HAMILTON, N.J. (AP) — Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis told a judge weighing his eligibility to run for New Jersey Senate on Tuesday that he has owned homes in the state since 2005 and has had a valid state driver’s license since 2006.
Republicans have challenged Lewis’ bid to run as a Democrat in south-central New Jersey’s 8th Legislative District. They claim he has not lived in the state the required four years and want his name knocked off the June primary ballot.
The 49-year-old internationally acclaimed track and field athlete is a New Jersey native but has been living in California; it’s his first time seeking elected office.
“I wholeheartedly intend to be a resident of New Jersey,” Lewis told the judge. “Sometimes I question it during the winter, having lived in California, but I’m here to stay.”
Lewis’ lawyer Bill Tambussi portrayed his client during the administrative hearing as a man who has chosen to return to the place he was raised, to be near family and to serve the public.
Lewis has moved the day-to-day operations of his charitable foundation to New Jersey and has been a volunteer track coach and mentor at a local high school since 2007. His mother and other relatives live nearby.
Mark Errico, a lawyer for the Republicans, tried to show that owning real estate in New Jersey doesn’t make someone a resident.
Lewis acknowledged under questioning that he voted in California until last year and paid income taxes there until recently. His website listed his addresses as Houston and California as recently as this month. He said he still owns a town house in California and has kept his business there.
He said he switched his voter registration to New Jersey last week, on the day he announced his candidacy.
Lewis, wearing a suit and tie, answered questions for nearly two hours on everything from who pays the utility bills at his properties (he does, unless they’re rental properties) to why his truck is registered in Texas (his foundation sponsors youth programs around the country; volunteers use the truck to cart around the children who participate).
Lewis won nine Olympic gold medals and is considered among the best athletes of all time.
In Los Angeles in 1984, he won gold in the 100 and 200 meters, long jump and 400-meter relay. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, he triumphed in the 100 meters and long jump. In the 1992 Games in Barcelona, he took the long jump and anchored the U.S. 400 relay team that won in world record time. He won his fourth straight Olympic gold in the long jump in 1996 in Atlanta.
He is a member of the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame and was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame last May.
Administrative Law Judge John Schuster will make a recommendation on Wednesday to Secretary of State Kim Guadagno, who will decide by Thursday. Her ruling can be appealed.
Lewis would face Republican Dawn Adeggio in November.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.