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'American Idol' star Clay Aiken wins primary after rival dies in 'freak accident'

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American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken has won the Democratic Party’s nomination for Congress in North Carolina. Aiken’s opponent, Keith Crisco, was found dead in his home Monday after a fall. Crisco was 71.

“I am stunned and deeply saddened by Keith Crisco’s death,” Aiken said in a statement Monday. “Keith came from humble beginnings. No matter how high he rose—to Harvard, to the White House and to the Governor’s Cabinet—he never forgot where he came from. He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant. I was honored to know him. I am suspending all campaign activities as we pray for his family and friends.”

Hours before his death, Crisco had decided to concede the race for the nomination to Aiken after absentee votes in two key counties were counted, campaign manager Christine Botta told the Associated Press. “We know that he fell in the threshold as he was going in his house,” said Asheboro city manager John Ogburn. “It was just a total freak accident,” said Brad Cone, a Raleigh political consultant and friend of Crisco’s. “The truth is stranger than fiction.”

Aiken is running against the incumbent Republican, Rep. Renee Ellmers, who has represented North Carolina’s socially conservative Second District since 2011. She unseated seven-term Democratic representative Bob Etheridge in the 2010 elections following a recount—Ellmers defeated Etheridge by 1,489 votes. According to the AP, Aiken, who is openly gay, says that the only people who asked about his orientation during the primary were reporters.

During the October government shutdown, Ellmers initially refused to forego her paycheck, though she ultimately relented. Also during the shutdown, it was announced that Clay Aiken would be appearing on Law and Order: SVU.

H/T AP | Image via Bill Selak/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)