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THE NATION

N.J. Governor Quits Over Gay Affair

McGreevey cites family reasons. An aide says the other man was weighing a sexual harassment suit.

August 13, 2004|David Zucchino and Elizabeth Mehren | Times Staff Writers

TRENTON, N.J. — With his wife by his side, New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey on Thursday declared, "I am a gay American." McGreevey said he had had an affair with a man, and would step down Nov. 15.

The 47-year-old Democrat -- twice married and the father of two daughters -- confirmed rumors that have dogged him for years as he revealed that "shamefully, I engaged in an adult consensual relationship with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony.

"It was wrong. It was foolish. It was inexcusable," McGreevey said during a poignant, 10-minute speech at the state Capitol.

McGreevey said his sexuality did not affect his performance as governor.

But, he said, "Given the circumstances surrounding the affair and its likely impact upon my family and my ability to govern, I have decided the right course of action is to resign."

An aide to McGreevey identified the other man as Golan Cipel, 33, an Israeli national whom the governor hired as New Jersey's domestic security advisor after taking office in 2002.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 05, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 77 words Type of Material: Correction
New Jersey governor -- An Aug. 13 article in Section A about the resignation of New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey quoted Tim Cook, a professor at Louisiana State University, as saying that McGreevey "definitely needed to step down" because he could not have withstood the fallout from saying he had had an affair with a man. Another person who identified himself as Tim Cook provided the statement. Cook stated that he would not have said that.

Cipel resigned weeks later after questions were raised about his qualifications for the $110,000-a-year job. Cipel stayed on as the governor's special advisor, with the same salary, for five months.

Another McGreevey advisor said that Cipel was considering filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against the governor. Neither Cipel nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

At his news conference, McGreevey did not name Cipel or say that the man he had the affair with once worked for him. Nor did he make any reference to a fundraising scandal that had hovered over his administration.

At Pete Lorenzo's Cafe, blocks from the nation's second-oldest statehouse, tavern manager Kelly Zimmerman said she had met the governor several times, and liked the job he was doing. The cafe is a frequent meeting place for New Jersey politicians, including McGreevey, and a large crowd had gathered to watch McGreevey's announcement on television.

"People were dumbfounded," Zimmerman said. "I don't think he should have resigned just because of his sex orientation. It has nothing to do with his job as governor."

McGreevey, a Catholic, said that as a child he grappled with his sexual identity, and worked hard to fit into traditional family expectations.

From his earliest days in school, he said, "I forced what I thought was an acceptable reality onto myself -- a reality that is layered with all the 'good things.' "

Yet, he said, "There were points in my life when I began to question what an acceptable reality really meant for me."

As his parents and his wife looked on, McGreevey said: "At a point in every person's life, one has to look deeply into the mirror of one's soul and decide one's unique truth in the world.

"My truth," he said, "is that I am a gay American."

Tim Cook, a professor of mass communications at Louisiana State University who studies the politics of sexual diversity, said that McGreevey "definitely needed to step down. I don't see how he could have withstood this."

State Senate President Richard J. Codey, a Democrat, will become acting governor and serve out the remainder of McGreevey's term, which ends in early 2006.

McGreevey, born in Jersey City, N.J., graduated from Columbia University and earned his law degree at Georgetown University. He also earned a master's degree in education from Harvard.

He served as mayor of suburban Woodbridge and in the Legislature, and narrowly lost the governor's race in 1997 to Republican Christie Whitman. Four years later he defeated Republican Bret Schundler by 15 percentage points.

The popular Democrat, noted for his tenacity within his party, inherited a $5-billion budget deficit. Refusing to raise state taxes for the middle class, McGreevey instead placed new taxes on the state's wealthy residents and raised taxes on casinos and cigarettes.

But McGreevey's administration was clouded by fundraising and financial scandals.

Commerce Secretary William D. Watley resigned last month amid charges that he directed state funds into his personal businesses and awarded government contracts to friends.

Prosecutors in July charged that the governor's biggest donor, Charles Kushner, tried to derail a federal investigation of his campaign contributions.

Another top McGreevey fund-raiser, David D'Amiano, was arraigned last month on charges of extorting money from a farmer in exchange for help with a land deal.

McGreevey is the nation's second governor to resign this year. Republican John Rowland of Connecticut stepped down in June as a corruption investigation shook his administration and the likelihood of impeachment loomed.

Jim Margolis, a media consultant and McGreevey advisor, said that Cipel had threatened to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against the governor a few weeks ago.

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