American Idol star Clay Aiken running for Congress after hateful Republican’s homophobic rant

Clay Aiken sings into a microphone as he wears a white shirt, black jacket and red tie

American Idol star Clay Aiken has launched a second congressional bid after being inspired to fight hate perpetuated by North Carolina’s top lawmakers.

Aiken was the runner-up on the second season of American Idol in 2003. Afterwards, he launched a music and acting career – even appearing as a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice hosted by former president Donald Trump.

In 2014 he turned his attention to politics, winning the Democratic primary in North Carolina’s second congressional district, but he was defeated in the general election by Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers.

Now he’s running for Congress again. But this time, Aiken, who has referred to himself as a “loud and proud Democrat”, is running to represent the newly drawn sixth district. He is hoping to replace representative David Price, who was first elected in 1986 and said he would not seek re-election in October.

Aiken told Variety that he wasn’t initially planning to run for congress again, but he changed his mind after hearing a homophobic speech by North Carolina’s lieutenant governor Mark Robinson.

He described how “several people” asked if he would be interested in running for Price’s seat after the long-time politician announced he would be retiring from the role in 2022.

“I told them, you know, I’m keeping an eye on it, but I’m not really necessarily thinking about running right now,” he recalled.

The openly gay singer said he was “considering” another run in November when the news broke that Robinson, North Carolina‘s second-in-command, had made several anti-LGBT+ statements at a church sermon.

“He gave a speech in which he said: ‘What is the purpose of homosexuality? What purpose do homosexuals serve?’” Aiken said.

He continued: “I watched that sort of with just dumbstruck awe that someone could be so ignorant.

After watching it, I said, you know, ‘I got your purpose, bitch. I will show you’.”

Clay Aiken singers to a crowd in front of a light blue background

Clay Aiken onstage during the opening curtain call for “Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Show” on 11 December 2018. (Getty/Walter McBride)

Aiken described himself as a “North Carolinian” his entire life, adding his family has “been here since the 1700s”. He said Robinson’s anti-LGBT+ hatred made him “really think about the reputation” the state has “gotten over the past several years”.

“In my entire life, I’ve never known a time when this state has had a reputation that wasn’t progressive and welcoming and friendly,” he added.

He added that some friends wouldn’t want to visit because they didn’t feel “comfortable in North Carolina”. Aiken said he was “sick” that his beloved state has such a reputation, and he isn’t “willing” to let it continue any longer.

“And that p**ses me the hell off,” he said. “Because this area is not like that, and the fact that people outside of this state have this opinion or this perception of North Carolina based on people like Mark Robinson and Madison Cawthorn.”

A group of North Carolina voters have launched a bid to keep Cawthorn, a Republican congressman, off the ballot in this year’s midterm elections, citing his alleged involvement in the 6 January Capitol riot.

Cawthorn claimed the election was stolen from Trump during the “Save America Rally” before the riot and has been accused of firing up the crowd, The Guardian reported.

A group of voters have said that Cawthorn can’t run for Congress because he fails to comply with an amendment in the Constitution.

The 1868 amendment says no one can serve in Congress if they have “previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress … to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same”.

The challenge says the events at the Capitol riot “amounted to an insurrection” and Cawthorn’s speech at the rally provided a “reasonable suspicion” that he “aided the insurrection”.

In the video announcing his congressional run, Clay Aiken condemned Cawthorn and Robinson as “white nationalists” and “hateful homophobes”.

He also acknowledged it wasn’t a “North Carolina thing” before showing images of reviled GOP representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia) and Lauren Boebert (Colorado).

“These folks are taking up all the oxygen in the room, and I could tell you I am sick of it,” Aiken said.

He continued: “As Democrats, we have got to get better about speaking up and using our voices because those folks ain’t quieting down anytime soon.

“That’s why I’m running for Congress here in this community that raised me and where I first discovered my voice.”