Olympic track-and-field gold medalist Carl Lewis won a second federal appeals court ruling allowing his name on the ballot for a New Jersey state senate seat.
Lewis, a 50-year-old Democrat who has been vying for a place on the ballot for the state’s 8th Legislative District, persuaded the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to reverse a Sept. 7 ruling barring his name from the list of candidates.
Today’s ruling reinstates Lewis as the Democratic party nominee. Lewis won an uncontested primary election in June after the appeals panel temporarily barred a ruling by New Jersey’s top elections official that Lewis was ineligible to run because he didn’t meet state residency requirements.
New Jersey Secretary of State Kim Guadagno, a Republican who also serves as lieutenant governor, refused to certify Lewis as a candidate last month. U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman ruled Sept. 6 that Guadagno’s decision and the state’s four-year residency requirement didn’t violate Lewis’s constitutional rights. Ballots for the November race are scheduled to be printed by Sept. 18.
“Today’s decision puts this matter with the voters of the Eighth Legislative District where it rightfully belongs,” William M. Tambussi, one of Lewis’s attorneys, said in an e- mailed statement. “The voters now have a meaningful choice.”
Fred Snowflack, a spokesman for Guadagno, said she was “reviewing the decision” and declined to comment further.
The case turned on whether Lewis was a resident of the state before a Nov. 8, 2007, cutoff. Lewis grew up in New Jersey before moving to Texas and California. Lawyers for the nine-time Olympic gold medalist said he bought a home in New Jersey in 2005, which made him a state resident.
Guadagno said the record showed Lewis didn’t buy his current home until Nov. 16, 2007, eight days after the cutoff. She also argued that Lewis certified he was a California resident each time he voted there in three elections in 2008 and one in 2009.
A divided three-judge appeals panel ruled that Hillman erred in upholding the state’s finding that Lewis didn’t meet residency requirements.
“The state has failed to demonstrate a compelling state interest in the application of this durational residency requirement to this particular candidate,” U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro said in a one-page ruling.
Lewis has been campaigning to represent a district that has traditionally elected Republicans. Incumbent Dawn Marie Addiego, a Republican, was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Phil Haines, who was tapped for a judgeship.
The federal case is Lewis v. Guadagno, 1:11-cv-02381, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Camden). The appeal is Lewis v. Guadagno, 11-3401, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Philadelphia).
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