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New Jersey gym owner who defied COVID closures and ran for a seat in the US House of Representatives

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A New Jersey gym owner who became known during the pandemic for defying the state’s COVID-19 closures is running for the US House of Representatives.

Ian Smith, the owner of Atlis Gym in Bellmawr, announced on Twitter Sunday that he is trying to oust Rep. Andy Kim (DN.J.) to represent New Jersey’s third congressional district in Washington.

Smith said he will officially unveil his campaign on Thursday. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to serve the people of NJ with a platform that focuses on liberty, small government and America First politics,” Smith wrote in a tweet.

The gym owner made headlines throughout the pandemic for refusing to follow governor’s orders. Phil MurphyPhil Murphy, the New Jersey gym owner who defied the COVID closures and ran for the US House seat, says it’s time for New Jersey to “learn how” with the preview of the COVID-19 Sunday shows one lives’: Justice Breyer Announces Resignation from Supreme Court MORE‘s (DN.J.) COVID-19 mitigation measures, including a mandate that gyms keep their indoor spaces closed to the public.

He was arrested in July 2020 along with his co-owner, Frank Trumbetti, on charges of fourth-degree contempt and obstructing and violating a Disaster Relief Act.

The two owners had posted a video of their arrest on the gym’s Facebook page and wrote, “Welcome to America 2020, where it is illegal to support your family and stand up for your constitutional rights.”

In March 2021, the gym announced it would give free memberships to people who don’t receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The promotion was in response to Krispy Kreme offering free donuts to people who received the jab.

Smith is the second Republican candidate to enter the Garden State race, alongside business owner Robert Healey, Jr.

Both want to take on Kim, a two-year congressman who serves on the armed forces, small business and foreign affairs committees.

The new convention card that New Jersey passed last month brought a big win for Kim, whose district was becoming more Democratic, according to FiveThirtyEight. It reportedly moved from plus-five Republicans to plus-five Democrats.

Smith has hired Republican political adviser Steve Kush to assist him with his campaign, according to the New Jersey Globe. Kush reportedly helped truck driver Edward R. Durr’s upset win over New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney.

Smith was sentenced to more than five years in prison in 2007 after driving while intoxicated and killing a 19-year-old, according to NJ.com. He was sentenced at the age of 20.

In a video posted to Instagram about that accident in 2020, Smith said: “What we stand for is much bigger than me. I understand people’s resentment and hatred towards me. All I ask is that you listen to the details and make your decision.”

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