Under the Dome

A snapshot from Clay Aiken’s campaign trail

On the campaign trail, Clay Aiken is taking more than a typical politician’s share of selfie photos with fans.

“I've learned it's a lot easier to do it myself than wait for someone to figure out how to operate the camera,” Aiken said, after grabbing the camera and taking a dozen-some photos with admirers (or the curious) at a recent Wake County Democratic Party fundraiser.

The former American Idol contestant plans to file his official candidacy papers at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Raleigh and launch what one of the most interesting campaigns for Congress in America. He’s fighting an uphill battle in a district that leans strongly to the Republican side and first must win a Democratic primary against Keith Crisco, a former state commerce secretary.

The campaign of U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, the Republican incumbent, attacked Aiken from the start, suggesting he represented “San Francisco values.” But in an interview Aiken dismissed it, calling it “a little bit of a swipe from a clawless cat.”

In his speech to Wake Democrats, Aiken declared 2014 “a change year in North Carolina” and pressed the issue of education.

Asked after the speech how he would turn selfie photos into votes, he suggested his celebrity status would help his campaign. “I think a big issue for this campaign is making sure people pay attention to it,” he said. “And as we've had people pay attention to it, we've gotten a chance to talk about the issues important to me and things important to this district, and we've gotten a chance to talk about the record of the person who is in this seat now.”

Aiken said he is still adjusting to the shift to politics – “a different kind of busy” – and the Republican trackers following his every move, including at the Wake Democratic fundraising event.

At this point, an another admirer interrupted to greet him. His campaign trail will include more selfies to come.