Clay Aiken Wins Congressional Nomination Because Primary Opponent Suddenly Dies

Former American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken was headed for a potential recount in a slim primary battle, but today he won the Democratic nomination for the 2nd Congressional District in North Carolina because his opponent died.

Keith Crisco, a textile entrepreneur, died in a fall at his home early Monday afternoon. He was 71 years old.

Aiken led the contest by 369 votes. The final vote counts were due tomorrow from the nine counties within the district, which could have pushed the vote margin between the two to less than one percent. If that happened, Crisco could have requested a recount until Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Crisco's campaign site was quickly taken down.

Aiken said in a statement that he would suspend all campaign activities for the time being "as we pray for his family and friends."

He stressed that he was “stunned and deeply saddened" by his opponent's death.

“A native of North Carolina, we are grateful for Mr. Crisco’s service to our state and his community through the years,” the North Carolina State Board of Elections said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Crisco family during this difficult time."

Crisco had indicated that he wouldn't give up the race easily versus Aiken. "I want the elections officials to have an opportunity to tally the votes and provide a report on their canvass activities to allow all the campaigns a chance to see the final numbers," he said in a recent statement stressing the "very tight" nature of the vote count. "This has been a great campaign and I am very appreciative of my supporters and the hard work that the county boards of elections are doing at this time."

Aiken will face Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.), who easily defeated talk-show host Frank Roche in her primary.

"I am deeply saddened by this sudden and painful tragedy and wish God's blessings for Keith's family through the coming days," Ellmers said in a statement. "His kindness and dedication to his principles were models we should all strive toward, and he will be dearly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with Keith's family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time."