Clay Aiken isn't "Invisible" anymore – he has formally declared his bid for Congress.
Making jokes at Aiken's expense has always been easy. Even Aiken's competition, Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers (who won the seat in 2010), has already eye-rolled his candidacy, saying during a radio interview, "As we know, he doesn't always fare that well. He was runner-up." Of course, Ellmers was referring to Aiken's second-place spot on American Idol back in 2003 (he lost to Rubben Studdard).
Check out Aiken's newly-released campaign video below:
I've lived in Raleigh, N.C., Aiken's hometown, for the last four years. It's a population largely composed of transplants due to its promising opportunities for young adults. For that and other reasons, there is a melting pot of transient voters not necessarily seen across the South. This explains why there aren't a lot of "favorite son" signs posted for Aiken, at least not yet. He may be a son of the city, but not of its population. To many voters here, Aiken is nothing more than a celebrity headline.
But it's as a celebrity headline that Aiken's public office bid is even more praiseworthy. Any time one of the celebrity members of a state runs for office, it steals a little bit of the spotlight from US Weekly and People and shines it back onto the issues that face the individuals that the candidate is running to serve. For that reason alone, I think Aiken is already helping.
There's a spin to his candidacy that seems plausible: He's a Democrat with Republican ideals; he's a gay man with Christian values. It's a unifying narrative that feels pleasant on the surface, but presents non-traditional pairings that voters will need to accept. My hope is that Aiken will continue to use the spotlight of his campaign to bring attention to the needs of his constituency, even if he never gets to represent us. If that happens, I won't make jokes about Aiken. I'll just be grateful for his efforts.