Ex-Idol Clay Aiken leading in NC congressional race

Posted at 8:26 AM, May 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-07 08:26:41-04

(CNN) — Clay Aiken, the American-Idol star-turned congressional hopeful, holds a razor-thin margin over opponent Keith Crisco in North Carolina’s Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat, but CNN and other news organizations have not yet projected a winner.

With all precincts reporting, Aiken has 40.83% of the vote, with Crisco following slightly behind at 39.4%. If the margin holds up, Aiken would exceed the 40% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

While only 369 votes separating them, Aiken’s tiny advantage is still outside the 1% margin to stave off a recount.

“I said earlier tonight, I sort of preferred when they just open the envelope,” Aiken said addressing supporters Tuesday – a reference to his days on the “American Idol” stage.

“I am very confident that we are going to be victorious in November as well. We are going to bring this to Washington.”

Toni Morris, the third candidate in the race, has 18.63% of the vote.

The primary winner will go on to face incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers in November’s general election.

Ellmers, a tea party favorite who’s held the seat for two terms, also bested a primary challenger from the right, conservative talk-radio host Frank Roche — and avoided a costly runoff.

Despite Aiken’s wide name recognition, he’ll still fight an uphill battle to unseat the Republican incumbent. North Carolina’s 2nd District, which spans the central and eastern parts of the state, isn’t friendly territory for a Democrat, especially considering President Barack Obama’s ailing approval ratings and continued backlash over his health care law. Republican Mitt Romney won nearly 60% of the district’s vote in the 2012 presidential election.

Aiken gained national attention when he came in second to Ruben Studdard in the second season of American Idol in 2003. Studdard endorsed Aiken in a radio ad aired in the days before the election.

CNN’s Dana Davidsen and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

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