*Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis is headed to court to battle Republicans who say he hasn’t lived in New Jersey long enough to run for state Senate.
With time running out to enter the race, Lewis’ attorney asked a federal appeals court in Philadelphia Wednesday to compel state officials to allow the Olympic track star to compete in the June Democratic primary or delay printing ballots until his appeals are exhausted.
The three-judge panel did not issue a ruling but appeared apprehensive about intervening in an issue that deals with the New Jersey Constitution, especially since the case is also under review in state courts.
But the panel did express concern that no judge has looked at Lewis’ specific situation and appeared willing to remand the case back to U.S. District Court for a more extensive legal analysis.
“My main thing is just to be on the ballot and make the voters decide,” Lewis said outside court. “I’ve been in the community, and I felt it’s time to make a challenge and a stand. It’s me trying to open the door to get more done for the kids and the families that I deal with.”
Lewis, 49, is asking the judges to issue an emergency stay in his effort to win a state Senate seat in his South Jersey district. Three county clerks told the judges that they are already late in printing ballots for the June 7 primary and that their “drop-dead” deadline is Friday. It’s unclear whether the court will rule before then.
The hearing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit came on the same day the state Supreme Court denied Lewis’ emergency petition to keep county clerks from printing ballots without his name.
The Supreme Court gave the state and the Republican challengers until 4:30 p.m. today to issue briefs arguing why the state’s highest court should not take up the case. Lewis will have until 1 p.m. Friday to respond.
Lewis, a Democrat who grew up in Willingboro, wants to challenge state Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego (R-Burlington) in the 8th District.
Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, in her dual role as secretary of state and overseer of the Division of Elections, decided last week Lewis did not meet the state’s four-year residency requirement for state Senate candidates, in part because he voted in California as recently as 2009. That decision overturned an administrative law judge’s order.
So far, a U.S. District Court judge and state appellate judge have refused to overturn Guadagno’s decision.