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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Congressional candidate Clay Aiken says voters in North Carolina are getting a different look at him from his American Idol background.

Aiken told NBC's Today show Tuesday that music has opened doors for him. But he says he has to overcome the singing fame to be considered as a candidate.

The Democrat denied his campaign has downplayed the fact that he supports gay marriage. Aiken is gay and says he is emphasizing issues that affect voters. He cites the debt that many college students face serious debt upon graduation. Aiken also says the unemployment rate is too high for veterans.

He says better funding and improvements are needed in the Department of Veterans Affairs. .

Aiken faces incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers in November.

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