New Jersey governor James E. McGreevey gave an emotional farewell speech to labor groups Friday, thanking them for their support and apologizing for the mistakes he made as governor. "I wanted to be here today, as I said in my remarks, to say thank you," he told a crowd of about 400 union officials and workers. "Yes, I have made my mistakes, and I fully accept responsibility and culpability for those mistakes," McGreevey said. "I believe in a merciful God."
McGreevey never mentioned his pending resignation or the sex scandal that has forced him from office. He did remind the audience of his accomplishments, citing job growth and a booming economy in the state. McGreevey said the work is not done and told the crowd they must work to support Democratic candidate John Kerry in the November election. "I ask you to work your hearts and souls for a better future for America," McGreevey said.
At times the event seemed like a campaign rally. McGreevey received several standing ovations, and audience members chanted "Four more years."
McGreevey made the appearance on the day by which he would have to resign in order for a special election to be scheduled for November to replace him. He ignored questions shouted by reporters about the transition of state government and the looming deadline. McGreevey has said he intends to leave office November 15 and has rejected demands that he quit sooner so the special election could be held.
A federal judge has set a September 8 hearing for a lawsuit that seeks a special election regardless of the earlier deadline. If McGreevey remains in office through November 15, he would be replaced for the remainder of his term by state senate president Richard Codey. The next regular gubernatorial election is scheduled for November 2005.
During a scholarship awards ceremony at Friday's event, a steady stream of well-wishers, including local politicians and college students, shook hands with McGreevey at his table. Several of the students posed for pictures with the governor. The appearance marked McGreevey's resumption of an active public schedule following three weeks of closed-door meetings since he announced that he would resign after acknowledging a gay extramarital affair.