A contrite Gov. James E. McGreevey delivered a farewell address Monday in which he said he does not apologize “for being a gay American but rather for having let personal feelings impact my decision-making.”
McGreevey used the speech to list several accomplishments of his administration, but the Democrat also expounded on the soul-searching that has occupied his time since making his stunning, nationally televised resignation announcement three months ago with his wife and parents by his side.
“I am sorry that I have disappointed the citizens of the state of New Jersey who gave me this enormous trust,” said McGreevey, whose family did not attend Monday’s speech.
McGreevey is to step down Nov. 15. He resigned over a gay affair with a man identified as Golan Cipel — hired by the governor in 2002 to head the state’s Homeland Security department. Cipel has steadfastly denied any involvement with McGreevey and has alleged he was sexually harassed by the governor.
McGreevey highlighted reforms of the state’s child welfare agency, environmental protections and benefits for domestic partners as some of the top achievements of his administration. But the bulk of the speech focused on McGreevey’s beliefs on what he called the nation’s divisive political climate and his inner thoughts about being “an American who just happens to be gay and proud.”
“I don’t look back with bitterness, anger or sorrow. I look forward to seeking knowledge, a journey of self-discovery,” the governor told a crowd of about 400 people at a museum, at times quoting from philosophers and poets.
The governor also called for an end to partisan politics and blamed himself for contributing to a climate in which “we smile in person and then throw each other under the bus when we leave the room.”
“I’m not seeking to avoid my own contributions at times to this division,” he said. “The history of America is to expand civil liberties in a responsible and civil manner.”
Republicans have criticized McGreevey for staying in office so long after announcing his intention to resign. The decision to remain in office until Nov. 15 means Senate President Richard Codey, a Democrat, will serve out the final year of McGreevey’s term. Had McGreevey stepped down immediately, a special election would have been held.
Republicans also say his term was marked by ethical missteps made by both the governor and members of his administration.
“The reality is this governor disgraced himself and the state,” said Assembly Republican leader Alex DeCroce. “The only people who did exceptionally well under his administration were his friends and campaign contributors.”
McGreevey and his wife plan to move to separate homes.