“American Idol” candidate Clay Aiken devoted a good-sized chunk of the panel for the upcoming Esquire Channel documentary series “The Runner-Up” to responding to criticism that Bill Maher had leveled at Aiken’s failed Congressional campaign last year, saying that he’s not overly concerned about Maher’s opinion, and that, while he supports gay marriage, there are many other issues to run on.
“I ran for Congress not because of same sex marriage,” Aiken said. “Am I a gay man? Yes. Would I like same sex marriage to be legalized around the country? Yes. But, are there dozens of other issues that are just as important and to other people more important? Certainly. So, I ran for Congress for that purpose.”
Maher took issue with Aiken’s bid for the second congressional district seat in North Carolina last year on a number of topics including his decision not to emphasize same-sex marriage in his platform.
During the Television Critics Association press tour panel in Pasadena, Aiken stressed that he was running with the constituency in mind, not Maher.
“I didn’t run with Bill Maher as a constituent, so I’m less concerned about his opinion than you might think I would be,” Aiken said. “That said, I think that you can only judge a campaign if you know what’s going on in the area. I grew up in North Carolina … so I understand the area; I understand the issues that are important to people.”
Aiken went on to take exception with anyone who might suggest that he should emphasize gay issues, because of his sexuality.
“My position on same sex marriage, my position on gay issues, has been on the forefront since I came out,” Aiken asserted. “To imply that, as a gay man, I have to speak to gay issues only, or more than anything else, would be the same as implying that a Jewish candidate should only speak up for Jewish constituents, or that a black candidate should only speak up for black constituents.”
During the panel, Aiken also decried the gerrymandering of congressional districts, noting that the district he ran in was so gerrymandered that it resembled an amoeba.
“One of the things that I hope we were able to shed some light on … is the political climate in the country now, and how so many of the districts that we have in this country are gerrymandered beyond recognition,” Aiken said. “We’ve gerrymandered districts in a way that have not only made seats less winnable for people, but they’ve allowed our country to become so polarized because the only people who can win are people who play to the far fringes.”
“The Runner-Up” premieres on the Esquire Network in April.