Jim McGreevey — the New Jersey governor who came out as gay in a 2004 press conference where he also announced his resignation from office — has announced a bid to become the mayor of Jersey City.
McGreevey had been a high-profile Democrat in New Jersey politics during the 1990s and early 2000s, serving as mayor of Woodbridge Township from 1991 to 2002. He simultaneously served in the state General Assembly from 1990-1992 and the state Senate from 1994 to 1998. He narrowly lost a bid for the governorship to popular Republican Gov. Christie Todd Whitman in the 1997 general election, only to run four years later, winning an open seat in a landslide.
McGreevey’s resignation and coming out was prompted by the threat of a sexual harassment lawsuit from Golan Cipel, a former Israeli-born aide to the governor.
According to McGreevey, he engaged in a consensual extramarital affair with Cipel, who was threatening to blackmail him before filing the lawsuit. According to Cipel, McGreevey came onto him several times, sexually harassing and assaulting him, despite Cipel rebuffing the governor’s advances.
Referencing the scandal surrounding his resignation, McGreevey released a campaign announcement video entitled “Second Chances” that shows him watching a clip of his final press conference, almost wincing as if in pain.
“I’m imperfect,” he says in the video. “And I’ll always be imperfect. It was important to take accountability, to do the next right thing. It was painful, but I would not have traded anything that I’ve experienced. It’s made me a better person, more compassionate.
“A lot of the guys and girls I work with come from difficult circumstances,” McInstalled PluginsGreevey says, referencing his work with people who have previously been incarcerated. “They don’t always have schools that work, the opportunities.”
The video references McGreevey’s journey as a seminary student who obtained a master of divinity degree, sought ordination in the Episcopal Church, and worked with returning citizens.
The 66-year-old is the former head and founder of the Jersey City Employment & Training Program, but was fired from that post over what city officials described as “financial improprieties” in the organization.
The program shut down last year, and McGreevey has since become executive director of the New Jersey Reentry Corporation, which provides job training and other services to formerly incarcerated individuals.
In the video, McGreevey says he wants Jersey City to be about “opportunity for working families, people who want to give back and make the community better, who give a darn.”
He highlights the issue of housing affordability as a key platform, lamenting, “[When] Jersey City becomes unaffordable to the people who built this city, something’s terribly wrong.”
Thus far, McGreevey — who has significant support from members of the Democratic Party, including party bosses and several North Jersey mayors — is the only candidate to have thrown his hat in the mayoral race so far.
Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea is expected to announce his candidacy soon. Councilman James Solomon is also expected to run, according to the Jersey Journal. Current Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop is expected to pursue a gubernatorial bid in 2025.
Micah Rasmussen, the director of the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics at Rider University, who served as McGreevey’s communications director at the time of his resignation, told LGBTQ Nation McGreevey is going to have to answer questions about the scandal and why he wants to seek public office on the campaign trail.
“He’s going to be faced with this question of his resignation over and over again, and he realizes he needs to pick up there,” Rasmussen said. “So I thought [the video] was a smart place to start. It’s really the only place he can start.”
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