(CNSNews.com) - Most of the major newspapers in and around New Jersey editorialized Friday that Gov. James McGreevey should step down immediately rather than waiting until Nov. 15, the date he said was necessary to ensure a proper transition.
The Asbury Park Press put it bluntly in an editorial headlined, "The governor must leave now." While not all newspapers commented on McGreevey's Nov. 15 departure - the result of a homosexual extramarital affair - it was quickly becoming a hot topic one day later.
"McGreevey said Nov. 15 would provide 'a responsible transition,' " the Press opined. "In reality, he manipulated his exit date to ensure that a Democrat - not elected statewide - occupies what is considered the most powerful governor's office in the nation."
According to New Jersey law, McGreevey's decision to wait until November to resign prevents the state from holding a special election. It also ensures that State Senate President Richard J. Codey, a Democrat, will hold the office until January 2006.
In New Jersey's capital, the editorial in The Times of Trenton said politics were at work behind McGreevey's choice of Nov. 15. The newspaper dismissed the governor's claim that the November date would assure a "responsible transition" for the next administration.
"Baloney," the Times' editorial stated. "This governor is conning us yet again. What he means is that he intends to stall his departure for two months to ensure that the Democratic Party keeps control of the governorship until the end of 2005."
A lengthy editorial in Camden's Courier-Post asked McGreevey to resign immediately. The newspaper said the governor would forever be remembered for raising taxes and being consumed by scandals. Besides the extramarital affair, McGreevey has also faced questions about fund-raising by his associates.
"McGreevey is helping the Democrats more than the people of New Jersey by waiting three months to leave office," the Courier-Post editorialized. "By waiting until Nov. 15, McGreevey has allowed his party to retain control of the governor's mansion. He has put the interests of the Democratic Party ahead of the interests of the people of New Jersey."
Newark's Star-Ledger stopped short of calling for an immediate resignation, but its editorial also said politics were at play in the selection of a date after a special election was possible.
Editors at Easton's Express-Times wrote: "McGreevey said he'll step down Nov. 15 because the scandal would neutralize his ability to lead. The more honorable step would have been to resign immediately, allowing for voters to choose an interim governor in November."
Even the neighboring New York Times noted the difficulties McGreevey is likely to face in the coming months. The "Times" also suggested it would be inappropriate to anoint Codey since he was elected only by the citizens of Essex County rather than in a statewide vote.
"While the mechanics of trying to hold gubernatorial primaries and an election this year would be daunting, Mr. McGreevey's strategy doesn't serve New Jersey residents well," editors at The New York Times opined. "The state will be led by an embattled governor mired in personal and legal problems for three months."
Another New York newspaper, the Sun, opined, "[H]e is doing a terrible disservice to New Jersey by seeking to serve until November 15 so that the voters of the Garden State wouldn't have a chance to choose his successor in an actual election between a Democrat and a Republican."
Although most newspapers offered harsh criticism of McGreevey, not all demanded an immediate resignation. The Courier News of Bridgewater and the Gloucester County Times both approved of McGreevey's timetable.
"[S]ome critics will complain that he merely wants to avoid a special election to replace him in November," the Courier News editorialized. "In this instance, however, he is showing good judgment. A frantic campaign under these circumstances would serve no one well."
And the Gloucester County Times wrote: "By formally staying in office until Nov. 15, though, the governor has cut off the option of a special election for a successor. With the race set for 2005 anyway, a compressed election for governor this year probably would not have been in New Jersey's best interest."
At the neighboring Philadelphia Inquirer, editors recalled the lukewarm work of the last unelected governor. When former Republican governor Christine Whitman took a job in the Bush administration, she left the state in the hands of then-Senate President Donald DiFrancesco.
"McGreevey could have chosen to resign before Sept. 3, thus triggering an extremely short campaign for a new governor to be chosen in the Nov. 2 election," the Inquirer wrote. "That way, voters at least would be able to choose a successor, rather than again being led by a Senate president never elected outside of his home district.
"But if that had happened Democratic and Republican leaders would have offered up candidates chosen for their name recognition rather than what they could do for the state. So maybe the way McGreevey handled his replacement was best," according to the Inquirer.
See Related Story:
New Jersey, Nation React to Governor's Leap From Closet (Aug. 13, 2004)
E-mail a news tip to Robert B. Bluey.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.