Lewis' Run Unable to Get Over Court Hurdle

A second court has ruled that Olympic great Carl Lewis isn't eligible to run for the New Jersey state senate, ruling Monday that the secretary of state was correct in declaring that Lewis did not meet a residency requirement.

Lewis, a nine-time Olympic gold medalist who grew up in Willingboro, has a home in nearby Medford and helps coach the track team at Willingboro High School. He owns a home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., a business in Los Angeles and didn't register to vote in New Jersey until the day he announced his candidacy.

His celebrity created a buzz when he entered the race last month as a Democrat in a solidly Republican district.

But he's had a bad run ever since.

First, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno -- who also serves as secretary of state -- ruled he was ineligible, because New Jersey law requires that candidates live in the state for four years.

Lewis appealed in both federal and state courts.

Last week, a federal judge found that the state residence requirement is constitutional. Lewis has appealed that ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Monday, a three-member state appellate court also sided with Guadano, who was elected in 2009 as Republican Gov. Chris Christie's running mate.

Bill Tambussi, a lawyer for Lewis, said politics were at play throughout the process. He said he would appeal the latest ruling to the state's Supreme Court.

“Today's decision sets a dangerous precedent. It allows a partisan political player to disregard facts and select the candidates of the opposing political party,” Tambussi said in a statement. “Carl Lewis has satisfied the residency requirements and the voters should have the right to decide the merits of his candidacy.”

Mark Sheridan, a lawyer for the Republicans who are fighting to keep Lewis off the ballot, said he was happy with Monday's ruling. He said it was about substance, not politics, and should allow officials in the 8th District counties of Burlington, Camden and Atlantic to start printing ballots for next month's primary without Lewis' name.

“This just goes to show that you can't be voting in another state and claim to be a resident of New Jersey,” he said.

Burlington County Republicans responded to the court's decision:

"We are pleased that the state appellate court today upheld Secretary of State Guadagno's decision to disqualify Mr. Lewis from the ballot for clearly not meeting the state constitution's 4-year residency requirement.  As he admitted under oath, Mr. Lewis voted in California as recently as May 2009 and, by virtue of doing so, swore that he was a resident of California less than two years ago.  Given those facts, I don’t see how Mr. Lewis can credibly argue that he qualifies as a New Jersey resident for four years; and based on their decision today neither could the appellate court."

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