CAMDEN, N.J. (CN)- Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis claims New Jersey threw him off the Democratic primary ballot for state Senate because of an unconstitutional residency requirement. Lewis says he does meet the residency requirement, and that the state acted in defiance of the recommendation of an administrative law judge.
Lewis, who wants to represent New Jersey’s 8th District, sued New Jersey’s secretary of state, attorney general and the Camden, Burlington and Atlantic County clerks.
In his federal complaint, Lewis say Secretary of State Kim Guadagno put the kibosh on his run for office, claiming the track and field star “did not meet the four year residency requirement set forth in the New Jersey Constitution for persons seeking office of New Jersey State Senate.”
Lewis initially filed his candidacy petition on April 11. His rivals William Layton and Ted Costa filed an objection, claiming that Lewis had not lived in the state for 4 years.
The New Jersey Office of Administration held a hearing on April 19, to “determine if [the] challengers could meet their burden of proof,” according to Lewis’s complaint.
On April 20, the Hon. John Schuster III, “recommended dismissal of challengers objections and that plaintiff be allowed to placed on the ballot as a candidate in the Democratic Primary for the office of New Jersey Senate for the Eight Legislative District,” the complaint states.
But, overruling the judge, Guadagno “ordered that the plaintiff’s name not be placed on the ballot.” Guadagno cites the New Jersey Constitution, Article IV, Section I, Paragraph 2, which states “no person shall be a member of the Senate who shall not have attained the age of thirty years, and have been a citizen and resident of the State for four years.”
Lewis says he has owned two condominiums in Mount Laurel, N.J. since 2005, for which he has paid utility bills and property taxes; that he has had a New Jersey driver’s license since 2006; and that he bought a home in Medford, N.J., in 2007, where he resides today.
In addition, he says, he lived in Willingboro, N.J., from 1963 to 1979, volunteered at his alma mater as an assistant track coach in 2007 and has attended church in Camden since 2009, and has created and hosted other charitable events in the state.
Lewis alleges civil rights violations and seeks an injunction preventing the 8th Legislative District from producing or printing ballots that do not include him as a candidate.
He also seeks declaratory relief stating that the New Jersey Constitution’s residency requirement is unconstitutional.
He is represented by William Tambussi, with Brown & Connery of Westmont, N.J.
Lewis, the most consistent long jumper of all time, set world records in the 100-meter dash, and as a member of the 4×100 meter and 4×200 meter relays. Photogenic and personable, he nevertheless was not particularly popular among his track and field peers – possibly because of his decade-long dominance.