updated 8/22/2011 7:41:57 PM ET 2011-08-22T23:41:57

A freshman Republican lawmaker resigned because his wife sent "an offensive and racist" email to the Democratic state Senate campaign of nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, a GOP official acknowledged Monday.

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Pat Delany stepped down from the state Assembly this month and said he wouldn't seek a full term in November because of his wife's missive to Lewis' campaign, Burlington County Republican Chairman Bill Layton said. Delany originally cited an unspecified family issue as the reason for his abrupt resignation.

Delany and his wife, Jennifer Delany, are white. Lewis, a political novice who's among the greatest athletes of all time, is black.

Jennifer Delany's email to Lewis' campaign said, in part, "Imagine having dark skin and name recognition and the nerve to think that equaled knowing something about politics."

Story: Federal judge delays decision on Carl Lewis' NJ race

Layton said Pat Delany decided to leave office to shield his three children from "a hurtful and embarrassing public spectacle involving their mother."

"Former Assemblyman Pat Delany's wife inexplicably sent an offensive and racist email in response to a routine email from Carl Lewis' campaign; her actions were inexcusable," Layton said.

Delany said in a statement that he and his wife don't share the same racial views. He said he was sorry.

"On behalf of my family, we sincerely apologize to Mr. Lewis for any pain this caused him," he said.

Story: Court puts Carl Lewis back on NJ primary ballot

Neither the Delanys nor Lewis could be reached by telephone for comment Monday.

Lewis is running for state Senate in New Jersey's 8th Legislative District. Delany was part of the opposing GOP Assembly slate in the district.

Lewis' residency fight
Lewis and Republicans have been fighting over whether he meets the state's four-year residency requirement for state Senate candidates. He grew up in Willingboro, a middle-class town between Philadelphia and Trenton, but recently has lived in California, where he owns a home.

He went to Texas for college and in 1984 moved from track star to celebrity when he won four gold medals at the Los Angeles Olympics. Over the next 12 years, he would collect five more golds at the Olympics.

New Jersey's top elections official, Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, ruled Lewis ineligible to run for office this spring, and this month she declined to certify his name for the November ballot.

Lewis, 50, challenged the ruling in federal and state courts.

Image: Carl Lewis
Julio Cortez  /  AP
In this April file photograph, former Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis announces in Mount Holly, N.J., his candidacy for the New Jersey state Senate seat to represent his hometown of Willlingboro.

A federal appeals court allowed Lewis' name to appear on June primary ballots, and he won his party's nomination with 2,418 votes in an uncontested race. Republican Sen. Dawn Addiego won her uncontested party primary with 4,350 votes, and the two would face off in the GOP-leaning district in November, if the courts allow.

Lewis contends he moved back to New Jersey in 2005, when he bought homes for himself and his mother. He has been a volunteer high school track coach since 2007 and has had a valid New Jersey driver's license since 2006.

However, records show that he voted in California through 2009, which Republicans contend made him a legal resident of that state.

Lewis exhausted his appeals in state court when the New Jersey Supreme Court declined to hear the case. The issue before the federal court is whether the state's residency requirement for state Senate candidates violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment as applied to Lewis.

Lewis contends that he knows the issues facing the district and that voters know who he is.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Former track star hits hurdle in Senate bid

  1. Closed captioning of: Former track star hits hurdle in Senate bid

    >>> carl lewis winning the gold medal nine times might be easier than trying to run for a new jersey state senate seat. this past april he planned to announce he's going to compete as a democrat. he's facing an obstacle course with republicans saying he doesn't meet the state 's residency requirement. carl lewis joins me for his first live television interview since announcing his candidacy. there's been a battle with whether your name should be on the ballot, where do things stand?

    >> i'm on the ballot. i won the primary as some people know. what's happening is they are trying to get me back off the ballot. it's within an interesting thing. i was in sports we used to line up on the line, all the people shake hands and go. if i was to line up with no competitors i'd always win the race. really that's what they're trying to do. i've never been in politics, we've got the governor, the secretary of state , the attorney general, the state gop, the county gop and my opponent. i look at it this way, i've put usa on my chest and ran against the world, i can handle new jersey .

    >> new jersey in some ways is facing similar situations to states across the nation. there's big battles over the budget. the democrats are getting push back because they went along with governor chris christie . they just slashed benefits for state employees. it's got to be a topic that come ups again if you're elected. how would you move forward on that knowing on the one hand you have state employees who want their benefits in the other, new jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation.

    >> we know we have the highest property taxes . with the governor slashing the communities it's raising the taxes in those communities. what we need to do is understand that i am 100% for collective bargaining. we fortunate have a situation where that grandfathers in and goes away. the future is now new jerseyians coming together making sure that we continue to push our good schools. we have great schools in jersey . my biggest thing is we have to strive to be the best. we're cutting women's services and all these areas. the reality is that's just passing it on to someone else.

    >> we were talking about why you chose state senate as opposed to a run for congress. there are a lot of voters that are fed up with washington right now. knowing that that happens at the state level, too watching this impaesz, why would you want to be in politics right now.

    >> >> i don't look at myself as becoming a politician. i watched my parents serve every day and grew up with them coaching track teams. when i grew up i did the same thing. i started four years ago coaching a track team . that track team was the last team in south jersey . this year they almost won state . it's for me to serve. at the state level it allows me to continue all the great relationships that i have with the community.

    >> i put up on facebook and twitter today that you were going to be here. right away a bunch of tweets came in saying please tell me he's not singing the national and they will. let me play a little bit of it. o say can you see and the rockets' red glare

    >> that was the nba game in 1993 . we're talking a long way. i've got to say, i know that you get a lot of mileage out of that, so to speak. i think you have a pretty good voice, you just couldn't hit the high notes.

    >> yeah, it was a bad day .

    >> are you going to sing the national anthem again if you're electd.

    >> no. what i'm going to do if i'm elected help all the people in district eight of new jersey . i'm focused on a grots campaign. the thing about the fact that people know me, i'm able to do that. that's why i'm reaching out to people through my twitter account and facebook account and my website, carllewis dlst fornew jersey not the number.

    >> you can tease him about the national anthem , the truth is you have a nice voice.

    >> i appreciate that.


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