From advocating for gay rights to pushing for stem cell research, life beyond the governorship appears to be full of possibilities for James E. McGreevey.
As the soon-to-be former governor of New Jersey contemplates a future that begins with his resignation at midnight Monday, his options are seemingly wide open: Advocates are courting him to take up their causes, and he has already agreed to be a volunteer for a national education organization, said state senator Raymond Lesniak, a friend of McGreevey's. "After Thanksgiving, we're going to sit down and talk about what he's going to do with the rest of his life," Lesniak said Tuesday, a day after the governor gave a farewell speech. "There are no plans beyond that."
The Democratic governor announced his planned resignation August 12 during a now-famous speech in which he acknowledged being gay and having had an affair, declaring, "My truth is that I am a gay American." Senate president Richard J. Codey becomes acting governor at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, serving out the term until January 2006. He will quietly take the oath of office at his home in West Orange sometime Sunday, said his spokeswoman, Kelley Heck.
Some personal concerns are on McGreevey's upcoming short list: tending to his ill parents, helping his wife and daughter move into their new house in Springfield while he takes up residence in Rahway, and taking a little time off. "A lot of healing has to go on in that family," said Lesniak. "They want to use this to get closer as a family, not farther apart. There was a barrier before because of the governor's denial of his sexuality."
As a Georgetown-educated lawyer with a master's in education from Harvard, McGreevey has an enviable educational pedigree. But he also comes from a modest background--his father was a Marine drill sergeant, and his mother a nurse--so whatever he winds up doing, "he has to earn a living," said Lesniak. "The governor has never thought much of his economic welfare and he's not a flashy guy, so it's not high on his priority list. But it has to be a consideration."
Gay rights groups would love to have him take up their cause. Stem cell research proponents are already knocking at his door. McGreevey was instrumental in establishing a stem cell research center in New Jersey.
Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the New York State gay rights group Empire State Pride Agenda, said the nation's only openly gay governor would be a welcome spokesman for gay and lesbian issues. McGreevey appeared at the group's fund-raiser after coming out. "I've spoken to the governor and told the governor, in the next several months, when he settles down, I think his is going to be a powerful voice for [gay] issues," said Van Capelle.
Michael Adams, spokesman for the gay civil rights group Lambda Legal, said McGreevey's tarnished 35-month tenure would not taint his star power within the gay populace or among other special interest groups. "The reality is, we're a country that believes in rebirth and people moving beyond prior mistakes," Adams said. "Any community would look to 'What kind of contribution are you willing and able to make moving forward?' not 'What have you done previously?'"
In the three months since his bombshell announcement, the governor has tried to build a legacy--issuing executive orders prohibiting companies that do business with any state agency from making campaign contributions and establishing needle-exchange programs in three New Jersey cities with high rates of HIV infection. The governor has already decided to embrace educational issues after he leaves office and has accepted a nonpaying position advocating for education reforms on behalf of a national education group, said Lesniak. He declined to name the group.
All kinds of options remain for the onetime political star of the Democratic Party. "The question isn't whether people will want to work with Jim McGreevey, it's a question of where Jim McGreevey will want to put his gifts," said Van Capelle.
McGreevey resigned over a gay affair with a man identified as Golan Cipel--an Israeli hired by the governor in 2002 to be the state's homeland security adviser despite having little experience. Cipel has steadfastly denied any involvement with McGreevey.