Corzine will not push McGreevey out Will focus on duties in Senate; November special election unlikely
by Al Sullivan and Tom Jennemann
Aug 31, 2004 | 550 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hoboken resident and U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine will be staying at his current post, at least for now. Speculation and rumors about the junior senator's future started flying as soon after Gov. James McGreevey's shocking press conference a week ago where he announced that he would resign due to ramifications of a possible homosexual affair.

Even though McGreevey said that he would stay in office until Nov. 15, nearly every Republican and many local Democrats said he should resign immediately so that a special election can be held in November. If McGreevey resigns by Sept. 3, then a new election can be held for governor on Nov. 2.

If McGreevey stays in office until at least Sept. 3, power will be turned over to Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex), who will become acting governor until the 2005 election general election.

Last week, local Democratic Party bosses tried to recruit Corzine, who lives in Hoboken, to enter a special November election.

Advocates included Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) leader U.S. Representative Robert Menendez, and state Sen. Bernard Kenny, both of whom live in Hoboken. Other advocates for an early departure and a Corzine candidacy have been John Lynch, the Middlesex County Democratic leader, and George E. Norcross III, a power broker and former party chairman in Camden County.

Until Wednesday, Corzine was publicly mum about his future, but he later released a statement saying he has no intentions of forcing McGreevey out early.

"The governor made clear in our conversation his absolute intent to serve until November 15, 2004," said Corzine. "I accept that decision as final."

Corzine is currently the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is trying to help the party recapture the United States Senate.

"In light of the governor's position, I want to make clear that my priority is to serve the people of New Jersey in the United States Senate," said Corzine. "I will continue to work for the election of a Democratic majority in the Senate and for the election of John Kerry to the White House so that we can work together to improve our security at home and abroad, build a stronger economy for all Americans, improve health care, and provide educational opportunity for every child."

McGreevey isn't budging

Wednesday, former state Democratic leader Ray Lesniak, a state senator and Gov. McGreevey's most vocal supporter, said McGreevey would not be resigning early.

"As far as I'm concerned, the governor doesn't have to resign at all," Lesniak said during a telephone interview with the Reporter.

McGreevey issued a written statement issued to USA Today on Wednesday saying he would not step down early. Lesniak said this stand was firm, and that McGreevey is following the same steps taken in 2001 when then Gov. Christine Todd Whitman resigned to take a cabinet post with President George W. Bush.

"This has to do with the orderly transition of government," Lesniak said. "We are following the Constitution, which says McGreevey can pass on the reins of government to Senator Codey. We are following what has been done before and it worked."

Lesniak disputed critics that suggested this could lead to instability, claiming that a rush to a November election would cause more instability than this transition.

"When Donald DiFrancesco took over from Governor Whitman, he had to handle the 9/11 crisis," Lesniak said. "He handled it extremely well. The public will be well-protected by provisions set by the state Constitution." Lesniak said McGreevey also set the Nov. 15 resignation date in order to finish up policies the governor had already started.

"This requires meeting with Acting Governor Codey and his staff and to establish a smooth transition of power," he said. "This will affect dozens of departments and thousands of people. Regulations have to be implemented, and we need to be careful. Senator Codey's staff will have to be brought up to date on what is going on."

Chips fall into place

By Friday even Menendez, who was working behind the scenes all week for McGreevey's immediate resignation, said in a brief statement that he now supports McGreevey's decision to remain in office until Nov. 15.

"It is time for us to work collaboratively in order to continue to pursue the best interests of the state during this time of transition," Mr. Menendez told the New York Times.

Meanwhile, Corzine's statement did not say whether or not he is considering a possible run for governor in 2005, but that door is left open.

Corzine was elected to his first term in the United States Senate in November, 2000 after a career as co-chairman of the investment banking firm Goldman Sachs. He spent more than $60 million, mostly of his own money, on his campaign, one of the most expensive in U.S. history.
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