Aiken, Crisco race for Congress heats up - WNCN: News, Weather

Aiken, Crisco race for Congress heats up

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

It's the eve of the primary election on Tuesday, and one race that has been active the past couple weeks is the 2nd Congressional District.

That’s where former American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken is facing former Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco in the Democratic primary, where the winner will face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in the fall.

The ads have been intense in the district, which includes parts of southwest Wake County, sweeps down to Dunn and parts of Fayetteville and then includes a wide swath to the west, including Southern Pines, Sanford and Asheboro.

An Aiken ad proclaims, “I’m running for Congress and I approve this message because every child deserves a chance.”

A Crisco ad said Crisco “helped bring 120,000 jobs to our state.”

But the ads have taken a harsher tone as the election has approached.

A Crisco ad criticizes Aiken for not showing up for meetings of the Presidential Commission for People With Intellectual Disabilities.

“If he’s too busy for the president and special needs children, how can we count on Clay?” the ad says.

But Aiken, firing back, said of Crisco, “When you lobby for something that takes jobs out of this country, I don’t think you necessarily get to talk about your position as a jobs creator.”

Aaron Fiedler, communications director for Crisco, said, “Keith wouldn’t be running if he didn’t think he could win. He’s got the experience and the profile of the district. Renee Ellmers is not a popular figure with Democrats, with Republicans and independents in the 2nd District.”

With voters, it's clear Aiken has an advantage with name recognition thanks to his run on “American Idol” in 2003.

“That’s going to help,” said voter Michael Vineys. “It has to.”

But voter Mildred Callender said, “I really don’t understand why he’s running or why he wants to run.”

Both candidates are trying to get out their message hours before the polls open.

Fiedler said Crisco “employs 200 people here in Asheboro, something he’s very proud of.”

But Aiken said Crisco has “a lack of productivity in government. That’s what we’re talking about.”

Also running is Fayetteville counselor Toni Morris.

The district, though, has a heavy Republican majority, meaning any Democrat will have a tough task against Ellmers in the fall. Ellmers ousted Democratic incumbent Bob Etheridge in 2010. In 2012, she received 56 percent of the vote in beating Democrat Steve Wilkins.

Ellmers was dominant in Chatham, Harnett, Randolph and Moore counties and essentially split the vote in Wake County with Wilkins.

Despite the fact that there are many more Democrats in North Carolina than Republicans – roughly 2.8 million to 2 million – the GOP has a big advantage in Moore and Randolph counties, which aided Ellmers.

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