If American politics worked like "American Idol," Clay Aiken would compete for a seat in Congress by singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Instead, he will try to dazzle voters in the not-so dulcet tones of a political debate sponsored by the North Carolina Bankers Association. Aiken, a Democrat, is challenging Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers for North Carolina's 2nd District seat. The debate is scheduled to be held 11:30 a.m. Eastern on Monday and televised in the evening.
Aiken faces an uphill battle in a strongly conservative district. Ellmers captured the seat four years ago with strong support from the Tea Party. Mitt Romney carried the district in the 2012 presidential election.
Aiken trails Ellmers in most recent polls. But 11 years after competing for the "Idol" title, his political aspirations have rekindled his celebrity status.
It is what drove the association to pursue a debate sponsorship, according to Thad Woodard, the group's president and chief executive.
"The reason this one came about is because of its interest internationally, because of the celebrity of Clay Aiken," Woodard said.
The association originally wanted to get its logo on a debate between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and her Republican challenger, state Rep. Thom Tillis. When that did not work out, the group jumped on the opportunity to sponsor the 2nd District showdown, Woodard said.
Discussing the two candidates, Woodard said that Ellmers has been "very, very supportive" of the group's positions on financial services and banking policy. (The North Carolina Bankers Association has given money to her campaign through the American Bankers Association, an NCBA spokeswoman confirmed.)
"I don't have any doubt that she will be standing tall with us as she has always done," he said.
About the former "Idol" star, though, he sounded less certain. "It will be interesting to see where Aiken comes from [on the issues], because we just don't know," he said.
The Aiken and Ellmers campaigns did not respond to requests for comment.
Monday's debate will take place at the historic Pinehurt Resortthe site of the recent U.S. Open Championships. It will be followed by politicos and pop music fans alike.
Former "Idol" judges Paul Abdul and Simon Cowell are not expected to attend.