Former track and field athlete and nine-time Olympic gold medal recipient Carl Lewis (pictured right) has accused New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (pictured left) of dropping a plan to appoint him as the state’s first physical fitness ambassador when he launched a campaign against a friend of the politician, reportsN.J.com.
According to Lewis, the governor called him and allegedly tried to convince him not to run as a Democrat for state Senate in 2011 against Republican Sen. Dawn Addiego. Lewis claims he was informed that his potential appointment as “youth fitness ambassador” for the state of New Jersey would not come to pass if he ran. Lewis says Christie felt the post “was a carrot he could pull away. He called me and asked me to get out of the race. I said I would stay in the race. Then he killed the program and used his secretary of state and attorney general’s office to get me out of the race,” Lewis told N.J.com. “It’s a pretty clear parallel.”
Lewis withdrew from the Senate race after a court decided he did not meet a requirement for residency within the state. Lewis has since moved to Houston.
Did Gov. Christie use bully tactics against Lewis? The former Olympian told N.J.com, “I felt like he was trying to intimidate me, absolutely. But I definitely didn’t feel intimidated. It’s interesting, everyone calling him a bully. I don’t really see him as a bully. I see it more as someone who’s insecure, and he’s governor now and has got the power.”
Christie spokesperson, Michael Drewniak denied at the time that the governor tried to dissuade Lewis from running for the Senate spot. “Absolutely, positively not. And anybody who says otherwise is lying,” Drewniak told The Star-Ledger at the time.
Today, Drewniak contends that Lewis was kicked off the ballot based on his residency issues. Yet according to N.J.com, the Christie administration reportedly spent $78,000 in attorney staff time to remove Lewis from the ballot, as stated in public records.
Now the Christie administration is embroiled in a scandal that suggests top aides orchestrated traffic jams around the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., last year to punish that town’s mayor for not endorsing the governor for reelection. Christie, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, denies any knowledge of such a scheme and has fired or sought resignations from key appointees and political associates.