Clay Aiken, the "American Idol" alumnus seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., launched his first campaign ad on Tuesday.
The ad, launched two weeks before North Carolina's May 6 primary, spotlights his tough childhood and his work helping children with special needs. Aiken similarly spotlighted those elements of his biography in a video he released in February to announce his candidacy.
"I'm running for Congress, and I approve this message because every child deserves a chance, but too many in Washington are letting them down," Aiken says in the new ad.
Aiken is running against two other Democrats in the primary: former North Carolina Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and mental health counselor Toni Morris. If no candidate wins at least 40 percent of the vote in the primary, there will be a runoff on July 15.
Crisco launched his own ad on Tuesday, undermining Aiken's claim that he's interested in helping special needs children. Crisco's ad notes that Aiken skipped several meetings of the Presidential Commission for People With Intellectual Disabilities, a commission to which Aiken was appointed to by then-President George W. Bush.
"No-show Clay: If he's too busy for the president and special needs children, how can we count on Clay?" a narrator says in the ad.
Roll Call reports that Aiken is already responding to the attack, telling supporters in a fundraising email that Crisco's campaign is "twisting the facts."
Whoever wins the Democratic primary in the second district will have an uphill battle in the general election: Ellmers, a second-term Republican who was ushered into Congress in 2010, was re-elected with 56 percent of the vote in 2012, and her district tilts strongly to the right.
"This district would be difficult for any Democrat to win," explained CBS News Election Director Anthony Salvanto. "It's a heavily Republican district. President Obama got just 42 percent of the vote there in 2012."