Expert: battling Lewis could re-surface as Runyan challenger

As the warring sides begin their oral arguments before the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals this morning, speculation about Carl Lewis’ political future – and his potential as a Congressional candidate in the 3rd District – dominated the back chatter.

To listen to party insiders tell it, the nine-time Olympic Gold medalist today appeared headed for defeat on the residency issue in his bid to be a Democratic candidate in the 8th Legislative District, though his attorney, William Tambussi, was fighting hard for a reversal.

Republicans all along off the record said Lewis represented a two-step ambition: state Senate now, congress in 2012. Lewis’ handlers denied that plan last night at Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo’s fundraiser, where gallows humor punctuated Lewis’ effort even as the Olympian – and DiVincenzo – publilcy proclaimed his imminent success in securing a place on the ballot.

But at least one political expert said a run for Congress wouldn’t surprise him.

“It makes the most sense,” said Monmouth University political scientist/pollster Patrick Murray. 

U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R-3) is in his first term of office.

“It’s easiest to beat an incumbent congressman following his first term of office,” said Murray. “Also, there will be some redistricting, and there is potential for the 3rd district to pick up some Democratic towns.

“It’s a good bet,” the political scientist added.

A native of Willingboro – which is in the 3rd Congressional District but not the 8th Legislative District – Lewis would face no obstacle to the federal seven-year U.S. residency requirement. At least one Essex Democrat noted that as a ballot-rejected prospect, Lewis would have the added incentive of a perceived injustice to crank up a congressional candidacy.   

Expert: battling Lewis could re-surface as Runyan challenger