The primary that kept us up late last Tuesday was perhaps the most inconsequential of all of them. It was the Democratic contest in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District, a seat held by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) since 2011 and one that has become much more Republican following the latest round of redistricting.
But one of the Democrats was Clay Aiken, the pop singer and former “American Idol” runner-up whose maiden campaign won national attention, support and money, much of it coming from progressive, gay and lesbian groups around the country. His opponent was Keith Crisco, a former state commerce secretary.
The difference between the two candidates was huge. Aiken had the pizzazz and the national celebrity status; Crisco had deeper Tar Heel roots, serving in the administration of former Gov. Bev Perdue and winning endorsements from many in the party establishment and local business groups.
As it turned out, it was the only congressional primary — among those at stake in North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana — that was unresolved that night. When all the counting was over, Aiken held a 369-vote lead. Crisco could have asked for a recount, though it was reported that he was planning to concede to Aiken as soon as today (Tuesday, 5/13). Election officials were also expected to decide by today whether a runoff was warranted.
And then he was gone. Crisco, 71, died Monday, suffering injuries from a fall in his home in Asheboro, N.C. In all likelihood, Aiken will be declared the nominee, perhaps as soon as today — even if the final tally shows Crisco with the lead.
In a statement, Aiken called Crisco a “gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant.” Randy Holler, the chair of the state Democratic Party, said, “Keith was a brilliant problem-solver who liked to make good, solid public policy. He would have made a great congressman, and I know he felt strongly that the 2nd Congressional District needed new leadership in Washington.” Ellmers released a statement, saying: “His kindness and dedication to his principles were models we should all strive toward, and he will be dearly missed.”
Ellmers (R) is the clear favorite for a third term in November.