Gov. Chris Christie said he told Carl Lewis he wouldn't work with him on an athletics program if he ran for a state Senate seat and that the athlete's reaction may show he's "too sensitive'' for politics.
Lewis has said Christie threatened to scrap an athletics program Lewis had wanted to start if he ran against Republican Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego, a longtime friend of the GOP governor.
During an interview on a Philadelphia radio station Monday, Christie said he told Lewis that he couldn't move forward on the program if the Democrat ran against Christie's longtime friend.
"I called him and said ... 'You need to understand, I'm not going to move forward with you on this other stuff while you are a candidate against a good friend of mine (who is) a member of my party,''' Christie said. "Now, if he calls that discouraging him from the race, then he's much too sensitive to be involved in politics.''
The nine-time Olympic gold medalist -- one of the world's most decorated track stars -- is the only Democrat on the ballot in the Republican-dominated 8th District in southern New Jersey. Addiego is unopposed in the Republican primary.
Christie said he has known Addiego for nearly 25 years, since they met working at the same law firm right out of college.
Christie also backed up the ruling by the state's top election official, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, to keep Lewis off the ballot. The governor called it a ``solid choice.''
Republicans argue that Lewis is ineligible to run as a Democrat in the June primary because he failed to meet the state's four-year residency requirement for candidates.
Lewis is challenging the constitutionality of the residency requirement in federal court, and contends he has lived in New Jersey for four years.
Lewis, 49, was born in New Jersey and owns homes here and in California. He has had a valid New Jersey driver's license since 2006 but voted in California through 2009. His foundation is based in New Jersey but his business is in California. He's been a volunteer high school track coach in his hometown of Willingboro since 2007 but filed income taxes in California.
Lewis is appealing the decision in federal court, and a three-judge panel ruled Thursday that Lewis' name should be included when the ballots are printed. While the three-judge panel granted that emergency request, it didn't make a final ruling on whether he's eligible for office.