Former “American Idol” star Clay Aiken’s opponent in a North Carolina Democratic primary, Keith Crisco, has died. A spokesman from Crisco’s company, Asheboro Elastics, confirmed the 71-year-old businessman was found dead in his home Monday, according to the Associated Press. The spokesman said Crisco had suffered a fall but no other details were available.
Crisco had run against Aiken in the Democratic primary for a chance to challenge Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers for her seat in Congress representing the state’s 2nd District. A Washington Post blog reports that although results from last Tuesday’s primary showed Crisco trailed Aiken by 400 votes he had refused to concede the race until absentee ballots were counted.
Aiken said he was "suspending all campaign activities as we pray for his family and friends."
“Keith came from humble beginnings. 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,” Aiken said in a statement. “He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant. I was honored to know him.”
Crisco was born on a dairy farm in rural North Carolina and got a scholarship to study science at Pfeiffer University. He went from there to study for a master’s of business administration at Harvard. He served as North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue’s Commerce secretary and worked in President Richard Nixon’s Commerce Department.
Crisco founded Asheboro Elastics in 1986.
Spokesman for the state elections board, Josh Lawson, said that if absentee ballots in Crisco’s recent race make him the winner local Democrats would have to select a new nominee. If not, Aiken will move on to face Ellmer in the general election. The vote is expected to be certified Thursday.
Ellmer also praised Crisco in a statement.
"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. My thoughts and prayers are with Keith's family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time."