New Jersey Gym Owner Who Defied COVID Rules Is Running For Congress

Ian Smith, a New Jersey gym owner who offered free memberships to people who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine and who has repeatedly defied local health ordinances during the pandemic, is now running for Congress.

Smith on Sunday announced his intention to unseat Rep. Andy Kim (D) and represent New Jersey’s 3rd District in Washington, saying there aren’t enough “good people” in politics.

“I am truly excited to have the possibility to serve the people of NJ with a platform focused on liberty, small government, and America First policies,” he tweeted, without offering further specifics. He will make an official announcement on Thursday, he said.

Before taking office in 2019, Kim served in Afghanistan as a civil adviser and worked as a national security adviser under President Barack Obama. In a recent Politico profile, he described helping clean up the U.S. Capitol just hours after the 2021 insurrection. The blue suit he wore that day is slated to be featured in an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

A police officer issues Atilis co-owners Smith, left, and Frank Trumbetti, center, summons in 2020 after they repeatedly defied the governor’s order to remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith, who owns Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, has made a name for himself as a bodybuilder and outspoken opponent of vaccines, one willing to break the law for the sake of flouting public-health guidance.

He first made headlines during the pandemic in the summer of 2020 when he was arrested, along with the gym’s co-owner Frank Trumbetti, for keeping the facility open in defiance of a state order requiring indoor gyms to close. The gym’s business license was revoked in a local council vote soon after, but Smith and Trumbetti disregarded that decision and reopened anyway, Fox 29 News reported. This past Thursday, Smith said he and Trumbetti had been sentenced to a year of probation after pleading guilty to fourth-degree criminal contempt of court for removing their gym’s doors in 2020 to prevent the business from closing.

In March 2021, Smith was temporarily banned from American Airlines for refusing to wear a mask on a flight to New Jersey after he gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, the New York Post reported.

He made news again that same month when he publicly declared that he would give free gym memberships to people who’d refused to get vaccinated. He claimed that “the real way” to get healthy is not through vaccines but through exercise, diet, vitamins and de-stressing.

Prior to all of this, Smith was sentenced to five and a half years in prison for vehicular homicide after he killed a 19-year-old in 2007 while drunk driving, The Press of Atlantic City reported. He has since said he takes full responsibility for the tragedy.

Smith did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment Monday.

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