A contrite Gov. James E. McGreevey delivered a farewell address Monday in which he said he does not apologize "for being a gay American but rather for having let personal feelings impact my decision-making."
McGreevey, who is to step down Nov. 15, used the speech to list several accomplishments of his administration, but the Democrat also expounded on the soul-searching that has occupied his time since making his stunning, nationally televised resignation announcement three months ago.
"I am sorry that I have disappointed the citizens of the state of New Jersey who gave me this enormous trust," McGreevey said during the 15-minute address to staff and supporters.
McGreevey resigned over an affair with a man identified as Golan Cipel -- an Israeli poet hired by the governor in 2002 to head the state's homeland security department despite having little experience. Cipel has steadfastly denied any involvement with McGreevey.
The governor announced his resignation Aug. 12 during a nationally televised speech in which he stood in front of the cameras with his wife and parents by his side and declared, "My truth is that I am a gay American."
On Monday, McGreevey received a standing ovation after he slipped on stage through a curtain to begin his speech, and he got more cheers as he left while hugging staff and Cabinet members. His family did not attend.
He delivered the speech on a stage decorated with seven poster-size photos of his time as governor -- one showing him with the late actor Christopher Reeve and another with a group of children.
He talked about being "an American who just happens to be gay and proud" as he reflected on the accomplishments of his administration, including stem cell research, reforms of the state's child welfare agency, environmental protections and benefits for domestic partners.
"I don't look back with bitterness, anger or sorrow. I look forward to seeking knowledge, a journey of self-discovery," the governor told the crowd, at times quoting Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.
The governor also called for an end to partisan politics and blamed himself for contributing to a climate in which "we smile in person and then throw each other under the bus when we leave the room."
Republicans say McGreevey's term was marked by several scandals and ethical missteps. They also have criticized him for staying in office so long after announcing his resignation.
"The reality is this governor disgraced himself and the state," said Assembly Republican leader Alex DeCroce. "The only people who did exceptionally well under his administration were his friends and campaign contributors."
The decision to remain in office until Nov. 15 means Senate President Richard Codey, a Democrat, will serve out the final year of McGreevey's term. Had McGreevey stepped down immediately, a special election would have been held.
Specifics on McGreevey's marital future are not known, other than reports that he and his wife plan to move to separate homes.