Clay Aiken on the campaign trail from a ‘The Runner-Up’ film still. Photo Credit: Esquire Network

RALEIGH, N.C. — Clay Aiken, who ran against Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers for a congressional bid in 2014, is the centerpiece of a new documentary set to premiere on Esquire Network in April.

“The Runner-Up” tells the inside story of his campaign as a gay Democrat from the South. It was executive produced by Jonathan and Simon Chinn and Mitchell Tanen for Lightbox.

Esquire said that it was an exclusive, all-access look at one of the most unique political campaigns of the 2014 mid-term elections — the improbable congressional run of the “American Idol” star, highlighting the perspective of someone who was new to the campaign scene and the challenges he encountered. Taking him as a serious contender and not “simply a reality TV star” topped Aiken’s struggles.

Chinn told the Television Critics Association during its recent tour that it was done with a small crew, usually three people with a single camera and “unfettered access,” Broadcasting & Cable reported. He also added, “Clay Aiken the candidate is probably somebody 99% of the public has not seen. I think you see a different side of Clay.”

The publication also shared that Aiken, who was present for the panel, learned considerably from the experience. He felt that he would not change a thing about how the campaign was run. He stuck to the issues, ran an honest race and stayed true to himself.

therunnerup_esquire_promo_combo“A few days before ‘American Idol’ runner-up Clay Aiken lost the November election, Bill Maher slammed the singer’s North Carolina congressional campaign because the openly gay candidate said that gay marriage ‘isn’t an issue that is really on the radar’ for his constituents,” Deadline Hollywood reported.

The issue surfaced during the TCA tour, nonetheless. Deadline Hollywood also reported that Aiken defended his campaign and never “distanced” himself from “the gay marriage issue.” He said he had been vocal about LGBT issues since he came out.

Chinn indicated that Aiken’s “celebrity” and “an openly gay candidate in the South” were “a couple of the myriad reasons this was a fascinating race.”

As to whether he has plans for being involved in the political arena again, he said, “I don’t think what I tried to do I am finished being able to do. I’m not sure what the path is any more than I did on Nov. 5.”

Deadline Hollywood also reported that “Aiken said he spoke to Rosie O’Donnell, who encouraged him to use his celebrity while he has it. … ‘Listen, we are all waiting for obscurity.’”

Aiken said he’d “like to find a way to focus on veterans issues and homelessness in North Carolina.”

TCA represents more than 200 professional journalists who cover television for publications across the U.S. and Canada. Their annual awards bestow honors on shows and personalities in an assortment of categories including those from the LGBT community and productions. : :


Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.

7 replies on “After campaign loss, Aiken to feature in network documentary”

  1. Clay Aiken has been helping disabled children since he was a teenager and continues to do so with the project he founded.

    Clay Aiken is a fine young man and the world could use a lot more people like him.

  2. I’ve known Clay Aiken since he first appeared on American Idol. His fans in New Jersey formed a fan group and have supported him by having cd release parties before each album came out and traveling to all his concerts , plays and have supported his foundation for disabled children and traveling to his annual Gala each year in support of his charitable work. The same goes for his campaign for Congtess. We had a fundraiser for him and traveled to others. We know what a dedicated and caring human being is, and his passion in life is for helping children with disabilities to be included in activities with children without disabilities, to help military veterans and their families and to help improve education in his he state. He would be a phenomenal public servant in whatever capacity, and we will follow him and support him always. The people of Notth Carolina missed out on having this amazing man represent the issues they care about, and I pray that he has another opportunity to use his voice the way he was meant to. Can’t wait to see “runner up”!!!!!

  3. My comments were not made in error. They were made because of my feelings about LGBT rights and my hate for homophobia. I have since been called a moron for my posts and although I stand by what I said, I wish to retract any comments made on this article. This is not being done by me willingly but as a request that has been made. Thank you.

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