In a very public announcement, Democratic Gov. James E. McGreevey announced on Aug. 12, 2004 that he had an extramarital affair with a man and would resign from office, effective Nov. 15, 2004.
The news stunned the nation, particularly New Jersey, where McGreevey has served as governor since 2001. In announcing his decision, McGreevey said that "it makes little difference that as governor I am gay," but added that staying in office and keeping the affair and his sexual orientation secret would leave the governor's office "vulnerable to rumors, false allegations and threats of disclosure."
Republicans are putting pressure on McGreevey to leave before Sept. 3, which would allow for a special election on Nov. 2. If he can stay in office until at least Sept. 3, the election to replace him wouldn't occur until November 2005, the next general election. The New Jersey state Senate president, a Democrat, would be the acting governor.
Sen. Jon Corzine, D-N.J. has been asked by state-party members to give up his seat and seek the governor's mansion. Such a move could benefit Republicans and Democrats.
Should Corzine give up his seat before the election, that could allow the Republicans an opportunity they wouldn't otherwise have to add to their majority. But if Corzine then ran in a special election for governor and won, he would appoint the person to fill his Senate seat until the next general election. The person he would most likely select is Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., who has made it known he would like to be a senator.
Possible challengers the Republicans might like to turn to would include two former governors _ Thomas Kean and Christie Whitman.
Corzine has said he has no plans to abandon his Senate seat, but state Democrats are putting heavy pressure on him, seeing the former business executive as their best hope to hold on to the governor's office.
Other than U.S. House races, no federal officials are up for election in 2004.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Bob Menendez, the party's third highest ranking member in the House, will face Republican Richard W. Piatkowski in the Nov. 2 general election.
Menendez, a former mayor of Union City, was first elected in 1992 and has moved up the power structure in the Democratic Party. He is the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and is seeking a seventh term in the House. He won the 2002 general election with 78 percent of the vote.
In the 5th District, Dorothea Anne Wolfe will be the Democratic candidate against Republican Rep. Scott Garrett. Wolfe's foray into the political scene began when she volunteered to walk door-to-door in Massachusetts when she was 19 to help John Kerry in his first congressional bid. In 1972, she worked on George McGovern's campaign as a fund-raiser.
Garrett won the seat in 2002 after Rep. Marge Roukema retired. The moderate Republican had been the longest serving woman in Congress.
In 2002, former Senator Frank Lautenberg won a non-consecutive fourth term over Republican businessman Douglas Forrester after a 35-day campaign. Lautenberg agreed to run after incumbent Sen. Robert Torricelli, plagued by ethics troubles, dropped out.
Lautenberg promised to avoid the problems that caused Torricelli's downfall. "I'm going to obey the rules and put the people of this state first," he said after his election.