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Clay Aiken clings to slim lead in N.C. primary, but opponent doesn’t give up

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Former American Idol star Clay Aiken clung to a slim lead Wednesday afternoon in the Democratic primary for U.S. House in North Carolina's 2nd district. But with some ballots still outstanding, his opponent wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet.

With all precincts reporting the results of Tuesday's election, Aiken led former state commerce secretary Keith Crisco by just 369 votes. A third candidate, Toni Morris, lagged behind the two.

While Aiken's margin is outside the one percent threshold that would trigger a recount, he was not declared the victor yet. State elections board spokesman Josh Lawson said provisional ballots, while few in number, are still being tallied. Absentee ballots postmarked by election day that arrive by Friday will also be counted, he said. Military absentee ballots that arrive by Monday will be tallied, too.

Crisco released a statement Wednesday saying he was not yet ready to concede.

"This election is still very tight," he said. "I want the elections' officials to have an opportunity to tally the votes and provide a report on their canvass activities to allow all the campaigns a chance to see the final numbers. This has been a great campaign and I am very appreciative of my supporters and the hard work that the county boards of elections are doing at this time."

Crisco's campaign said it would make further statements once a canvass of the vote was completed on Thursday.

Aiken's percentage sits just above 40 -- the threshold candidates must cross to avoid a runoff in the state. Crisco sits just under 40 percent, while Morris received just under 20 percent of the vote.

Appearing before supporters late Tuesday night, Aiken said he felt "incredibly comfortable."

Aiken was outspent by Crisco over the airwaves during the primary. Either Democrat would begin the general election as a sizable underdog to Rep. Renee Ellmers (R) in a district that leans  to the right. Mitt Romney won 57 percent of the vote there in 2012.

Updated on 5/7 at 4:00 p.m.

Related: Senate race in North Carolina sets the stage for 2016 presidential competition


Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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