RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Former "American Idol" singer Clay Aiken praised the North Carolina entrepreneur who died as he trailed him in a too-close-to-call Democratic primary for a Congressional seat, saying Keith Crisco never forgot his humble beginnings.
Crisco, 71, died Monday after an accidental fall at his home in Asheboro, about 65 miles west of Raleigh, according to a statement from his family.
Aiken was leading Crisco by fewer than 400 votes after the contest last Tuesday.
"Keith came from humble beginnings. No matter how high he rose - to Harvard, to the White House and to the Governor's Cabinet - he never forgot where he came from," Aiken said in a statement. "He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant. I was honored to know him."
If enough new votes turn up to make Crisco the winner, local Democrats would select a new nominee, state elections board spokesman Josh Lawson said. If not, Aiken will be the nominee, he said. The vote is expected to be certified Thursday.
The nominee will face Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers in November in the GOP-leaning 2nd Congressional District.
Crisco had been North Carolina's top business recruiter for four years under former Gov. Beverly Perdue, who left office in 2013.
"I asked him to ... be Commerce secretary during the worst economic times since the Great Depression," Perdue said in a statement. "He accepted that responsibility without hesitation because he loved this state and wanted to help when times were hard."