- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Republican Party leaders are applying pressure on Gov. James E. McGreevey to leave office before a self-imposed November deadline, taking their case to the public.

Republican businessman Doug Forrester, the party’s unsuccessful choice in the 2002 race for U.S. Senate, said he would broadcast radio and television commercials to tell voters the state needs a partisan 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 Mr. McGreevey with Democratic state Sen. Richard Codey, the man who as Senate president is to finish the balance of Mr. McGreevey’s term.

“It is important that we focus on the serious issue of good government,” said Mr. Forrester, who is one of several potential Republican candidates for a potential special election.

Appealing directly to the public marks a shift in Republican strategy from exploring legal approaches for ousting Mr. McGreevey, said the party’s chairman, state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos.

Mr. McGreevey scrambled the state’s political landscape Thursday with the disclosure that he had engaged in a sexual affair with a man and would resign effective Nov. 15.

If he stays in office beyond Sept. 3, Mr. McGreevey prevents a special election of someone to serve the remainder of his term, which expires in January 2006.

A spokeswoman for the governor, Ellen Mellody, said the timing of the resignation had nothing to do with the window for a special election. “Much thought went into the November 15 date,” she said. “The date was chosen to ensure a smooth transition of government.”

Mr. McGreevey, making his first public comments since disclosing his homosexuality, defended his record and the effective date of his resignation in a commentary in yesterday’s editions of USA Today.

Headlined “Duty trumps personal issues,” Mr. McGreevey credits his administration with strengthening the state’s economy, reforming its troubled auto insurance market, improving the lives of residents and making New Jersey a leader in stem-cell research.

Mr. 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 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.

Mr. McGreevey’s commentary appeared under an editorial arguing that the governor resigned more out of political calculation than bravery: “If Mr. McGreevey wants to show some real political courage, he’d quit now.”

While the GOP wants to push the governor out the door, some Democrats also hope Mr. McGreevey will leave early to avoid dragging out details of his sexual adventures. State Democrats are looking to U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine to run if Mr. McGreevey does leave. But national party leaders are urging Mr. Corzine to stay in the Senate, and Mr. Corzine has indicated he is not looking to replace Mr. McGreevey.

Most Democrats, however, are telling party leaders they are sticking with Mr. McGreevey, said Assemblyman Joe Cryan, the state party vice chairman.

In a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll released Monday, 48 percent of those surveyed said they thought he should have resigned immediately, and 41 percent said November 15 is a satisfactory departure date.

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