Clay Aiken formally declared his bid for Congress, setting aside the singing career he launched on TV's American Idol to run as a Democrat for a North Carolina seat now held by a Republican.
In a video posted Wednesday on You Tube, Aiken alluded to the "golden ticket" that got punched when he was the 2003 runner-up on the reality singing show. He stressed his upbringing by a single mom and his days as a special education teacher in explaining that he wants to serve in Congress for people who don't have a voice.
"I'm not a politician. I don't ever want to be one, but I do want to help bring back — at least to my corner of North Carolina — the idea someone can go to Washington to represent all the people, whether they voted for you or not," Aiken said.
He is aiming to take on Rep. Renee Ellmers, chairwoman of the Republican Women's Policy Committee, who won a seat long held by a Democrat in 2010. In a radio interview last week, Ellmers dismissed Aiken's candidacy by noting, "As we know, he doesn't always fare that well. He was runner-up."
Aiken, 35, will face at least two candidates in the Democratic primary, including Keith Crisco, a former state Commerce secretary.
North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, based in the central part of the state and Fayetteville, is considered a conservative area. Republican Mitt Romney won 58% of the vote there in the 2012 presidential election.
The district's voting registration is about evenly split with 36% Democrats, 36% Republicans and 28% unaffiliated voters, according to a state Board of Elections analysis cited by the News & Observer.
Since garnering fame on the second season of American Idol, Aiken has been recording and appeared on Broadway. He spoke out against North Carolina's amendment banning same-sex marriage and has been an advocate on gay and lesbian issues. In 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Aiken to a presidential commission focused on people with intellectual disabilities.