Candidate runner-up? Former American Idol contestant Clay Aiken has announced his bid for Congress. Aiken, a Democrat who is openly gay, will run for the House seat in North Carolina now held by Republican Renee Ellmers, who serves as chairwoman of the Republican Women’s Policy Committee. Ellmers took the seat in what was once a solid Democratic district in 2010. While Aiken’s candidacy is drawing a lot of attention because of his quasi-celebrity status—he came in second in the television talent show’s 2003 season but never had a very successful musical career—at least two other Democrats have already announced their intention to seek their party’s nomination in the primary (one candidate plans to withdraw from the race and endorse Aiken). And Ellmers doesn’t seem too worried about her new crooning challenger. “As we know, he doesn’t always fare that well,” she said during a radio interview yesterday. “He was runner-up.”
Not running after all. In other news from the quasi-celebrity-turned-would-be-politician beat, Sandra Fluke now says she’s not running for U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman’s seat in California. Instead, she’s going to run for the state Senate. “While I strongly considered offering my candidacy for Congress, I feel there is better way for me to advance the causes that are important to our community,” Fluke said today. The district she hopes to represent includes West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. Fluke earned the dubious title of women’s rights activist when she lobbied Congress, while still a Georgetown law student, to include contraceptive coverage in Obamacare. Religious organizations, social service agencies, and universities, along with businesses owned by Christians, are fighting the government’s demand they provide coverage for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs in their employee health policies. The cases are headed for the U.S. Supreme Court in what many believe will be the most significant religious liberty appeal in decades.
Another cheating scandal. The Navy’s top brass are investigating allegations that about one-fifth of its trainers for nuclear power reactor operators cheated on a proficiency exam. It’s the second investigation in the last few months involving the nation’s nuclear defense system. An Air Force investigation implicated almost 100 officers responsible for land-based nuclear missiles. The Navy scandal involves instructors at a nuclear propulsion school in Charleston, S.C., where trainers use two nuclear reactors to prepare sailors for duty aboard submarines and aircraft carriers with onboard reactors. The instructors involved do not work with any weapons systems. Still, we are talking about nuclear material here, and the Navy’s commanders aren’t pleased, to say the least. “To say I am disappointed would be an understatement,” Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, said. “We expect more from our sailors—especially our senior sailors.”
No luck this time. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said yesterday he would not march in the city’s upcoming St. Patrick’s Day parade because organizers do not allow openly gay participants. Although de Blasio will not march, he will not prevent uniformed police officers from participating in the parade on Fifth Avenue. New York’s LGBT community has protested the parade for years, especially the widespread police involvement, and other politicians have boycotted before. But de Blasio is the first mayor to refuse to take part.
All out of smokes. National pharmacy chain CVS announced today it will stop selling tobacco products in its stores. The company expects to lose $2 billion in annual sales but says the move brings it in line with a renewed emphasis on encouraging customers to live healthy lifestyles. President Barack Obama, a former smoker, hailed the news, saying the company was setting a “powerful example.”