Clay Aiken in a campaign video still. (Source: YouTube)
Clay Aiken in a campaign video still. (Source: YouTube)

RALEIGH, N.C. — Former “American Idol” and Democratic congressional candidate Clay Aiken won barely enough to avoid a run-off in his primary election on Tuesday, but his opponent, Keith Crisco, isn’t quite ready to give up on his chance to represent the 2nd Congressional District.

Aiken carried 40.8 percent of the vote to Crisco’s 39.5 percent. The two are separated by just 369 votes. While that’s more than the one percent divide that would have triggered an automatic recount, Aiken hasn’t yet been declared the race’s winner.

Provisional ballots and absentee ballots not yet received must still be tallied, along with military absentee ballots due in on Monday, The Washington Post reported.

Crisco said Wednesday he’s not ready to concede.

“This election is still very tight,” Crisco said in a statement. “I want the elections’ officials to have an opportunity to tally the votes and provide a report on their canvass activities to allow all the campaigns a chance to see the final numbers. This has been a great campaign and I am very appreciative of my supporters and the hard work that the county boards of elections are doing at this time.”

If Aiken holds on to first place, he’ll face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers in November’s general election.

The race will lean Republican, but Ellmers hasn’t been the strongest incumbent candidate. She was challenged in her own Republican primary, garnering 59 percent to challenger Frank Roche’s 41 percent. Roche had portrayed himself to the right of Ellmers.

While Ellmers is likely to win the general election, a combination of Republican voter apathy toward her and an upswing in votes from Aiken’s celebrity status and name recognition could result in the slight potential to tip the scales.

And, if Aiken wins, he’ll be the first openly gay man elected to Congress from the South, a feat also attempted this cycle by current North Carolina House Rep. Marcus Brandon. He lost his 12th Congressional District Democratic primary, garnering just eight percent of the vote in a crowded field of seven candidates.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.