Pat Delany stepped down from the state Assembly this month and said he wouldn't seek a full term in November because of his wife's missive to Lewis' campaign, Burlington County Republican Chairman Bill Layton said. Delany originally cited an unspecified family issue as the reason for his abrupt resignation.
Delany and his wife, Jennifer Delany, are white. Lewis, a political novice who's among the greatest athletes of all time, is black.
Jennifer Delany's email to Lewis' campaign said, in part, "Imagine having dark skin and name recognition and the nerve to think that equaled knowing something about politics."
Layton said Pat Delany decided to leave office to shield his three children from "a hurtful and embarrassing public spectacle involving their mother."
"Former Assemblyman Pat Delany's wife inexplicably sent an offensive and racist email in response to a routine email from Carl Lewis' campaign; her actions were inexcusable," Layton said.
Delany said in a statement that he and his wife don't share the same racial views. He said he was sorry.
"On behalf of my family, we sincerely apologize to Mr. Lewis for any pain this caused him," he said.
Neither the Delanys nor Lewis could be reached by telephone for comment Monday.
Lewis is running for state Senate in New Jersey's 8th Legislative District. Delany was part of the opposing GOP Assembly slate in the district.
Lewis and Republicans have been fighting over whether he meets the state's four-year residency requirement for state Senate candidates. He grew up in Willingboro, a middle-class town between Philadelphia and Trenton, but recently has lived in California, where he owns a home.
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.
New Jersey's top elections official, Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, ruled Lewis ineligible to run for office this spring, and this month she declined to certify his name for the November ballot.
Lewis, 50, challenged the ruling in federal and state courts.
A federal appeals court allowed Lewis' name to appear on June primary ballots, and he won his party's nomination with 2,418 votes in an uncontested race. Republican Sen. Dawn Addiego won her uncontested party primary with 4,350 votes, and the two would face off in the GOP-leaning district in November, if the courts allow.
Lewis contends he moved back to New Jersey in 2005, when he bought homes for himself and his mother. He has been a volunteer high school track coach since 2007 and has had a valid New Jersey driver's license since 2006.
However, records show that he voted in California through 2009, which Republicans contend made him a legal resident of that state.
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 contends that he knows the issues facing the district and that voters know who he is.