Clay Aiken wins N.C. Democratic congressional primary

RALEIGH, N.C. - "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 not 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 said in a statement following Crisco's death Monday that he was "stunned and deeply saddened" and was suspending all campaign activities "as we pray for his family and friends."

"Keith came from humble beginnings," Aiken said. "No matter how high he rose - to Harvard, to the White House and to the Governor's Cabinet - he never forgot where he came from. He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant. I was honored to know him."

Ellmers released a statement Monday saying her thoughts and prayers are with Crisco's family and friends.

"I am deeply saddened by this sudden and painful tragedy and wish God's blessings for Keith's family through the coming days," she said. "His kindness and dedication to his principles were models we should all strive toward, and he will be dearly missed."

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