- The Washington Times - Monday, August 24, 2020

Two New Jersey gym owners who were arrested and ordered to pay more than $130,000 in fines after repeatedly defying Gov. Phil Murphy’s order to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic have converted their space into a campaign headquarters for a Republican Senate candidate in an effort to remain open.

Atilis Gym co-owners Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti said Friday that they have partnered with U.S. Senate candidate Rik Mehta, a pharmacist who is challenging Democratic Sen. Cory Booker,” by designating their gym as a volunteer location and rally spot for Mr. Mehta’s campaign.

“We took a stand for our constitutional rights and for the rights of all small business owners throughout the country,” Mr. Smith told “Fox & Friends Weekend” Sunday. “And it wasn’t intended to become political. We were trying to offer a solution to a problem where the government was failing, and it turned political. And that was because of Gov. Murphy’s actions. So now we made it political just as much as he has.”

Mr. Smith said they hoped the change would prevent authorities from trying to shut them down again, at least until Election Day.

“Any fines levied or attempt to barricade our doors would now be a political interference with an active Senate campaign,” he told the Washington Examiner in a statement. “Rik Mehta has been one of the only political figures in NJ to show his support for the rights of small businesses. Where others have ‘spoken’ support Rik has shown action.”



In a press release announcing the partnership, Mr. Mehta promised to be a voice for small business owners in the face of politicians who seek to trample on their “constitutional rights.”

“We will continue to be a loud vocal voice for those who have been silenced and treated unfairly by overreaching politicians,” he said. “I stand shoulder to shoulder with Ian, Frank and all of the hardworking dedicated small business owners who just want a fair shake and I will continue to fight alongside all of them. Together, we will make New Jersey a place to live, not leave.”

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