Clay Aiken: From American Idol to American Congressman?

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America’s political history is not short on cultural icons running for office. After releasing a number of hit records with Cher, as well as writing and producing music for a litany of other artists, Salvatore Phillip “Sonny” Bono embarked on political career that lasted three decades and catapulted him to the U.S. House of Representatives. Arnold Schwarzenegger — whose title role in Terminator earned him the title of Governator — served as Governor of California from 2003 through 2011. While Bono earned a reputation as a “competent politician known for his sense of humor and approachability,” wrote CNN in his 1998 obituary, Schwarzenegger’s term in office was slightly more contentious, with San Jose Mercury News noting that the recall of Gray Davis that led to his election failed to “change anything that finally changed things” in California. Celebrity politicians are anything but uncontroversial, but nevertheless, many people who earned their fame elsewhere enter politics. Now, with former American Idol Clay Aiken’s decision to run for the House of Representatives in his home state of North Carolina, he has chosen to bank on his favorable career turn and make a bid for Congress.

As the Washington Post political writer Aaron Blake noted, “Aiken is considered a long shot in a strongly conservative district,” which Republican president nominee Mitt Romney won by 15 points in the 2012 election. But he was also considered to be a surprise success of American Idol. During audiences, the show’s judges saw him an unlikely pop star with his glasses and unstyled appearance, and he only made it on American Idol as the second season’s viewer’s choice. However, he not only came in close second, earning millions of votes over the course of the season, but he also went on to be  one of the best selling alumni of American Idol from the series’ first 12 seasons.

He announced his candidacy on Wednesday, uploading a video to his campaign website that announced his motivations for running. “I am running for Congress for the same reason I chose to become a special education teacher — to help people in need and give them a voice,” Aiken said in the video, which was filmed in home of a family friend, where he and his mother slept on the floor for eight months during his childhood.

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