The judge affirmed Wednesday that Lewis’ constitutional rights will not be violated if he is prohibited from running for office as a Democrat.
New Jersey’s top elections official, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Republican, previously said Lewis was ineligible to run because he doesn’t meet the state’s four-year residency requirement, setting off a monthslong fight in federal and state courts.
Lewis’ lawyer Bill Tambussi said Wednesday’s decision was “not unexpected” and that an appeal would be filed later in the day with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Lewis declined to comment through a spokesman.
The appeals panel permitted Lewis to be listed on June primary ballots in the Republican-leaning district and retained jurisdiction over the case. Lewis won the Democratic Party’s uncontested primary with 2,418 votes, setting him up to face Sen. Dawn Addiego, who won the uncontested GOP primary with 4,350 votes.
“The state’s constitutional residency requirement applies to everyone equally, even celebrities like Carl Lewis,” said GOP campaign spokesman Chris Russell. “We’ve said from day one that Mr. Lewis clearly did not meet the legal residency requirement, and that he wasn’t above the law just because his name was Carl Lewis. Today’s decision vindicates us on both counts.”
The 50-year-old Olympic icon grew up in New Jersey before attending college in Texas and later settling in California. He has owned homes in New Jersey since 2005, but also pays taxes and utilities on homes in California. He’s been a volunteer track coach in his native Willingboro since 2007, but voted in California as recently as 2009. He switched his voter registration to New Jersey just before declaring his candidacy in April.
Lewis exhausted his appeals in state court. The issue ultimately before the federal court is whether the state’s residency requirement for state Senate candidates violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment as applied to Lewis.
Guadagno last month declined to certify his name for the November ballot, because he has not lived in New Jersey for four years prior to running for state Senate, as the state Constitution requires.
The judge on Wednesday affirmed that decision, just ahead of the deadline for gathering candidate information for the printing of ballots.
Lewis contends the effort to keep him off the ballot is a political calculation made by the leader of the state Republican party, Gov. Chris Christie, and other Republican bigwigs. Christie has denied having a hand in the decision and has said Lewis doesn’t meet the constitutional requirement for candidates.