|By Paige Rentz, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The Democratic challenger made a splash in February when he initially entered the race and in an extremely close primary with former Secretary of State
The race has been run mostly on the ground, with the candidates making appearances at events and meeting at forums, including one televised debate full of jabs.
Ellmers has hosted roundtable discussions on issues such as mental health and medical cures, attended public events and appeared at party rallies. She even hosted a free concert with country music star
Aiken has toured the district, chatting with restaurant patrons when he stops for lunch, dropping in at football games and touring schools and local nonprofit agencies. He's finishing his campaign criss-crossing the district with a three-week bus tour to maximize his ability to meet residents.
Aiken outpaced Ellmers in third quarter fundraising, but the congresswoman enters the last weeks of the election with a much larger war chest topping
He has drawn monetary support almost exclusively from individual donors, both from
"For us in
For those who think Aiken's jump from entertainment to politics is a stark leap, he says it's a natural progression. After his sudden rise to fame in 2003 when he became runner-up on "American Idol," Aiken began the
"Over the past 11 years, I've been able to be an advocate because of the position that I'm in, and I want to use that position to advocate for more people, to speak up for more people who I don't think are having their voices heard."
Aiken has presented himself as a middle-of-the-road Democrat, quick to say he doesn't agree with every Democratic initiative, including gun control and education policy.
Aiken's top priority is improving the economy. He said he supports infrastructure improvements such as smart grid technology, broadband, or roads and bridges that will attract businesses and put people back to work right away.
Ellmers said priorities on
Ellmers agreed that some provisions of the Affordable Care Act are popular with the American people. But at the same time, the law has pitfalls for consumers, she said, such as not living up to the promise that they can keep their doctors and insurance plans.
"We've got to change those things for the American people," she said. "We've got to be able to ensure affordable health care for every American and take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, but there is a way to do it from a patient-centered perspective."
Ellmers said another priority is funding for research at the
Aiken also stressed the importance of veterans issues in a district with strong military connections. He said the federal government must do a better job supporting veterans' transition from active duty to civilian life. Without a better bridge between the
"Making that transition is where we lose so many of them, and it really should be embarrassing to us as a country that we don't do a better job of it," he said.
Veterans court programs like the one in
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