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Former 'Idol' Star Aiken Running for Congress

<p>Former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken is officially running for Congress.</p>
Image: The Celebrity Apprentice
Former "American Idol" contestant Clay Aiken is running for Congress in North Carolina.Mitch Haaseth / NBC

Former "American Idol" star Clay Aiken is officially running for Congress.

Aiken made official on Wednesday an upstart bid to unseat second-term Rep. Renee Ellmers in a heavily Republican district in North Carolina.

"So much of who I am was shaped in those early years," Aiken said in a video announcing his candidacy, in which he recounted a difficult childhood. "And it's part of why I decided to run for Congress."

"For most Americans, there are no golden tickets -- at least not like the kind you see on TV," he said. "More folks are struggling today than at any time in our history, and here in North Carolina, we've more than our share of pain."

In his launch video, Aiken stressed his work as a special education teacher, and sought to cast himself as a centrist by touting some work in the Bush administration, and saying that Ellmers "went to Washington with good intentions."

But Aiken, who is running as a Democrat, also savaged Ellmers's votes with fellow Republicans to shut down the government last fall and supporting "massive cuts for the military."

"This is what's wrong with Washington -- that a congresswoman would go there and vote against the best interests of North Carolina military families, and those who depend on the military for their jobs," Aiken said. "To do it when you know it's wrong is even worse."

Aiken still faces a tough challenge in unseating Ellmers, a favorite of the Republican leadership in the House, in a district where the second-term congresswoman won re-election by a 14-point margin in 2012.