Clay Aiken’s primary race for Congress remained too close to call Wednesday afternoon, nearly 24 hours after North Carolina voters finished casting their ballots, but the out former American Idol runner-up was holding on to a slim lead.
Aiken was leading his closest competitor, businessman Keith Crisco, by fewer than 400 votes, according to reports from several news outlets. A third candidate, Toni Morris, was far behind the two in the race for the Democratic nomination in North Carolina’s Second Congressional District.
Aiken’s lead was big enough — more than 1 percent of votes cast — so as not to trigger an automatic recount, The Washington Post notes, and his percentage of the vote was enough to let him avoid a runoff. Under North Carolina law, if no candidate receives at least 40 percent of the vote in a given race, the top two candidates will compete in a runoff. Aiken had slightly more than 40 percent as the count stood this afternoon.
However, the state elections board is still counting provisional ballots, and it will count absentee ballots postmarked on Election Day if they arrive by Friday, plus military ballots that arrive by Monday, board spokesman Josh Lawson told the Post.
Crisco issued a statement saying he was not ready to concede the election and said he would make further comments Thursday. Aiken posted a cautiously optimistic comment on his campaign’s Facebook page this afternoon, saying in part, “This was a very close contest, and as we continue to count the votes, we are more and more excited about our campaign’s ability to move forward and be victorious in November.”
The winner of the Second District Democratic primary will face incumbent Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers in November. Ellmers, a Tea Party favorite first elected in 2010, defeated Frank Roche in the Republican primary.
In the Democratic primary for Congress from North Carolina’s 12th District, another gay candidate, Marcus Brandon, finished out of the running. Brandon, a state representative, was the first openly gay African-American elected to a state office in North Carolina, and he was hoping to become the first openly gay African-American in Congress. He came in fourth in his race with just 8 percent of the vote, reports the Greensboro News & Record. The victor, Alma Adams, will be up against Republican primary winner Vince Coakley in the November race to replace Democratic congressman Mel Watt, who resigned to become head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.