Recently, New Jersey reporters had written about the governor's house-hunting trips with an aide. One radio host even quizzed McGreevey about his friendship with Cipel, asking if the governor had been a good friend of his.
"Very good friends," McGreevey replied.
"Remains a good friend?" the radio host inquired.
"Yes," McGreevey said.
McGreevey is the second governor to resign this year, following John G. Rowland (R-Conn.), who stepped down amid an ethics investigation.
The New Jersey governor is the latest in a series of public figures whose careers have been seriously damaged or destroyed by revelations of their homosexual activities.
Former representative Gerry E. Studds (D-Mass.) was the first member of Congress to acknowledge he was gay, in 1983. He was censured after a former page revealed he had had a sexual relationship with Studds 10 years earlier. Massachusetts voters returned him to office. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was reprimanded by the House in 1990 after he acknowledged he had paid for sex with a male prostitute and hired him as a personal aide. Former representative Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.), who opposed gay rights legislation, was charged in the District in 1980 with soliciting sex from a 16-year-old boy. He was defeated later that year.
Even as McGreevey resigned, he faced the charge that his timing was politically calculated. Aides portrayed his decision not to leave office until mid-November as driven by the need for a smooth transition in this time of a terrorism alert. Republicans dismissed the explanation, saying the timing is purely political.
If McGreevey left before Sept. 13, it would trigger a special election. If he steps down afterward, the Democratic Senate president can serve out the governor's term.
"Regardless of the governor's personal issues, he can no longer effectively govern the state," said Brian Nelson, executive director of the New Jersey Republican State Committee, who threatened to sue to force a quick resignation.
That, in turn, would give the state's most powerful Democrat, Sen. Jon S. Corzine, time to consider whether he wants to run for governor. "The field is open to Corzine," Shure said. "It's clear that the Democratic strategists around the governor feel the party is better off leaving the selection until next year."
Staff writer Eric Pianin in Washington and researcher Richard Drezden in New York contributed to this report. Powell reported from New York.