Openly gay former “American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken’s surprising run for Congress in North Carolina will include a pitstop in Atlanta for a fundraiser on Oct. 8.
The “Atlanta For Clay” event will be hosted by Jesse Cannon, an Emory physician; Reese McCranie, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport communications director (and former aide to Mayor Kasim Reed); Andy McKinnon, a retired Ford Motor Co. executive very active in local politics; Jonathan Russell, director of development at Emory Vaccine Center; T Cooper, a successful novelist and screenwriter and a friend of Aiken’s; Ken Britt, retired executive director of Alston & Bird and a longtime political activist; and Glen Paul Freedman, chair of both the Georgia Equality Board and the Atlanta Pride Committee. The event will take place at Cannon’s Midtown home.
Aiken, who came in second to Ruben Studdard in the 2003 season of the now fast-fading Fox singing competition, had some success as a recording artist following the show and has managed to stay in the public eye over the years despite dwindling record sales.
He came out in 2008 in a People Magazine cover story after years of denials about his sexual orientation. He has since mixed in a role on Broadway in “Spamalot” along with several guest appearances on TV, including his appearance on the 2012 season of “Celebrity Apprentice”—where he again was runner-up, this time to Arsenio Hall.
Aiken announced his run for Congress in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District in February and squeaked out a win in the Democratic primary in May. He’ll face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in the general election on Nov. 4—and it’s not going to be easy. It’s a heavily Republican district and Ellmers is beating him two-to-one in fundraising as of July.
But the “American Idol” alum isn’t new to political activism, having served two years on President George W. Bush’s Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. He’s also spoken out on LGBT rights issues and traveled to places like Somalia and Afghanistan with UNICEF.
Aiken made news recently for his response to a question from the Washington Post about the nude celebrity photo hacks, saying “Anybody who takes inappropriate pictures of themselves deserves exactly what they get.”