"American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken is preparing to run for Congress as a Democrat in North Carolina's 2nd District, multiple Democratic sources confirmed to CQ Roll Call.
But his candidacy is being met with skepticism by some Tar Heel State Democrats, who are holding out hope of making it a race in this Republican-leaning district.
Aiken, a Raleigh native, is looking to take on second-term GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in the central North Carolina district, which President Barack Obama lost by 15 points in 2012. Raleigh-based WRAL reported Thursday that Aiken is building a campaign team and is expected to formally announce next month.
Democratic operatives said Aiken has met with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about the campaign. When asked, the DCCC declined to comment on whether any such meeting took place.
If Aiken gets into the race, some Democrats concede that his celebrity status would raise the profile of the race, which in turn could bring in resources. But will he be able to turn his name recognition into support?
"It's a tough district; it’s a conservative-leaning district," Democratic consultant Morgan Jackson said. "It's a matter of can he tap into the base of folks who have been buying his albums for years?"
Former state Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and attorney Houston Barnes, both Democrats, have already entered the race.
Democratic sources said Crisco, a 70-year-old businessman and former Asheboro city councilman who launched his campaign earlier this month, offers the kind of candidate profile that would give the party a shot there — and that an Aiken candidacy could hinder Crisco's chances.
"It’s a tough seat to begin with, and [Aiken] would have problems getting someone to take him seriously," one neutral North Carolina Democrat said of Aiken's candidacy.
North Carolina's 2nd District is rated a Safe Republican contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.