- The Washington Times - Friday, August 13, 2004

TRENTON, N.J. — Gov. James E. McGreevey stunned New Jersey and the nation by resigning his office suddenly yesterday, saying he had had an extramarital affair with another man.

“My truth is that I am a gay American,” he said with his second wife, Dina, by his side at a nationally televised press conference amid reports of a sexual-harassment lawsuit.

“Shamefully, I engaged in adult consensual affairs with another man, which violates my bonds of matrimony,” the twice-married father of two said. “It was wrong, it was foolish, it was inexcusable.”

The Democrat said his resignation would be effective Nov. 15, a move that avoids the risk of his party losing the seat in a special election.

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

Had Mr. McGreevey left office before Nov. 15, a special election would have to be called before New Jersey’s regular 2005 election.

Former Republican Gov. Christie Whitman said Mr. McGreevey “made a courageous decision” but criticized his wait until Nov. 15, saying it “smacks of politics” and it “would be in the best interests of the state” if he left office immediately.

Mr. McGreevey, 47, refused to answer questions at the Statehouse press conference.

He said that “it makes little difference that as governor I am gay,” but added that staying in office and keeping the affair and his sexual orientation secret will leave the governor’s office “vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure.”

“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,” he said.

He did not elaborate on what the circumstances were.

Two sources close to Mr. McGreevey, both speaking on condition of anonymity, said the man involved in the affair was Golan Cipel, an Israeli poet who worked briefly for the governor as a homeland-security adviser despite having no security experience.

As a foreign citizen, the 33-year-old former sailor could not get a security clearance and federal authorities would not share classified information with him.

One source, a senior McGreevey political adviser, said Mr. Cipel threatened Mr. McGreevey several weeks ago that unless he was paid “millions of dollars,” Mr. Cipel would file a lawsuit against the governor charging him with sexual harassment.

That source said an attorney for Mr. Cipel “indicated that should the money be paid, Cipel would disappear until after the 2005 election.”

The second source, a high-ranking member of the McGreevey administration, said Mr. Cipel made several threats about a lawsuit and demanded “an exorbitant sum of money to make it go away.”

Cabinet members and administration officials learned of that threat Wednesday night, the official said.

Mr. Cipel could not immediately be reached for comment.

Rumors had been circulating in New Jersey for several years that Mr. McGreevey was a homosexual, reaching the level of open hints on local talk radio. Mr. Cipel has been referred to as “pretty boy” and “special friend” by state political columnists.

Bob Ingle, Trenton bureau chief for Gannett New Jersey newspapers, wrote in 2002 that after Mr. Cipel stepped down from the security position, he continued on Mr. McGreevey’s payroll at $110,000 per year as a “policy counselor.”

“Cipel’s one identifiable project, planning a trip to Israel for sidekick Gov. James E. McGreevey and scores of others, petered out with an announcement … that after talking to the U.S. State Department there was concern over the hostilities in the Middle East,” Mr. Ingle noted. “One has to wonder why Cipel didn’t notice that before.”

A Roman Catholic, Mr. McGreevey had a daughter with his first wife, Kari, who lives in British Columbia, Canada, with the child. He has another daughter with his current wife.

McGreevey spokesman Micah Rasmussen declined to answer any questions about the future of his boss’s marriage.

As a candidate and governor, Mr. McGreevey proudly discussed his Catholicism but publicly disagreed with the church on issues relating to abortion and homosexuality. He pushed for the state’s domestic partnership law, which went into effect this year.

At the press conference, Mr. McGreevey referred to his lifelong struggles with homosexuality.

“Throughout my life, I have grappled with my own identity, who I am,” he said. “As a young child, I often felt ambivalent about myself, in fact, confused.

“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, not as we may want to see it or hope to see it, but as it is,” Mr. McGreevey added.

Mr. McGreevey rose from suburban mayor to state chief executive by his tenacious pursuit of party politics, maintaining a power base days after he narrowly lost to Mrs. Whitman in 1997. He never truly stopped that campaign until he won in November 2001, beating Republican Bret Schundler by 15 percentage points.

But Mr. McGreevey has been dogged by several scandals involving fund raising.

Among those caught up in recent scandals were his first chief of staff and former counsel; a top Democratic fund-raiser and former high school classmate; and real estate developer Charles Kushner, Mr. McGreevey’s biggest campaign contributor.

Mr. Kushner was charged with trying to thwart a federal campaign-finance investigation by luring a grand jury witness — his own brother-in-law — into a compromising position with a prostitute and sending video and photos to the man’s wife.

New Jersey residents expressed disbelief at the news.

“We thought it was a joke,” said Jeanne Montana, who heard the announcement on her car radio on the way to Atlantic City.

“Get out of here,” Jim Nerney said when told the news by an Associated Press reporter at a rest stop.

Once convinced it was true, he shook his head.

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