Clay Aiken is using his voice again — but it’s not for singing.
The former “American Idol” contestant, 43, announced Monday that he is making a second bid to represent North Carolina in Congress.
“As a loud and proud Democrat, I intend to use my voice to deliver real results for North Carolina families,” Aiken, a native of Raleigh, says in a video he shared on Twitter to kick off his campaign.
“For decades, North Carolina was actually the progressive beacon in the South,” Aiken says in the campaign video. “But then things changed, and the progressives lost power, and we started getting backwards-ass policies like the voter suppression bills and the bigoted bathroom bill.”
He adds that nowadays, the loudest political voices in his state “are white nationalists like this guy,” cutting to a clip of Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.). The video also shows images of other far-right U.S. representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).
“These folks are taking up all the oxygen in the room, and I’ve got to tell you, I am sick of it,” Aiken says.
In 2014, Aiken prevailed in the Democratic primary in his state’s 2nd District. But because he was a former pop star, openly gay and running in a conservative House district, he was defeated in the general election by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.).
This time, Aiken is running in the redrawn 6th District, The Washington Post reports. The district is more liberal than the one he ran for in 2014, and includes a lot of the territory currently represented by long-serving Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.), 81, who announced in October that he would not seek reelection.
In his campaign video, Aiken acknowledges that he’s well aware that his shift from performer to politician may be a bit daunting for some voters.
“A lot can happen in 20 years,” he notes, pointing out that when he was runner-up on “American Idol” in 2003, there were no smartphones, social media was in its infancy, and Barack Obama was still relatively unknown.
Aiken says a lot has changed for him, too, since he moved back to North Carolina, came out and became a father.
“These days, my life looks a lot more like yours than Justin Bieber’s, I can promise you,” he says. “But one thing that has never changed for me is how much I love my home state.”
“North Carolina is the place where I discovered first that I had a voice,” he continues. “And that it’s a voice that could be used for more than singing.”
If elected, Aiken said, he would be the South’s first gay congressman: “If the loudest and most hateful voices think they’re going to speak for us, just tell them I’m warming up the ’ole vocal cords.”