Clay Aiken's main opponent in last week's Democratic primary for a U.S. House seat in North Carolina has died. The Courier-Tribune is reporting that businessman Keith Crisco was found dead at his home in Asheboro, with early information indicating he suffered injuries in a fall.
An employee at Crisco's textile company, Asheboro Elastics, confirmed the 71-year-old's death.
Crisco's political career included stints on the Asheboro City Council and he recently served as secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce under former Gov. Bev Perdue.
Earlier this year Crisco launched a campaign seeking the Democratic nomination in North Carolina's 2nd congressional district. He ran against Aiken, a former "American Idol" runner-up. The May 6 election was too close to call, with Aiken slightly ahead by 369 votes. Political strategist Brad Crone told the Raleigh News & Observer that plans were being made to concede the election to Aiken on Tuesday morning. "He worked really hard on the campaign," Crone said. "It's just shocking news."
On Twitter, Aiken made the following statement: "I am stunned and deeply saddened by Keith Crisco's death. He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant."
Aiken also said he would be suspending all campaign activities to "pray for [Crisco's] family and friends." The actor-singer-activist is now the presumptive challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers in November's election.
"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 on her House website. "His kindness and dedication to his principles were models we should all strive toward, and he will be dearly missed."