In his now-you-see-him, now-you-don't quest to be a candidate, nine-time Olympic Gold Medalist Carl Lewis chalked up a victory today, one not etched in anything more solid than another fleeting headline if the GOP has any say in the matter, which they insist they will.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals this afternoon reversed a decision by Judge Noel Hillman barring 8th District senate hopeful Lewis from the general election ballot, which Republicans plan to appeal.
"The judgment of the District Court, entered Sept. 7, 2011, is hereby reversed," wrote Circuit Judge Thomas L. Ambro in a 2-1 decision by the three-judge panel.
"The District Court, inter alia, incorrectly applied a rational basis standard of review of this as-applied challenge, rather than the stricter compelling state interest standard."
Ambro said the state failed to demonstrate a "compelling state interest in the application of this durational residency requirement to this particular candidate."
The decision by the appellate court represented a victory by the Lewis campaign, which a week ago suffered Hillman's decision upholding a ruling by Secretary of State Kim Guadagno that Lewis was not eligible to appear on the general election ballot because he did not meet state residency requirements.
Attorney William Tambussi made arguments in court today in Philadelphia on behalf of Lewis, who's running against incumbent state Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego (R-8), Evesham.
"Today’s decision puts this matter with the voters of the Eighth Legislative District where it rightfully belongs," Tambussi said in a statement. "We are pleased that the voters now have a meaningful choice.
Attorney Mark Sheridan, who represented Republicans, including Burlngton County GOP Chairman Bill Layton, who in his initial suit questioned Lewis's New Jersey residency status, said the case isn't over.
"We will appeal," Sheridan told PolitickerNJ.com.
GOP strategist Chris Russell later contributed a statement on behalf of the Addiego campaign.
"This was a miscarriage of justice and another example of why Americans are losing faith in government institutions that are supposed to treat everyone equally," Russell said. "By allowing Mr. Lewis on the ballot, two of the three appellate judges today, ignored longstanding legal precedent and tossed aside New Jersey's Constitution. Their decision effectively eliminates residency requirements to run for office in order to allow a wealthy, celebrity on the ballot. Mr. Lewis admitted that he never paid income taxes in New Jersey and was not even registered to vote in New Jersey on the day he announced his candidacy; couple that with the fact that he recently voted in California and it’s clear that Mr. Lewis does meet the constitutional residency requirement to run for State Senate in New Jersey. That said, we are heartened that the Chief Judge of the 3rd Circuit Court dissented from the decision of his colleagues and agreed with us, and the lower courts, that Mr. Lewis should not be on the ballot. We expect to appeal and are considering our legal options."
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