RALEIGH — Clay Aiken on Friday compared his current situation – waiting for votes to be counted to see whether he’s the 2nd Congressional District’s Democratic candidate – to his days as a contestant on “American Idol.”
“I’ve put myself in several situations on national TV where I had to wait for some results,” Aiken told a group of students in Raleigh. “Worrying about how that could turn out never changes it, amazingly. So I don’t stress out too much.”
Aiken made the analogy during a noncampaign stop at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, where about 100 students peppered him with questions at the event, which was sponsored by the campus Young Democrats and Young Republicans.
His visit, which had been scheduled for some time, was a natural for the former special education teacher and camp counselor. He had the students laughing, clapping and clamoring for photographs. Too bad most of them can’t vote.
To the student who asked him how it felt to wait for the outcome of the election, Aiken added: “Mathematically, we’ve run the numbers and we feel pretty confident. If I were in the same position as the person who I am running against, I would probably be doing the same thing, which would be wanting to see every single vote count.”
Aiken’s campaign – like that of his opponent in the Democratic congressional primary, Keith Crisco – has been in suspended animation since Tuesday night. Aiken leads Crisco in the contest to be the Democratic challenger facing U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers. But his 369-vote lead is not yet the final word: Some absentee and provisional ballots haven’t been counted, and if the margin narrows enough, Crisco could call for a recount.
Aiken presented a restrained optimism at Friday’s event, his first public appearance since thanking his supporters on election night.
Only a smattering of the students at the school for girls in grades nine through 12 are old enough to vote and, as Aiken pointed out, few of them are even old enough to remember him from his second-place finish on “American Idol” in 2003, which kicked off a successful recording and performing career.
Aiken said he didn’t think the votes could change enough to lead to a recount, but if it does, he’s confident it won’t change the outcome.
“Between now and then, I’m not losing any sleep,” he said.
The Democratic and Republican clubs prepared a number of questions ahead of time, and then opened it up to the student audience. Girls asked him:
• What is a day on the campaign trail like? (Unpredictable.)
• What motivated him to run? (Speaking up for the voiceless.)
• How did it feel to vote for himself? (Surreal.)
• Will he run for higher office? (No.)
• Does he take offense at the news media? (He’s “challenged” by them.)
Aiken congratulated the students for taking an interest in politics at a young age. He encouraged them to pay attention.
“There are things being done today in Raleigh and Washington and the capital of whatever state you’re from that will affect you,” he told them. “You need to be ready as soon as you turn 18.”
Jarvis: 919-829-4576; Twitter: @CraigJ_NandO