Former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken has likely cleared his first hurdle getting to Congress. But he's got a pretty rough road going forward.
Aiken is clinging to a slim lead in the Democratic primary for U.S. House in North Carolina's 2nd district. With all precincts reporting the results of Tuesday's election, Aiken led former state commerce secretary Keith Crisco by just 369 votes.
Assuming that lead holds up, Aiken, 35, will face GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers in the fall. And Aiken's semi-celebrity is only likely to carry him so far.
Aiken is running in a district that leans to the right. Mitt Romney won 57 percent of the vote there in 2012. The Piedmont district takes in Fort Bragg and Fayetteville, as well as suburbs and exurbs of Raleigh, the state capitol.
Ellmers overcame a 2014 tea part challenge to claim renomination. She's viewed as a rising start among the House GOP. The 2014 Almanac of American Politics writes that she's "among the rabid anti-Obama conservatives elected in 2010 but who has a more amiable relationship with her party leaders than others in the class."
"She has been an ally of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and is frequently seen at press conferences alongside the Republican leadership. She supported the leadership's sweeping "cut, cap, and balance" bill that would, among other things, implement a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced budget. But unlike some conservative deficit hawks, Ellmers did eventually support the Boehner-White House budget compromise, voting for less radical spending changes in order to raise the debt limit in August 2011."
Aiken rose to fame in 2003 by as the runner-up on the second season of "American Idol". He and the 2003 winner Ruben Studdard were both offered recording contracts by RCA Records.
Aiken's multi-platinum debut album "Measure of a Man" was released in October 2003. Aiken has released four more albums.
Aiken entered the congressional race in February. In a campaign video, he stressed his experience as a special education teacher and his working class roots, in which he commented "For most Americans there are no golden tickets, at least not like the kind you see on TV ... More families are struggling today than at any time in our history and here in North Carolina we've suffered more than our share of pain".