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Federal judge refuses to put Carl Lewis back on NJ Senate ballot

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September 8, 2011

New Jersey

By David Godow

TRENTON, New Jersey:

The long story of Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis' eligibility to run for New Jersey Senate entered a new chapter yesterday, as a federal judge ruled that Lewis failed to fulfill New Jersey's four year residency requirement to run for office. In a decision mirroring a May ruling he issued on Lewis's candidacy for the June primaries, Judge Noel Hillman refused to overturn Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno's decision to remove Lewis from the ballot.

Lewis had previouly overcome Guadagno's decision to bar him from the June 7 Democratic primary, thanks to a ruling from the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which decided Lewis should remain until a more complete assessment of his residency status could occur. Lewis subsequently won the Democratic primary in the New Jersey Senate's 8th District uncontested.

Lewis' representatives have promised to appeal Hillman's ruling, which means his case will once more fall before the 3rd Circuit. Notably, the appellate court did not rule on the substance of Lewis's complaint -- that Lt. Governor Guadagno's decision to remove him from the ballot violates his 14th Amendment rights to equal protection -- when allowing him on the primary ballot in June. It is uncertain whether the 3rd Circuit will overturn the substance of Hillman's rulings against Lewis, given that the facts of the case pose some significant challenges to Lewis. The 3rd Circuit must contend with the fact that he has paid income taxes and owns homes in California; he also voted there as recently as 2009.

A ruling by the appellate court against Lewis, or a refusal to hear his case, would be a huge win for the New Jersey Republican Party and would mean an uncontested win for Republican candidate Dawn Addiego in the 8th District Senate election this November.

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