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"Thank you for being here," Aiken says, calmly swiveling in the confines to shake every hand."Thank you for running," the donors answer, their faces flushing, sweating more now. When he does give a brief speech an hour later under the vaulted ceiling of the formal living room, he outlines his thoughts on education, veterans' benefits, fracking, party divisiveness. Why don't our political leaders put forth their best ideas? If you brought your lunch to school, take a step forward.' It is chilling to watch it happen." Aiken takes a deep breath. We are fighting with everything we have." Aiken shakes his head apologetically, straightens his posture a notch. But if I get elected, I'll sing all you want."The crowd laughs, but it is clear they are disappointed.Aiken, thirty-five, adopts a modulated voice of nonthreatening enthusiasm, a technique he likely honed back in his camp-counselor days. The crowd listens intently, with palpable gratitude."If you own a restaurant and there is another restaurant across the street, you don't burn it down. All they do nowadays is try to win by making the other side lose." He concludes with a story about witnessing a Privilege Walk, a psychology exercise in which a group of people line up in the middle of a room, then step forward or backward on the basis of a series of questions."And they say, 'If you are a man, take a step forward. "The reason I'm running is because I want everybody to have the same shot. A white-haired man in a dress shirt and fitted pants pushes toward the exit, mumbling to a friend about twelve-term North Carolina congressman Bill Hefner: "Now, Bill, he'd close his events with a gospel number.(A 2012 stint on "If I sang on the trail, voters would think I was campaigning just to get attention.Or because I was bored," he observes as we snake through the back roads of Durham, nothing but stands of trees flanking the road for miles. I'm Lance Bass running for Congress."To be clear, Aiken is not bored.But the more salient truth is that Clayton Holmes Aiken was never constructed for modern celebrity.He was a natural introvert with a soft spot for kids who struggled, and if you'd asked him in middle school what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would have said a teacher or possibly Senator Terry Sanford. As governor, Sanford was also the first southern politician to fight conspicuously against segregation in the sixties.
As soon as he announced his official candidacy, team Ellmers warned voters that Aiken was "a performer whose political views more closely resemble those of San Francisco than Sanford." Aiken laughs at the tactic.
Aiken admits if Ellmers weren't in office, he probably wouldn't be running.
He says there are Republicans he admires, like John Mc Cain and most members of his own family.
In the four years since, the Michigan native has revealed herself to be a particularly flawed mouthpiece, calling President Obama Louis XIV; getting into a snit on Anderson Cooper, in which she accused him of being anti-Christian; and explaining at the start of her new election cycle that if men want to court the female vote, they need to "bring [the conversation] down to a woman's level.""My decision to run was a slow burn," Aiken explains, citing the fight over raising teachers' pay and the newly restrictive voter-ID laws as red flags.
"In many ways, I don't recognize my hometown anymore.
His younger brother is a former Marine; his cousin owns a local shooting range.