Carl Lewis, the former Olympic gold medalist, lost a federal appeals court ruling stripping his name from the ballot for a New Jersey state senate seat.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia reversed its earlier decision to restore the former athlete to the ballot. The same three-judge panel that initially decided the case changed its opinion today after hearing additional arguments from state Republicans who filed an emergency appeal.
“It is unfortunate that the voters of the Eighth Legislative District are being denied a meaningful choice in this election by today’s decision,” William Tambussi, an attorney for Lewis, said in an e-mailed statement. “The extreme measures taken by the Republican Party to keep Carl Lewis off the ballot truly do a disservice to the voters.”
Lewis, a 50-year-old Democrat, is seeking a spot on the ballot for New Jersey’s Eighth Legislative District. The former track-and-field star won an uncontested primary election in June after the appeals court temporarily barred enforcement of a ruling by New Jersey’s top election official that he was ineligible to run because he didn’t meet the state’s four-year residency requirement.
New Jersey Secretary of State Kim Guadagno, a Republican who also serves as lieutenant governor, refused to certify Lewis as a candidate last month. The appeals court last week overturned a Sept. 6 ruling by U.S. District Judge Noel Hillman upholding Guadagno’s decision, saying that the state’s four-year residency requirement didn’t violate Lewis’s constitutional rights. The same appeals panel vacated that ruling earlier this week but left Lewis’s name on the ballot while it reconsidered the case.
State Republicans had asked for an “en banc” re-hearing, in which all 13 circuit court judges would hear the case. It’s within the court’s discretion how many judges should hear the case and the original panel agreed to re-hear arguments, Tambussi said. Lewis could appeal for an “en banc” hearing or petition the U.S. Supreme Court.
The case turned on whether Lewis had his primary residence in the state before a Nov. 8, 2007, cutoff. Lewis grew up in New Jersey and competed for Willingboro High School before moving to Texas and California. Lawyers for the former long jumper and sprinter said he had a condominium in Mount Laurel in 2005 and then bought a home in nearby Medford in 2007, where he lives.
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.
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 named to the superior court bench.
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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