Clay Aiken may be coming to a voting center near you.
Born and raised in Raleigh, N.C., Aiken is more commonly known for his position as 2003's "American Idol" runner-up and has produced six albums since. In the primary this May, Aiken is considering a bid to run for Congress against Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers, who has represented the 2nd Congressional District since January 2011. Democrat attorney Houston Barnes and Keith Crisco, Democrat former N.C. Secretary of Commerce, also plan to run for the Democratic nomination.
Duke Democrats member Jordan Deloach, a junior, noted his surprise at hearing Clay Aiken was running for any type of politlcal office.
"I'm not really a fan of his music and I didn't know he was politically active," Deloach said.
But Aiken is not the first celebrity to run for office. His predecessors include Al Franken, a Saturday Night Live star elected to the Minnesota state senate in 2009, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, and former actor Ronald Reagan, elected President of the United States in 1980.
Aiken's celebrity status has the potential to either help or harm him, noted Bill Adair, Knight professor of the practice of journalism and public policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy and creator of Politifact, a fact-checking media organization.
“His celebrity status can help because many voters will already know his name and he won’t have to spend as much money and time introducing himself to voters," Adair wrote in an email Monday. "But he still must prove that he knows the issues and that he is a serious candidate."
Political science professor David Rohde also emphasized that celebrity candidates have to prove themselves as serious candidates.
“It depends on the individual—some candidates have a hard time convincing people they’re sufficiently prepared,” Rohde said.
Aiken's role as a gay man with an in-vitro-born son is raising concerns for the future of his campaign in a district with a conservative majority. Adair added, however, that anyone opposing Aiken for his sexuality would likely not be voting for a Democratic candidate regardless.
Wake County resident Lisa Presson said Aiken will have a tough time against Ellmers, but there might be a certain group of people in the district that would elect him due to his celebrity status.
Adair agreed with the challenge of running in this conservative district.
“It’s a challenging district for any Democrat, regardless of how well-known they are. Romney won it 58 to 41 percent in the 2012 presidential election,” Adair said.
If Aiken does formally announce his decision to run, he will be campaigning until the primary election, which will take place on May 6, 2014.