Aiken seeks to close money gap with Ellmers
Democratic congressional hopeful Clay Aiken hopes that he can become an idol of campaign supporters as he seeks to compete in donations against second-term Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-2nd.
Aiken, who made his fame 10 years ago on the TV singing competition “American Idol,” reported earlier this month that his campaign raised more than $450,000 in the second fundraising quarter from April 1-June 30. Aiken, who announced his first try for elected office earlier this year, has brought national attention to what otherwise would be a low-profile congressional race in a district covering a large part of Randolph County. The vocal artist and educator who lives in Cary is the most well-recognized figure in the country this year challenging for a congressional seat.
The Aiken campaign reports that it has raised more than $580,000 from upward of 6,000 individual contributions since Aiken announced his candidacy Feb. 5.
“Americans and North Carolina voters are tired of a do-nothing Congress, and our campaign’s strong fundraising quarter shows that people are encouraged by Clay’s message of working across party lines to pass meaningful legislation to get our country moving again,” said Campaign Manager Ellen Zeng.
But Aiken still trails Ellmers in total campaign money with less than four months before voters settle the race in the Nov. 4 general election.
Ellmers, who was swept into office in 2010 as part of the conservative Tea Party wave, received $1.3 million through June 30, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Her campaign’s cash on hand for the upcoming stretch run of the campaign is $405,039.
Aiken’s campaign reports to the FEC that it received $686,813 through June 30, with $209,145 in cash on hand.
While the 2nd Congressional District has nearly the same number of Democratic and Republican registered voters, political analysts say it leans conservative. Six years ago, for example, the district went 56 percent for Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to 43 percent for Democratic President Barack Obama, with 1 percent Libertarian, though Obama carried the state in 2008.
Two years ago, Ellmers won her first re-election bid against Democratic challenger Steve Wilkins with 56 percent of the vote.
During his campaign swings through the 2nd Congressional District, Aiken has made at least two stops in Asheboro. Randolph County is the western edge of the district that stretches to Wake and Cumberland counties.
Ellmers recently received national attention of her own — in political circles — over comments she made earlier this month that critics said marginalized women. In remarks about how the Republican Party can better reach female voters, Ellmers said that the conversation should "bring it down to a woman's level" and that "men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level."
In response to criticism about the remarks, Ellmers said that her statement was taken out of context for partisan reasons by liberals seeking to attack her.
On his website, Aiken made reference to the controversy as part of challenging Ellmers to debate him.
“Much has been said about the remarks Renee Ellmers made recently at a conservative women’s panel. She said her words were taken out of context. I’m not going to judge whether or not that’s true. But I am going to point out one thing she said — and that’s her apparent desire to have an ‘open conversation,’” Aiken said.
Aiken said an open conversation should involve a debate between him and Ellmers before voters.
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Ellmers’ remarks raise political eyebrows
U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-2nd, has received national attention in political circles this month for remarks she made two weeks ago about men and women in politics. Critics have said her reference to men speaking “on a much higher level” were demeaning to women, but Ellmers has said her remarks weren’t dismissive and taken out of context.
Here’s a transcript of part of her remarks based on an audio recording:
“Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. You know, one of the things that has always been one of my frustrations — and I speak about this all the time – many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and, you know, how the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that. ...
“The biggest need that women have is more time. We all want more time in our lives. More time in the morning to get ready. More time in the evening to spend time with our families. All of these things – more time to move up that career path. It’s about time. And we have to make sure that women understand that we understand that. We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life – that’s the way to go.”