A federal appeals panel took nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis off a New Jersey state Senate ballot Thursday, nine days after ruling in his favor.
The same three-judge panel from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Lewis does not meet the state's four-year residency requirement after all.
“Lewis has failed to show that, as applied to him, the four-year state residency requirement for the office of state senator in New Jersey has treated him unequally,” the opinion said.
And in a footnote, the Philadelphia court gave the practical directive to the clerks' offices in Atlantic, Burlington and Camden Counties: “the printing of ballots without Lewis' name may proceed.”
It's not clear whether it will be that simple.
Democratic officials could ask a court to halt the printing of ballots for the November 8 election for two reasons: so they could challenge Thursday's ruling or so they could nominate a replacement candidate.
Burlington County Democratic Committee Chairman Joe Andl said Thursday morning that his committee's legal team would need to review the ruling before making a decision.
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But they won't have much time.
The legal deadline to begin sending out ballots to residents living overseas -- including military personnel -- is Friday. And ballots are to be sent to other voters within days.
In a statement, Lewis' lawyer seemed resigned to the idea that the track star won't be running for office this year.
“It is unfortunate that the voters of the Eighth Legislative District are being denied a meaningful choice in this election by today's decision,” said William Tambussi. “The extreme measures taken by the Republican Party to keep Carl Lewis off the ballot truly do a disservice to the voters.”
Lewis, 50, grew up in Willingboro, N.J., went to college in Texas and settled in California.
He bought homes in New Jersey in 2005 and 2007 and began working as a volunteer track coach at Willingboro High School. But he continued to pay taxes in California and voted there in 2009. He registered to vote in New Jersey only this year.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Republican, acting in her dual role as Secretary of State, removed Lewis from the ballot.
In its ruling Thursday, the court said that was the right decision.
Lewis and his supporters say it was a politically motivated move designed to keep the well-known Democrat from running against Republican incumbent Dawn Addiego in the 8th Legislative District, a reliably Republican area in the outer ring of New Jersey's Philadelphia suburbs.
The Burlington County Republican Committee issued the following statement following Thursday’s ruling:
"The court made the right decision today and affirmed what we have said all along: Carl Lewis clearly did not meet the constitutional residency requirement to run for Senate and, in spite of his celebrity status, he has to play by the same rules that everyone else has to play by. Frankly, it never made much sense that someone who had not paid income taxes in New Jersey, and didn't register to vote in New Jersey until the day he announced his candidacy, should be on the ballot for State Senate in New Jersey."