By Shannon Carlin

North Carolina, you’re next congressman could be…Clay Aiken.

The American Idol runner-up officially announced yesterday (Feb. 4) that he is putting his entertainment career on hold to seek out the Democratic seat for Congress in his home state. The position is currently held by Rep. Renee Ellmers.

To accompany his announcement, Aiken released a video that has the singer detailing his childhood, talking openly about his escape from an abusive father that led him and his mother to seek refuge with a friend.

“I’ve been fortunate in my life, and if you only know the part of my story that starts with a golden ticket—something that still seems unbelievable to me even to this day—you might wonder what would qualify me to run,” Aiken says in the clip. “Well, it starts with a life I remember all to well. Mom working nights at Sears, clothes from the thrift store, Christmas’ where I might only get one small present but that would make it a present I would cherish.”

He goes on to talk about school being his saving grace, helping him to achieve a dream he long held. “To teach children like me and those who faced even more adversities than I did,” Aiken says.

Aiken details his qualifications, which include working as a special education teacher for children with autism, traveling to under privileged countries with UNICEF and being appointed by President Bush to a panel that had him fighting for the rights of special needs children.

“For most Americans, there are no golden tickets, at least not the kind you see on TV,” Aiken says. “More families are struggling today than any time in our history and here in North Carolina we’ve suffered more than our share of of pain.”

Aiken talks of Ellmers, but chooses not to knock her down. He instead says that the Congresswoman went to Washington with the best of intentions, but has gone back on her word, noting her decision to cut funding to the military even though she has said it was a bad choice.

“I’m not a politician, I don’t ever want to be one,” Aiken says with a smile. “But I do want to help bring back to at least my corner of North Carolina the idea that someone can go to Washington to represent all the people, whether they voted for you or not.”

Last year, there were reports that Aiken was already planning to run and that he was “running phone calls to gauge support, talked to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and has met with figures in Raleigh, N.C.,” including a political strategist who worked with Al Gore during his bid for president.

The North Carolina primary takes place on May 6.


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