Clay Aiken Is Running for Congress in North Carolina: ‘I Love My Home State’

Clay Aiken Is Running for Congress in North Carolina: 'I Love My Home State'

Clay Aiken is warming up for another run for office.

The American Idol alum on Monday announced his campaign for North Carolina’s 6th Congressional District. The singer, 43, is running as a Democrat for the seat currently held by Rep. Kathy Manning, an attorney who was elected in 2020.

The ultimate fate of that district, however, is pending the outcome of a lawsuit about how the map was redrawn by state Republicans.

In a campaign kickoff video, Aiken playfully riffed on his public image as “a bright-eyed kid from North Carolina” who made his debut on Idol nearly two decades ago.

“These days my life looks a lot more like yours than Justin Bieber‘s, that I can promise you,” he said. “But one thing that has never changed for me is how much I love my home state.”

Aiken, a Raleigh native, went on to tout North Carolina’s history of progressivism and took aim at what he said were divisive politicians — like Republican Madison Cawthorn — who don’t represent the state.

“These folks are taking up all the oxygen in the room and I gotta tell you, I am sick of it,” he said.

“We have gotta get better at speaking up and using our voices ‘cause those folks ain’t quieting down anytime soon,” he continued. “That’s why I’m running for Congress, here in this community that raised me and where I first discovered my voice.”

Aiken unsuccessfully ran for Congress once before, in 2014, in a much more Republican-leaning district. The district he is seeking now remains in limbo after advocates sued, saying the state’s conservatives used the redistricting process to disenfranchise other voters and give unfair advantage to Republicans.

Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken
Clay Aiken
| Credit: Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty

In his campaign video on Monday, Aiken touted his “level-headed” and “open-minded” bona fides and said he would be focused on issues ranging “from stopping climate change, systemic racism, income inequality and gun violence to securing voting rights, free health care and a woman’s right to choose.”

He also noted that, if elected, he would be the first openly gay congressperson from the South.

During his previous campaign, Aiken highlighted his time away from show business, including his background in special education and working with UNICEF.

“If I had not been on Idol, chances are I wouldn’t be able to run in this race, and I understand that. But I got probably 70 percent of my votes on the show from North Carolina,” Aiken told The New York Times in 2014. “So these folks who I’m trying to represent put me here.”

“This is not a whim for me,” he told the paper then. “I’ve been thinking of this for over a year.”

Aiken’s latest bid was welcomed online by close friend Meghan McCain.

“I’m so proud of my dear friend Clay on his announcement to run for Congress,” she tells PEOPLE. “For as long as I’ve known him he’s been deeply caring and passionate. Although we may be politically polar opposites, I’ll be rooting for him every step of the way.”