This morning, at North Carolina's annual stateAFL-CIO convention in Raleigh, 2nd district congressional hopeful Clay Aiken said he would stand with workers.
"People in Congress do not seem to understand—what's goodfor workers is good for everybody," he said at the endof a 15 minute speech which received an enthusiastic responsefrom union delegates from all over the state.
The American Idol
star is running against Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers for the 2nd District U.S. Congressional seat. He touted his union credentials (Aiken is a card-carrying member of the North Carolina Association of Educators) and said he knew what it was like to struggle, having watched his mother live paycheck to paycheck.
Last week, Aiken paid a visit to Tar Heel, North Carolina to meet with the workers of UFCW Local 1208 for the second time. UFCW Local 1208 won a union at the massive Smithfield Pork factory in 2008 and have recently been fighting another campaign at nearby Mountaire poultry plant.
"A lot of people in North Carolina are not being heard. People in Congress are pointing their fingers at the other side, but not presenting solutions."
Aiken explained that he came to politics in 2003 when he realized he had a "microphone and platform" and was in a place to "speak up for people who weren't being heard."
Before becoming a star, Aiken worked with children with disabilities. Almost by accident, he founded the nonprofit National Inclusion Project, which works in 39 states with the purpose of integrating children with disabilities into activities with non-disabled peers.
North Carolina AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan introduced Aiken by saying, "He saw his mother struggle. Clay knows what it's like to live on the edge. He knows the value of a union card. He's going to fight for workers and make sure we can raise the minimum wage."
North Carolina's Second District encompasses the western part of the Triangle including Cary, and parts of Fayetteville, Asheboro and Siler City. It is a tough district for a Democrat, but the GOP redistricting scheme made it even tougher, gerrymandering the district further in favor of Republicans. The Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers looks solid, and its an uphill battle for Aiken, whose primary opponent Keith Criscoe died while the counts were coming in. Still, there's a possibility that Aiken, with his star name and folksy, populist, outsider message, could take the race.