The top primary opponent to Clay Aiken in North Carolina is slamming the "American Idol" runner-up's public service record in a TV ad launched two weeks before they face off for the Democratic nomination.
Keith Crisco, a former North Carolina Commerce secretary, hits his opponent in the ad for skipping meetings for a commission Aiken was appointed to by then-President George W. Bush — an appointment Aiken has touted since launching his campaign in February.
Crisco and Aiken are competing in the May 6 primary for the chance to take on Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers in the GOP-leaning district.
"Clay Aiken says helping children with special needs is one of his top priorities, but when the president appointed Clay Aiken to the Presidential Commission for People With Intellectual Disabilities, no-show Clay Aiken skipped every single meeting," a narrator says in the 30-second spot.
The ad will air on broadcast in the Raleigh and Greensboro media markets, according to Crisco's campaign. A Democratic source tracking media buys in North Carolina says the ad is backed by around $100,000.
It launched the same day Aiken went on TV with his first ad.
Aiken's campaign is already fundraising off the attack, according to an email obtained by CQ Roll Call.
"Crisco and his campaign are twisting the facts about my service on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities," Aiken says in the email, which asks for donations to "help us defend the campaign from these attacks."
"While it's true that I couldn’t attend many of the committee meetings, I had just finished American Idol," the email continues. "So I made it clear to the committee during the first meeting I attended that I was touring and working on my album at the time and that I couldn’t be physically present for most meetings."
Aiken, Crisco, as well as mental health counselor Toni Morris, are all long-shots to oust Ellmers in the 2nd District. If no candidate garners 40 percent in the Democratic primary, the race will head to a July 15 runoff.
The Crisco campaign said it hoped to shine a light on the record Aiken claims "as his experience for running for Congress."
"It’s unfortunate that someone who gets appointed by the president of the United States doesn’t show up to any of the meetings, and it's something that we wanted the people to know," Crisco spokesman Aaron Fiedler said in a phone interview.
The district is tough for Democrats — Mitt Romney carried the seat with 58 percent in 2012. The race is rated Safe Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.