Under the Dome

Crisco: 'I'm still in,' but welcomes Aiken to the race

Clay Aiken’s entry into the Democratic primary for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, the Republican from Dunn, prompted one candidate to step aside and support Aiken. But not the other main contender.

Keith Crisco said Wednesday he’s still in.

“I welcome Mr. Aiken to the race for North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District,” Crisco said in a statement his campaign staff released. “I look forward to a vigorous discussion about who is the most qualified person to represent the people of the second district and win in November.”

Crisco, an Asheboro businessman and former state commerce secretary, said he has been “overwhelmed and appreciative of the amount of support I have received from throughout the district.”

Crisco began his campaign in early January, but started building a fund at the end of last year. His federal campaign finance report shows he has received $100,000, of which $95,000 was a loan to himself.

Houston Barnes, a Durham lawyer, dropped out to support Aiken. He was the first candidate in the Democratic primary race – starting last October – and was setting a brisk pace for fundraising. Half of the $63,000 his campaign has received came from more than 200 donors.

Barnes said he was stepping aside to avoid a primary that might damage the winning candidate, and made it clear he’ll be running for office again down the road.

Toni Morris, a Fayetteville counselor, is also running but has yet to file a finance report. She lost in the 2012 primary for the same seat.

Crisco says he will campaign on creating jobs and improving the economy.