"American Idol" singer Clay Aiken to run for Congress in North Carolina

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Wed Feb 5, 2014 8:17am EST

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Feb 5 (Reuters) - Former "American Idol" singer Clay Aiken said on Wednesday he will run for U.S. Congress as a Democrat in his home state of North Carolina, where he once worked as a special education teacher.

Aiken, 35, is likely to face a tough battle in his efforts to unseat Republican Representative Renee Ellmers in the state's conservative 2nd congressional district.

In a video on his campaign website, Aiken described past challenges he had faced after his mother left his abusive father and worked hard to provide what little she could.

He filmed the video in a small North Carolina home where he said he and his mother slept for months on a mattress in a friend's living room when he was young.

He noted his work teaching children with autism and his international travels with aid organization UNICEF, bookends to his runner-up finish in 2003 on the "American Idol" television talent show that thrust him into the national spotlight.

"If you only know the part of my story that begins with a golden ticket, something that still seems unbelievable to me even to this day, you might wonder what would qualify me to run," Aiken said.

He became one of the more successful "American Idol" contestants, releasing solo albums and appearing on Broadway in the spoof musical "Monty Python's Spamalot."

In 2008, Aiken acknowledged he is gay and said he decided to come out after becoming a father that year. (Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by James Dalgleish)