Sen. Jon S. Corzine (D-N.J.) said Wednesday that he will not actively seek to run for governor in a special election, dashing hopes by some state Democrats that he would help pressure Gov. James E. McGreevey to resign earlier than planned.
Corzine said McGreevey has assured him that he intends to serve through Nov. 15, in which case a special election would not be held. The Democratic governor gave that resignation date last week, when he announced he is gay and said he was stepping down because he had an extramarital affair with a man.
"The governor made clear in our conversation his absolute intent to serve until Nov. 15, 2004. I accept that decision as final," Corzine said in a statement. "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."
Some Democrats had joined Republicans in urging McGreevey to resign before Sept. 3, the cutoff date for holding a special election to complete the governor's term, which ends in January 2006.
Corzine, a Wall Street multimillionaire and chairman of the Democratic Senate campaign committee, would have been a formidable candidate, state Democrats said. Corzine's statement could make it easier for McGreevey to stay in office until Nov. 15.
If McGreevey does not resign by Sept. 3, the remainder of his term will be filled by state Senate President Richard J. Codey (D).
Earlier Wednesday, a major donor to McGreevey pleaded guilty to tax violations and charges stemming from a witness tampering scheme in which he was accused of having a prostitute seduce his brother-in-law.
Real estate mogul Charles Kushner pleaded guilty in federal court to 18 charges, including retaliating against a federal witness and violating campaign finance laws. He also pleaded guilty to 16 counts of filing false tax returns through various real estate partnerships. McGreevey was not implicated in the criminal complaint against Kushner.
Kushner was accused of hiring a prostitute to have sex with his brother-in-law, William Schulder, who was a cooperating witness in an investigation into whether Kushner violated campaign contribution laws and committed tax fraud. Prosecutors said Kushner ordered the sex act videotaped and a copy of the tape sent to his sister, Schulder's wife.
Another Kushner associate was approached by a prostitute but declined the advances, authorities said.
The court action came six days after McGreevey announced he had an affair with a man and intended to resign. Sources close to McGreevey have identified the man as Golan Cipel, an Israeli who held a state homeland security job in 2002.
The plea deal does not require Kushner to cooperate with investigators. Although Wednesday's guilty pleas are unrelated to the McGreevey case, Kushner sponsored the work visa that allowed Cipel to come to the United States and gave him a $30,000-a-year job in public relations with one of his companies.
Cipel said he is heterosexual and, through his lawyer, has denied McGreevey's claims and accused the governor of sexual harassment.