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's emphasizing issues that affect voters. He cited the debt many college students face upon graduation. Aiken also said the unemployment rate is too high for veterans.

He says better funding and improvements are needed in the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is facing accusations of treatment delays for veterans.

Aiken faces incumbent Republican Renee Ellmers in November.