Clay Aiken's primary opponent dies at his home

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Clay Aiken's primary opponent dies at his home
Clay Aiken speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in Holly Springs, N.C., Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Aiken is seeking the Democratic nomination for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
This photo provided by the campaign of Keith Crisco shows Crisco who is a candidate in the Democratic Party primary in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District. (AP Photo/Campaign of Keith Crisco)
I have always loved this pic, and wondered what was being said. Clay Aiken was always respectful of Keith Crisco http://t.co/4t3qkhGJH5
Clay Aiken, right, speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in Holly Springs, N.C., Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Aiken is seeking the Democratic nomination for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Keith Crisco Dies' Congressional Opponent of Clay Aiken Was 71 Years Old - http://t.co/eDeSPektWp http://t.co/Qp8n2eBkxh
Singer Clay Aiken, seen in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, will officially announce his campaign for Congress on Wednesday, injecting a nationally known personality into what has been a quiet Democratic primary to produce a challenger to U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers. (Corey Lowenstein/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
Keith Crisco, Congressional Opponent To @ClayAiken, Dies Suddenly In Fall http://t.co/PBzpoJKyIN http://t.co/wh1eoJbEuo
#ClayAiken 'stunned' by news of Keith Crisco's death, stops campaign operations. http://t.co/3nDlQJZ7yx #ncpol http://t.co/EJ4QP9kHSW
Clay Aiken, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina, arrives to vote in Cary, N.C., on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
.@ClayAiken on Keith Crisco's death: "I am suspending all campaign activities as we pray" » http://t.co/nHV0B9rkv7 http://t.co/K1YrieE84f
Clay Aiken, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina, gets his ballot to vote in Cary, N.C., on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
.@clayaiken opponent Keith Crisco dead, according to reports: http://t.co/mJEXFJh0K2 #NCPol http://t.co/M4TfSwnsIa
NC congressional race between #AmericnaIdol runner up, @clayaiken and business man, Keith Crisco too close to call. http://t.co/TFNbzotiJm
Clay Aiken, center, meets with scheduler Molly Volker and adviser Gary Pearce in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, as the singer gears up for his campaign for U.S. Congress in the Democratic primary. (Corey Lowenstein/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
2nd District Democratic candidate Keith Crisco has arrived in downtown Asheboro http://t.co/pS6EknBL81
Clay Aiken, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina, turns in his ballot as election official Rose Waddell watches in Cary, N.C., on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images)
Clay Aiken's Opponent in Congressional Race, Keith Crisco, Dies http://t.co/aaMViDFKe3 #UniteBlue wow! http://t.co/bSJvSPzCkX
Clay Aiken speaks to supporters during an election night watch party in Holly Springs, N.C., Tuesday, May 6, 2014. Aiken is seeking the Democratic nomination for North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
FILE - In this March 28, 2009 file photo, singer Clay Aiken attends the 20th Annual Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Awards in New York. Aiken said Wednesday Feb. 5, 2014 he'll seek the Democratic nomination for the seat currently held by Rep. Renee Ellmers. The 35-year-old Aiken is expected to face former state commerce secretary Keith Crisco of Asheboro and licensed professional counselor Toni Morris of Fayetteville in the Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Former "American Idol" singer Clay Aiken appeared headed toward a fall showdown for a congressional seat after the death of the entrepreneur who trailed him narrowly in a too-close-to-call Democratic primary.

Keith Crisco, 71, died Monday after an accidental fall at his home in Asheboro, about 65 miles west of Raleigh, according to a statement from his family.

"He was a remarkable man with a tremendous dedication to his family and to public service," the statement said.

Clay Aiken's Primary Opponent Dies in Accident

Aiken was leading Crisco by fewer than 400 votes after the contest last Tuesday. If enough new votes turn up to make Crisco the winner, local Democrats will select a new nominee, state elections board spokesman Josh Lawson said. If not, Aiken will be the nominee, he said. The vote is expected to be certified Thursday.

The nominee will face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in November in the GOP-leaning 2nd Congressional District.

Crisco had been North Carolina's top business recruiter for four years under former Gov. Beverly Perdue, who left office in 2013.

"I asked him to ... be Commerce secretary during the worst economic times since the Great Depression," Perdue said in a statement. "He accepted that responsibility without hesitation because he loved this state and wanted to help when times were hard."

Crisco was born to a Republican family on a Stanly County dairy farm in North Carolina, he said in an interview last month.

"I did pull corn. I did plow. I did milk cows. I did do all the things you do on a small farm," Crisco said.

He got a scholarship to study science at the county's Pfeiffer University. There, he met his wife and her family of yellow-dog Democrats, and Crisco said he converted.

He went to Harvard University to study for a master's of business administration, which he received in 1968, then returned to North Carolina to work for textile giant Burlington Industries. In the early 1970s, Crisco was selected as a White House Fellow, and he spent a year in President Richard Nixon's Commerce Department.

In 1986, Crisco and partners formed Asheboro Elastics to produce elastics for home furnishings and medical and industrial uses. He joked that the company's mission was to "hold your underwear up." The company was renamed AEC Narrow Fabrics and is now run by hired executives, his sons and a son-in-law.

Crisco's business success allowed him to lend more than $500,000 to his campaign against Aiken, according to financial statements filed last month.

"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," Aiken said in a statement. "He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant. I was honored to know him."

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