The ever-expanding universe of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie political retribution allegations now includes an Olympian.
Carl Lewis, a nine-time Olympic gold medal track and field athlete and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, says he was told a government fitness plan would fall through if he ran for a State Senate spot.
According to the AP, Lewis had plans to run for a State Senate position as a Democrat in 2011, having been an active member of his community and an athlete with clear political interests. He says “the governor called to dissuade him from running” against a preferred Republican opponent, State Sen. Dawn Addiego. As Lewis was working on a youth state fitness program for which he was New Jersey’s state ambassador at the time, it was made clear to him that said program “was a carrot he could pull away.”
Lewis did not run against Sen. Addiego, and there is no evidence he heard from the governor’s office any time thereafter. He currently lives in Houston and is miles away from any New Jersey political influence, but he stepped up just two days after Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer accused Christie’s Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno of strongarming her into approving a redevelopment project. Guadagno has denied the charges, while Zimmer provides as evidence her personal diary stating that she had been threatened by Guadagno in a Shoprite supermarket parking lot in a more desolate neighborhood of the Mile Square City.
Unlike Zimmer, however, Lewis was disqualified from his candidacy because of strong evidence that he did not live in New Jersey. Guadagno, who overruled a judge that had declared Lewis was eligible to run for office in the state, announced in 2011 that there was “substantial credible evidence” that “(Lewis) did not yet own his home in New Jersey, did not otherwise live in New Jersey, did not file his taxes in New Jersey, was not registered to vote in New Jersey and did not have his business in New Jersey.”
Lewis’ claim is believable, not the least because he made it in 2011, long before Christie had much to worry about.
At the time, Lewis made the same declaration: that Governor Christie had talked to him and tried to convince him to quit. Lewis quoted the Governor as telling him at the time, “If you’re going to do this race, we probably don’t have time to do this [fitness] program,” according to a Philly.com article from April 2011. He also claimed to receive several phone calls from constituent services aide Frank Luna that emphasized how disappointed the governor was that Lewis wanted to run.
Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak, who made a name for himself as the most profane character in the BridgeGate emails, did not dispute the central facts of Lewis’s argument at the time.
Lewis was also at the center of a bizarre resignation of a New Jersey Republican official in August of the same year. Former State Assemblyman Pat Delany stepped down after his wife sent Lewis a “racist and offensive” email.