Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis is no wilting flower, but that didn’t stop New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie from trying to intimidate him from running for NJ state Senate in 2011, according to new allegations from Lewis.
The Olympic icon threw his hat in the ring for the Garden State’s 8th district – located just outside Philadelphia – ready to run as a Democrat against Republican Sen. Dawn Addiego.
Lewis’s candidacy ultimately didn’t go far. Christie’s Lt. Gov Kim Guadagno quickly kicked him out of the race for failing to meet the residency requirements, and after some back-and-forth in the courts, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against his appeal. Guadagno has come under fire in recent days after allegations from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that she delivered a warning message from Christie that Hoboken “would be starved of hurricane relief money unless [Zimmer] approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor.”
Lewis says he sees similarities between his experience with Christie and the recent accusations of political payback and corruption within the Christie administration.
“What we’re seeing here is part of a pattern that I witnessed personally,” Lewis said. “I kind of look at a lot of parallels.”
Lewis believes that Christie’s office contested his residency to protect fellow Republican Addiego from running a contested race.
“He came to the aid of his friend,” Lewis said. “They knew that they were going to lose the whole race, and we had a shot to change the whole county because of that Democrat-Republican number. We had a chance to energize the Democratic Party … It was all politics.”
“Mr. Lewis was a genuinely impressive human being and Olympic athlete,” Michael Drewniak, Christie’s press secretary, said in response to the accusations. “We have nothing but good things to say about his contributions. Unfortunately, this is obviously a sour grapes rehash of a clear-cut legal issue which did not fall his way.”
Christie spokesman Colin Reed issued an additional statement on the accusations from Lewis Tuesday.
“This issue was discussed and covered widely when it happened years ago. Mr. Lewis was a genuinely impressive human being and Olympic athlete,” he said. “We have nothing but good things to say about his contributions. Unfortunately, this coming now is obviously a sour-grapes rehash of a clear-cut legal issue which did not fall his way. Mr. Lewis was disqualified from running on the basis of residency by every court – state and federal - and lost at every level, including all of his appeals.”