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New Jersey governor faces mounting pressure to leave

New Jersey governor faces mounting pressure to leave

Republican Party leaders hope to ratchet up the pressure on New Jersey governor James E. McGreevey to leave office before a self-imposed November 15 deadline by taking their case to the public. Republican businessman Doug Forrester, the party's unsuccessful choice in the 2002 New Jersey race for U.S. Senate, announced plans to air a series of radio and television commercials, telling voters the state needs a change in leadership. In a commercial to be shown on cable television, a voice-over announcer suggests the state needs an elected lieutenant governor, as viewers see images of McGreevey with Democratic state senator Richard Codey, the man who as state senate president is to serve out the balance of McGreevey's term. "It is important that we focus on the serious issue of good government," said Forrester, who is one of several possible GOP candidates for a potential special election. Appealing directly to the public marks a shift in GOP strategy from exploring legal approaches for ousting McGreevey, said the party's chairman, state senator Joseph Kyrillos. McGreevey upended the state's political landscape August 12 by saying that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a man and then announcing he would resign his office. If he stays in office beyond September 3, McGreevey staves off the need for a special election for the remainder of his term, which expires in January 2006. A spokeswoman for the governor, Ellen Mellody, denied the timing of the resignation has anything to do with the window for a special election. "Much thought went into the November 15 date. The date was chosen to ensure a smooth transition of government," Mellody said. McGreevey, making his first public comments since disclosing his homosexuality, defended his record and the effective date of his resignation in an opinion piece that appeared in Tuesday's USA Today. In the article, headlined "Duty Trumps Personal Issues," McGreevey credits his administration with bolstering the state's economy, reforming its troubled auto insurance market, improving the quality of life for residents, and making New Jersey a leader in stem-cell research. McGreevey refers only generally to the reason for his resignation, calling it personal and a decision that was not easy "but one that was in the best interests of my family and the state that I humbly serve." He also defended his departure date, saying it would provide for a more orderly transition than if he resigned now, when the state is on high alert for terrorism, a situation heightened by the upcoming Republican National Convention in New York. McGreevey's words appear under a USA Today editorial that argues the governor announced his resignation more out of political calculation than bravery. "If McGreevey wants to show some real political courage, he'd quit now," it read. While the GOP wants to push the governor out the door, some Democrats also hope McGreevey will leave early to avoid dragging out details of his sex life. State Democrats are looking to U.S. senator Jon Corzine to run if McGreevey does leave. But national party leaders are urging Corzine to stay in the Senate, and Corzine has indicated he is not looking to replace McGreevey. Most Democrats, however, are telling party leaders they are sticking with McGreevey, said Assemblyman Joe Cryan, the state party vice chairman. "I'm asking what they're thinking," Cryan said Monday. "I'm getting the very consistent message that the governor ought to hang in there." Voters apparently disagree. In a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released Monday, 41% of those surveyed said they thought November 15 was the right date for McGreevey to leave office. However, 48% said he should have resigned immediately. The poll--of 500 registered voters that was conducted Friday, Saturday, and Sunday--also found that New Jersey voters think there is more to McGreevey's resignation than what he has told them and that it has little to do with his sexual activities. Nearly half of those surveyed said they believe McGreevey is resigning because of corruption in his administration, while just 8% said they think he is leaving because he is gay. Another 11% said he is quitting because of the extramarital affair. Also Monday, two lawyers filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force a special election, arguing that McGreevey has declared "he is unable to govern and to continue to carry out the duties of his office and that he could no longer continue in office due to threats of blackmail and extortion." Two sources close to McGreevey--a high-ranking administration member and a senior political adviser--have identified an Israeli, Golan Cipel, as the man with whom McGreevey had the affair. Cipel worked on McGreevey's 2001 campaign and then served as a state homeland security adviser and special counselor to the governor in 2002. In a statement released by his lawyer Friday, Cipel maintained that he is not gay and denied any consensual relationship with the governor. He said McGreevey repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances and retaliated when he rejected the advances. Cipel returned to his homeland Monday. Speaking in Hebrew, Cipel said Tuesday that he had had "a very difficult time. I have come to Israel to be with my family at this time." He said he could not elaborate "for legal reasons." McGreevey, meanwhile, returned to work Monday but kept a low public profile, even forgoing an appearance at an announcement about auto insurer Geico's return to the New Jersey market after nearly 30 years.

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