Clay Aiken wins NC Dem congressional primary

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Clay Aiken wins NC Dem congressional primary
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) -- "American Idol" singer Clay Aiken won what had been a hotly contested Democratic primary for a North Carolina congressional seat according to a final, unofficial vote count that was posted Tuesday, a day after the accidental death of his closest rival.

Aiken will face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in November in the GOP-leaning district where Mitt Romney won nearly six in 10 votes in 2012. Ellmers won by 56 percent that year and is looking for a third term. The county-by-county tally of the 2nd Congressional District race posted by the state Tuesday confirmed Aiken got more than 40 percent of the vote needed to win the three-candidate race.

On Monday, second-place finisher Keith Crisco, 71, died after falling at his home. Hours earlier, campaign manager Christine Botta said they had counted the absentee votes in two key counties, forcing Crisco to acknowledge defeat. He had decided to concede his loss to Aiken on Tuesday, she said.

"Keith and I talked in detail about the fact that the votes weren't there," Botta said.

Aiken and Crisco each picked up a handful of votes after the last of the absentee ballots returned by a Monday deadline were counted, according to results on the State Board of Elections website.

The results will become official after review by the state elections board. That meeting isn't yet set, Elections board spokesman Joshua Lawson said, but is tentatively scheduled for May 22.

Aiken issued a statement of regret at Crisco's death on Monday and said he was suspending campaign activities for a time. Aiken's campaign website was black but for that statement on Tuesday. Aiken's campaign declined to comment Tuesday on his victory because of the decision to suspend campaign efforts, spokeswoman Tucker Middleton said in an email.

Spokesmen for Ellmers did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

Crisco slipped and fell while stepping through the front door of his home in Asheboro, about 65 miles west of Raleigh.

"We know that he fell in the threshold as he was going in his house," said Asheboro city manager John Ogburn, who spoke with rescue workers sent to the scene and has known Crisco for more than a decade.

"It was just a total freak accident," said Brad Crone, a Raleigh political consultant and friend who discussed Crisco's concession decision with the candidate about two hours before his death. "The truth is stranger than fiction."

Crisco's funeral was scheduled for Friday.

Aiken is an openly gay man in a district populated with many socially conservative, evangelical Christians. He said that during the primary he was never asked about his orientation except by reporters.

Ellmers, a 50-year-old nurse from Dunn, rode the tea party wave that shook up Congress in 2010. But she was attacked this year by fellow conservatives for backing a formula on immigration that the GOP House leadership advanced in January. That plan would allow an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally to stay in the country if they paid a fine but would not allow them to qualify for citizenship.

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