Judge sides with NJ in kicking Lewis off ballot

Carl Lewis

April 29, 2011 4:52:24 AM PDT
A federal judge has upheld the state's four-year residency rule for political candidates that knocked former Olympic great Carl Lewis off the ballot.

Judge Noel Hillman ruled Thursday that the residency requirement doesn't violate Lewis' guarantee of equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Lewis lawyer Bill Tambussi argued that the rule is unconstitutional. Lawyers for New Jersey and members of the state's Republican Party said the rule has been on the books for 167 years and is part of the state Constitution.

Tambussi said he will appeal to the state's 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. A separate challenge has been filed in state appeals court.

All sides agreed there is urgency to decide the case because ballots for the June primary are supposed to be mailed Friday. Lawyers for the three effected counties said ballots can be delayed for about a week without interfering with the election.

The judge refused to stop the printing and mailing of ballots. Tambussi is seeking a stay as part of his appeal.

Lewis, a nine-time Olympic gold medalist, is pursuing a Democratic bid for state Senate. He is a New Jersey native but owns a home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and a business in Los Angeles.

His lawyers have produced real estate settlement statements from homes he bought in New Jersey in 2005 and 2007, utility bills in his name at those addresses and a valid New Jersey driver's license, which he testified he's had since 2006. But lawyers for the Republicans documented that Lewis voted in California until recently, and they showed a Texas vehicle registration for a truck he owns.

Republican Secretary of State Kim Guadagno ruled that Lewis didn't meet the residency rule. She ordered Lewis' name stricken from the Democratic primary ballot in the 8th District in south-central New Jersey.

Lewis, 49, grew up in Willingboro. He attended college in Texas and later bought and sold at least three homes in California. He testified that he now lives in Medford. He has been a volunteer track coach in Willingboro since 2007.

In the 1980s and `90s, Lewis was noted for his blistering pace and dominance of the long jump and 100-meter dash.

He won Olympic golds in the 100 and 200 meters, long jump and 400-meter relay in Los Angeles in 1984. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, he triumphed in the 100 meters and long jump. In the 1992 Games in Barcelona, he took the long jump and anchored the U.S. 400 relay team, which won in world record time. He won his fourth straight Olympic gold in the long jump in 1996 in Atlanta.

He's a member of the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame and was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame last May.