Congress already has a comic, now a pop singer is trying to join him. American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken has announced a bid for a North Carolina congressional seat.
People snickered when Al Franken entered politics, but it was no joke when he rode his comic reputation on Saturday Night Live and a syndicated political talk show to victory over incumbent Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman in 2008.
Skeptics doubt whether Aiken, despite his high-profile discovery on American Idol, music tours and bestselling book, can win a congressional seat in North Carolina, where he was born, grew up and eventually became a special education teacher in Raleigh. The skepticism centers on Aiken's political affiliation, activism and announcement in 2008 that he gay.
Some detractors also point out ‑ he is a perpetual loser, including being the runner-up in the fifth season of The Celebrity Apprentice in 2012.
But the Aiken story may not be so simplistic. Before he broke through on American Idol, Aiken, who grew up as a "proud Southern Baptist," specialized in contemporary Christian music. Christian Music Planet labeled Aiken an "American Idol Christian" in 2004. Some of his most popular work is on Christmas albums.
Aiken has a son who was born in North Carolina in 2008 and, in Southern tradition, was given his grandmother's maiden name, Foster, as his first name. The boy's mother is the sister of the producer of three of Aiken's albums.
In addition to the people interested in seeing a pop star at their local library, Aiken may be able to draw political support from his activism on behalf of AIDS prevention, gender equity and programs such as Toys for Tots. Aiken is credited with founding the National Inclusion Project that runs summer camps for children with physical and mental disabilities. President George W. Bush appointed Aiken to a presidential commission dealing with people with intellectual disabilities.