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'American Idol' Star Clay Aiken Shoots for Congress

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It’s kind of appropriate, given how American politics and reality television are looking more than ever like the same beast, but here’s the latest sign of the coming celebpocalypse: Onetime “American Idol” cherub Clay Aiken is now running for public office in his home state of North Carolina.

Specifically, the 35-year-old singer is eyeing a seat in Congress, launching a bid Wednesday to beat Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers in an unlikely (and, given the odds, probably unsuccessful) change of venue from Hollywood to Capitol Hill. The Los Angeles Times took stock of Aiken’s political debut on his first day in the running:

Aiken, now 35, is running in a district that voted strongly Republican even in 2008, when President Obama eked out victory in the state. Ellmers, a nurse who turned to politics in 2010 during the battle over Obama’s healthcare plan, easily won reelection in 2012, outpacing Mitt Romney’s narrow win statewide in the presidential contest.

Usually, celebrities rise with a sophisticated reinvention of themselves. In Aiken’s case, he is trying to reinvent Ellmers as the prototypical member of Congress whose head has been turned by the marble hallways of the Capitol, a popular punching bag in this era of Congress-bashing.

He made only passing reference to his “American Idol” days, casting music as something that his mother used to soothe him after she’d fled an abusive husband with her 1-year-old in tow. He staged his campaign kickoff video not in the expansive home that his entertainment earnings bought him but in the house where he and his mother sought refuge all those years ago. It was a cottage spare and almost unfurnished, the exact opposite of glitz, which was the point.

Perhaps beating his critics to the punch, Aiken punctuated his ad with a somewhat paradoxical declaration: “I’m not a politician. … I don’t ever want to be one.” No doubt Ellmers’ campaign team is going to do everything it can to be sure he won’t become one this time around.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

Watch the campaign video below:

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