US legend Lewis runs into racism row as he bids to enter politics

Carl Lewis, arguably the world's greatest-ever Olympian, is involved in another running battle – to become a politician. And it is one that is becoming increasingly bitter, his bid for power turning the New Jersey Senate race – normally a humdrum affair – into a high political drama, with charges of racism, illegality, and dirty politicking.

The 50-year-old former sprinter and long jumper is at the centre of a storm after a Republican representative in the New Jersey Assembly, the state senate for which Lewis hopes to stand as a Democrat in the November elections, has resigned after his wife sent a leaked email to the nine-times Olympic gold medalist that was allegedly racist.

It read: "Imagine having dark skin and name recognition and the nerve to think that equalled knowing something about politics. Sure, knowing someone with fat purse strings is nice, but you have no knowledge."

The senator, Pat Delaney, has subsequently resigned, saying: "I am deeply disappointed in my wife's decision to send that email to Mr Lewis' campaign; it does not reflect my personal beliefs whatsoever. I have decided to leave public life and apologise to Mr Lewis for any pain this caused him."

Lewis, 50, has declined to comment on the content of the email, saying: "I don't want to elevate it any further". But this is the latest episode in a months-long political row over whether the sports icon is eligible to run for office in his native New Jersey.

Lewis, who grew up in Willingboro, a middle-class town between Philadelphia and Trenton, went to college in Texas and lived in California after amassing gold medals in three consecutive Olympics beginning in Los Angeles in 1984.

The controversy began after Lewis announced his candidacy in April, when Republicans – citing records that showed he voted in California in 2009 – attempted to get Lewis kicked off the ballot for failing to meet the state's four-year residency requirement. Lewis responded that he had owned a home in the district since 2005, had a New Jersey driver's licence since 2006 and volunteered as a track coach at Willingboro High School since 2007.

To Lewis, this has nothing to do with residency and everything to do with politics. He points out he's a Democrat running in what was otherwise considered a safe Republican district, forcing the state Republican Party to spend a lot of money in a place where it usually doesn't.

"If my name was Carl Smith, they never would have challenged my residency, because Carl Smith wouldn't have been a threat to them," he says. "Because of who I am and what I've accomplished, I can energise people in a way that another candidate might not be able to. And that scares them. This is not about residency. This is about them being afraid to run the race against me."

Lewis, who describes himself as a "political junkie", says he is running to help underprivileged kids and fight high taxes. "Being in this community, seeing what was going on with kids, with families and with seniors, I felt like it was time to do something about it."

Whether he gets the opportunity to do so remains in the balance. The resulting legal battle has been through state court, where Lewis lost, and is now in front of a federal judge, who will rule on it this week. "The fact is, New Jersey's constitution violates the US constitution," says Bill Tambussi, Lewis's lawyer. "The voters can decide for themselves who they want to represent them."

Lewis was voted "Sportsman of the Century" by the International Olympic Committee. His achievements included emulating Jesse Owens and winning four gold medals in the 100 metres, 200m, long jump and 4 x 100m relay at the 1984 Olympics in Angeles. He won a further two gold medals at Seoul in 1988 before his last Olympic appearance at Atlanta in 1996 when he bowed out with victory in the long jump.

Since retiring from athletics in 1997 he has tried several careers, including trying to become an actor.

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C++ Quant Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Java/Calypso Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Java/Calypso Developer Java, Calypso, J2EE, J...

SQL Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Developer SQL, C#, Stored Procedures, MDX...

Front-Office Developer (C#, .NET, Java, AI)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-Office D...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing