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Clay Aiken is running for Congress again in North Carolina, this time in a more liberal district. The former American Idol star previously ran in 2014 but was defeated in the general election by Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers.
Aiken, 43, shared a video on social media and joked how he looks "a little different these days" than when the world first met him in 2003.
"Back in those days, I was a bright-eyed kid from North Carolina on my way to becoming a special-ed teacher, then, that little singing competition changed everything for me. That was almost 20 years ago, can you believe that?" the Raleigh native began. Aiken finished second on Idol behind Ruben Studdard. He returned to reality television in 2012, appearing on The Apprentice with former President Donald Trump.
"A lot has changed for me too. I came home, I came out, I became a father. These days, my life looks a lot more like yours than Justin Bieber's, that I can promise you," he continued. "But one thing that has never changed for me is how much I love my home state. North Carolina is the place where I discovered first that I had a voice and that it was a voice that could be used for more than singing."
Aiken slammed "backwards-a** policies" pushed by conservatives in his state "like the voter suppression bills and the bigoted bathroom bill." He denounced controversial figures Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert.
"These folks are taking up all the oxygen in the room and I gotta tell ya, I am sick of it," he said. "As Democrats, we've gotta get better about speaking up and using our voices 'cause those folks ain't quieting down any time soon. That's why I'm running for Congress. Here in this community that raised me and where I first discovered my voice. We, as level-headed, open-minded and compassionate Democrats, we have always been the party of all Americans ... we've got to continue to be that."
Aiken asked people to donate to help "elect the south's first gay congressman" and pointed Twitter users to his website.
"Clay is a strong Democrat running for Congress to give a voice to those who want to bring sanity and civility back to the political conversation. He knows he can't change Washington by himself," his website reads. "But he has also learned that he has a voice that makes people listen, and he'll use it for the people of North Carolina's 6th District to deliver on needed progressive policies — from stopping climate change, systemic racism, income inequality and gun violence, to securing voting rights, free health care and a woman's right to choose."
Meghan McCain is among those who reacted to the news on Twitter, writing, "We love you!"
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) January 10, 2022
Aiken joins what is expected to be a competitive primary in the 6th District. Incumbent Democrat Rep. David Price announced his retirement in October.