Top N.J. official won't certify Carl Lewis

Updated: August 16, 2011, 7:36 PM ET
Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. -- New Jersey's top elections official won't certify Carl Lewis as a candidate for state Senate in the November election, the latest move in a monthslong political contest over whether the nine-time Olympic gold medalist is eligible to run for office in his native state.

Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, who also serves as secretary of state, wrote in a certification order sent Monday to county clerks that Lewis doesn't meet the requirement that candidates for state Senate live in New Jersey for four years before running.

The 50-year-old Lewis, a Democrat, contends he moved back to New Jersey when he bought homes there for himself and his mother in 2005. The state says he voted in California as recently as 2009, making him a legal resident of that state.

"To date, and absent a court decision to the contrary, Mr. Lewis has not met the four-year residency requirement," Guadagno wrote. "In view of my statutory obligations, I cannot certify the name of Frederick Carlton 'Carl' Lewis."

Federal District Court Judge Noel Hillman scheduled a hearing for Friday afternoon.

Lewis, who has said Republican Gov. Chris Christie urged him not to get into the race, stepped up his criticism in recent days. He believes Christie is orchestrating the fight to keep him from competing and says the decision not to certify his name on the ballot is further evidence that the GOP is nervous about his candidacy in the Republican-leaning district.

"(Guadagno) has chosen again to step out of bounds and ignore the law and ignore the facts of the case," Lewis said.

Christie's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Lewis lawyer Bill Tambussi, who is fighting to keep the track icon's name on the ballot, said Guadagno's conduct in the case raises "important issues that require urgent attention." He petitioned Tuesday for immediate intervention from the federal court.

A copy of his and Guadagno's court filings were obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

"The Secretary of State again seeks to deny the voters of the 8th legislative District a choice," Tambussi said in a statement. "This 11th-hour, unilateral political tactic is further evidence of the Secretary of State's utter disregard of the facts, United States Constitution and the Third Circuit Order that Carl Lewis remain on the ballot. Mr. Lewis' position from the outset has been and remains that the election should be in the hands of the voters and not a political actor."

A federal appeals panel ordered Lewis' name to appear on the Democratic primary for the 8th legislative district while his case wound its way through the courts. He and his would-be opponent in November, incumbent Republican Sen. Dawn Addiego, both won uncontested party primaries in June.

Lewis exhausted his appeals in state court when the New Jersey Supreme Court declined to hear the case. The issue 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.

Lewis grew up in Willingboro, a middle-class town between Philadelphia and Trenton. He went to Texas for college and in 1984 moved from track star to celebrity when he won four gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympics. Over the next 12 years, he would collect five more golds at the Olympics.

He has been based largely in California, where he owns a business and where he has voted -- at least until he registered to vote in New Jersey just before declaring his candidacy this year.

But he has volunteered as a track coach at Willingboro High School since 2007. He also has a foundation in New Jersey. He has homes in Medford and Mount Laurel, N.J., and Pacific Palisades, Calif. He has had a valid New Jersey driver's license since 2006.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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