of McCain.

That prompted a response by McCain to Allam, telling her to “grow up.” 

“Clay and I are polar opposites politically. We disagree on almost everything except our friendship. The worst part of the rot in DC is politicians not being able to be civil and have relationships to work with the other side,” McCain wrote. 

The Twitter spat wasn’t the only attack on Aiken. 

The Raleigh News & Observer’s Sara Pequeño, formerly of the Indy Week, wrote an editorial criticizing Aiken, saying he was “another celebrity candidate who hasn’t done the work.” 

“Aiken may be a nice enough guy. The nicest thing to do — and perhaps the most progressive option — would have been for him to stay out of the race in the first place, and support someone with the background and resolve to get things done,” she added, alluding to the presence of Allam, state Sen. Valerie Foushee, and state Sen. Wiley Nickel in the race.  

Eight years ago, Aiken was on the ballot in the 2nd Congressional district, having won the Democratic primary to take on then-Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers. 

The race received some national attention and Aiken raised $1.1. million over the course of the campaign. He would go on to lose that race by 18 points to Ellmers. 

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Matt Mercer is the editor in chief of North State Journal and can be reached at [email protected].