These days, when you Google "Claymates," all you get are results about some video game. But there was a time when that term meant something else entirely. It referred to the oft-rabid fan base for American Idol contestant Clay Aiken, composed primarily of women 30 years his senior (at the time) who thought he was very dreamy, just like fellow 2003 heterosexual person Barry Manilow, to whom many comparisons had been drawn.
It was a definitely a time.
But Aiken has been out of the spotlight for a while now, and is ready to make his second run for Congress. Aiken first ran for Congress in North Carolina's 2nd district in 2014, and despite being widely mocked at first, because "American Idol," he actually ran a pretty good campaign and ended up winning the Democratic primary by 400 votes.
Alas, being in a safely Republican district, he ended up losing. To Renee Ellmers, who was notably far less talented than Ruben Studdard.
This time, however, he's running in a district heavily favored to elect a Democrat, thus giving him an actual chance at winning, should he win the primary. And his pitch isn't too bad (or too pitchy); he seems to be able to iterate progressive goals in a way that seems like it might not frighten more moderate voters, combining calls for universal healthcare with calls for more civility.
One of my first experiences in politics and government was asking Congressman [David] Price to speak to my eighth grade class – an invitation he graciously accepted. He is a legendary legislator who has delivered for the Triangle for over 30 years, and he leaves big shoes to fill. I’d be honored to take his place representing the Triangle. As a loud and proud Democrat, I intend to use my voice to deliver real results for North Carolina families, just like David Price has done for decades. I'll always stand up for my principles and fight for inclusion, income equality, free access to quality health care, and combating climate change. I also believe we need more civility in our politics, and North Carolina deserves representatives in Washington who use their positions to make people’s lives better, not to advance polarizing positions that embarrass our state and stand in the way of real progress. As my mom taught me: ‘you can disagree without being disagreeable.’
In Congress, I’ll use my voice to advocate for common-sense policies that encourage continued job growth and healthy communities. Many of these political battles divide us as people, threaten our democracy, and weaken America. North Carolinians are worried about affordable health care and rapid inflation. They are worried about their retirement savings and are frustrated by crowded interstates and infrastructure that hasn't kept up with our rapid growth. These are the issues that matter, and these are the issues I will focus on in Congress.
His announcement video is also quite charming, self-effacing and funny. Part of Aiken's appeal during the heady days of Cowell and Claymates was the fact that people found him to be an appealing, nice-seeming and sincere person, which are also things people tend to like in politicians.
As much as we may have some "feelings" about reality show people running for office, having been so deeply scarred by the Trump years, Aiken doesn't actually seem less qualified than anyone else to run for Congress. He has a background in special education, has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and he was in Spamalot. He's certainly not less qualified than some other North Carolina reps we've seen.
Maybe he'll win and do a really good job and we can all forget about "Invisible," the creepiest song of all time.
And now this is your OPEN THREAD.
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