A New Jersey gym owner who rose to national fame for defying COVID-19 lockdown orders that shuttered countless businesses early in the pandemic has announced that he is running for the U.S. House of Representatives.
What are the details?
Ian Smith, owner of Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, posted on Twitter Sunday that he will seek to oust Democratic incumbent Rep. Andy Kim to represent New Jersey's 3rd Congressional District in Washington, D.C.
"I am truly excited to have the possibility to serve the people of [New Jersey] with a platform focused on liberty, small government, and America First policies," Smith wrote. He added that he will formally announce his candidacy on Thursday.
What's the background?
Smith first garnered national headlines in the summer of 2020 when he continued operating his business in spite of Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's numerous coronavirus-related lockdown measures.
In July, he and co-owner Frank Trumbetti, 51, were arrested after a judge found them in contempt of court for keeping their gym open. Upon their release from jail just days later, however, Smith and Trumbetti kicked down government-installed barriers to reopen their business once again.
In August, Bellmawr's city council, reportedly made up entirely of Democratic members, voted to revoke the gym's business license.
Throughout the ordeal, Smith's outspoken defiance in the face of draconian government mandates served as a rallying cry for many Americans who felt government leaders were abusing their power amid the health crisis.
"Welcome to America 2020, where feeding your family and standing up for your Constitutional rights is illegal. @govmurphy flexing his little tyrant muscles finally — only took him 70 days," Smith wrote on social media following his arrest, adding, "If this doesn't alarm you, you're part of the problem."
By the end of 2020, Smith said Atilis Gym has been hit with over $1 million in fines.
In response to his ongoing legal battle with the governor, the owner declared: "I am a free man. I do not ask for permission. I do not ask for forgiveness. You work for us. The only way you'll ever close these doors is when you close my casket."
Last week, Smith and Trumbetti's court battle ended with both owners receiving one year of probation for contempt of court.
In a report about Smith's upcoming political endeavor, the New Jersey Globe said the gym owner has indeed "already shown some fundraising prowess" considering that he was able to raise money to manage the hefty fines lodged against his business.
Smith is reportedly the second Republican to enter the race.
Atilis Gym Owner Gets 1 Year Probation For Defying COVID Shutdown Orders youtu.be