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Fayetteville Observer - Keith Crisco, Clay Aiken's opponent in primary, dies in accident

May 12, 2014
In The News

ASHEBORO - The North Carolina entrepreneur who was locked in a too-close-to-call Democratic Party primary with former "American Idol" singer Clay Aiken died Monday, said the president of the textile company he founded.

Keith Crisco, 71, died from "some type of fall" at his home, according to Robert Lawson, president of AEC Narrow Fabrics.

Crisco's sons, who work for the company, told Lawson about their dad's death.

It wasn't immediately clear what will happen in the Democratic primary. Fewer than 400 votes separated Crisco and Aiken, who was leading, after the contest last Tuesday. The spokesman and the executive director of the State Board of Elections did not return messages.

The winner 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. Crisco was born to a Republican family on a dairy farm and earned an MBA from Harvard University. He spent a year in President Richard Nixon's Commerce Department and had a career in textile manufacturing.

"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."

REACTION ON CRISCO'S PASSING

The following officials released statements on Crisco's death:

Clay Aiken: "I am stunned and deeply saddened by Keith Crisco's death. 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. He was a gentleman, a good and honorable man and an extraordinary public servant. I was honored to know him. I am suspending all campaign activities as we pray for his family and friends."

N.C. Rep. David Price (District 4): "Since we met during my first campaign in 1986, I have come to know Keith Crisco as a friend, a business leader and an outstanding public servant. As Secretary of Commerce, Keith worked tirelessly, during the worst economic downturn in decades, to put North Carolina on the path to recovery and to increase economic opportunity for all of her people. He cared deeply about our state, and he was seeking to continue serving his fellow Tar Heels by running for Congress. My wife Lisa and I are deeply saddened to learn of his passing, and our thoughts are with his family."

North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller: "I got to know Secretary Crisco when Governor Perdue appointed him to be her Secretary of Commerce. Keith was a brilliant problem solver who liked to make good, solid public policy. He would have made a great Congressman and I know he felt strongly that the Second Congressional District needed new leadership in Washington. The Democratic family and North Carolina has lost a strong leader and our condolences go out to the Crisco family and community."

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan: "I am shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of Keith Crisco, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Jane, and his entire family, who have suffered a terrible loss. I had the distinct privilege of working with Keith for many years and I was honored to call him a friend. Keith was a savvy businessman, a passionate public servant and a champion for economic development, but more than that, he was kind. Keith's inherent kindness was evident to everyone he met, and he dedicated his life to making North Carolina a better place to live for everyone. While he worked tirelessly to bring good jobs to our state, he stood up for education, for our seniors and the most vulnerable among us - always pushing to make North Carolina a little stronger and a little better. Our state is undoubtedly better and stronger because of Keith Crisco's service."

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr: "Brooke and I were shocked to hear the news of Keith Crisco's untimely death. I considered Keith a close, personal friend and I know how much he cared for the state of North Carolina. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Keith's family at this difficult time."

North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Claude Pope: "We are incredibly shocked and saddened to hear about Keith Crisco's sudden passing. Keith was an accomplished businessman and public servant with a sterling reputation and a tremendous amount of respect from North Carolinians across the partisan spectrum. Keith, like my father, served the state as Commerce Secretary with dignity and humility, and also like my father, passed away well before his time. Keith's family is in our thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time."

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson (District 8): "I am very saddened to hear of the passing of Keith Crisco. Mr. Crisco was a dedicated public servant to the State of North Carolina and he will be greatly missed. Renee and I send our thoughts and prayers to his family and loved ones during this difficult time."