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FORMER “American Idol” sensation Clay Aiken has gone from allegedly searching the Internet for gay hook-ups to looking for votes as a respected politi­cian – and his next stop could be Congress!

“Clay has reinvented himself again,” declared an insider. “He’s gone from denying he was gay, to coming out of the closet, to turning activist and entering politics.”

The 35-year-old singer – who rocketed to fame 11 years ago as the runner-up on the second season of “Idol” – suffered a severe blow to his image when The ENQUIRER reported on allegations of his scandalous sex life in 2006.

But after cleaning up his act, Clay filed to run for Congress from North Carolina’s second district earlier this year, and on May 6 he won the Democratic primary in a close race.  And his o

It’s quite a transformation for a guy who was once allegedly cruising gay websites,” said the insider, “but times have changed, and so has Clay.

“He’s a dad and a respected community leader.”

Clay has donated his time and voice to multiple benefit events and concerts, and acted as an ambassador for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. He’s been involved with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and has been a spokesman for both gay rights and human rights causes.

But it wasn’t always so. Two years before Clay came out, ex-Green Beret John Paulus told The ENQUIRER the two shared 90 minutes of passion at a hotel near Aiken’s home­town of Raleigh, N.C. The former soldier claims he met Aiken on a gay website and they set up a meeting at the Quality Inn in Garner, N.C. Paulus claims he let Clay in through a back door so he wouldn’t have to go through the lobby.

“We started to mess around, and Clay said he wanted to have sex with me,” Paulus claimed. “Before I knew it, we were having unprotected sex.”

Shortly after The ENQUIRER disclosed the alleged encounter, two more hunks came forward and claimed Clay had begged them for sex.

The two men, who asked to remain anonymous, said they encountered the singer on the same website he allegedly used to solicit Paulus. One claims he actually met with the performer, but says they stopped short of having sex.

In 2008, Clay finally confessed he was gay. It was just weeks after the birth of his son Parker Foster Aiken, who was conceived through in vitro fertilization with his best friend, female music producer Jaymes Foster.

“Clay has moved on from these scandals in the past,” said the insider.

As a rising politician, Aiken is telling voters it’s es­sential that members of Congress cooperate “because our problems won’t be solved by one party or the other. It will require