Carl Lewis’ bid to become the latest prominent athlete to run for political office hit a snag before he even left the starting block.
On Thursday a federal appeals panel ruled the nine-time Olympic track gold medalist does not meet New Jersey’s four-year residency requirement and therefore will not be allowed to run for a state Senate seat.
Only nine days ago the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Lewis should be on the ballot, but the court scheduled a second hearing for earlier this week. It’s second opinion declared Lewis, a Democrat, could not be on the ballot.
“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.
The drama will likely continue as Democratic officials could ask the court to halt printing of the ballots in advance of the Nov. election, giving them time to challenge the ruling or nominate a candidate to replace Lewis. However, they’ll need to display some of Lewis’ speed to make that happen — the legal deadline to begin sending out ballots residents living out of the country is Friday.
The 50-year-old Lewis grew up in Willingboro, N.J. and after living in California for many years, bought houses in his home state in 2005 and 2007. However, Lewis just registered to vote in New Jersey this year and continued to pay taxes in California in 2009.
Republicans are firmly behind the court’s opinion while Lewis’ lawyer is hoping to get his client back on the ballot.
“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.