Keith Crisco, Clay Aiken Primary Opponent, Dies In Accident

05/12/2014 at 05:15 PM EDT

Keith Crisco, Clay Aiken Primary Opponent, Dies In Accident
Clay Aiken and Keith Crisco
Crisco for Congress/AP; Corey Lowenstein/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT/Getty

Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken

A North Carolina textile entrepreneur locked in a too-close-to-call Democratic Party primary with former American Idol singer Clay Aiken has died.

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

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

"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," Aiken, 35, said in a statement.



"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."

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.

Additional reporting by MELODY CHIU

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