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Third Circuit Win: Carl Lewis Senate Campaign Off and Running

By Robyn Hagan Cain on September 14, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Nine-time Olympic medalist Carl Lewis is running again, this time for a New Jersey State Senate.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court decision on Tuesday, and ordered that Lewis's name be added to the ballot for the November election.

New Jersey candidates must satisfy a 4-year state residency requirement. In August, New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno refused to certify Lewis's candidacy because Lewis had not resided in the Garden State for the requisite time period.

Lewis claims that he has lived in New Jersey since 2005, when he purchased homes there for his mother and himself.

The track star was raised in Willingboro, N.J., where he lived until college. Though Lewis has spent much of his time in California since achieving sports icon status in the '80s, he has a foundation in New Jersey, owns homes in Medford and Mount Laurel, has volunteered as a track coach at Willingboro High School since 2007, and has held a valid New Jersey driver's license since 2006, according to the AP.

New Jersey Republicans, challenging Lewis's candidacy in court, say that Lewis is not a New Jersey resident because he has never paid taxes or voted in New Jersey, and he voted in California as recently as 2009.

In an equal protection appeal to the Third Circuit, Lewis argued that the state residency requirement was established to ensure a candidate's familiarity with local issues and voters' familiarity with the candidate. For Lewis, neither is an issue.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, essentially nullifying the state residency requirement. In a 2-1 decision, the panel said that the New Jersey residency requirement was not supported by a compelling interest, a stricter standard than the rational basis test that the district court had applied in its analysis of the case.

New Jersey Republicans objected to the ruling, lamenting that the Third Circuit had ignored longstanding precedent and the state's constitution. Mark Sheridan, who represented the Burlington County GOP Chairman Bill Layton in the Carl Lewis senate campaign challenge, indicated that Burlington County Republicans will appeal.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which released its decision only five hours after oral arguments, has not yet released a written opinion in this case.

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