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Governor quits after affair

Washington, Aug. 13: New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, who survived a scandal linking him with Indian-American aide Rajesh “Roger” Chugh, who advertised his “light complexion, brown eyes, dark hair” and Italian looks on his personal website, has finally paid a price for his wayward ways.

McGreevey shocked America’s political establishment 82 days before the country’s hotly contested presidential election by resigning yesterday after admitting that he was a homosexual who had an extra-marital affair with a man.

At a nationally televised press conference in Trenton, the state capital, McGreevey did not identify his lover, but it is widely known in New Jersey that the man is Golan Cipel, his friend of many years and a campaign aide.

Cipel, an Israeli national, was appointed New Jersey’s homeland security advisor on an annual salary of $110,000 shortly after McGreevey was elected governor. Cipel resigned after his qualifications for the job were widely questioned.

New Jersey media said the governor had assisted Cipel to set himself up at a rented house near the gubernatorial residence and later helped him to buy a house after his forced resignation from the administration. McGreevey and Cipel, however, quarelled later and the aide threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against the governor claiming compensation, forcing McGreevey to come out of the closet and reveal his bi-sexual orientation.

McGreevey is twice married and has two children. His wife, Dina, was at his side during the press conference. “Shamefully, I indulged in an adult consensual affair with another man, which violates the bonds of matrimony. It was wrong, it was foolish and it was inexcusable... I have decided the right course of action is to resign,” McGreevey said.

McGreevey made it clear that he was resigning not because he was gay, but because he had committed adultery. “At a point in every person’s life one has to look deeply into the mirror of one’s soul and decide one’s unique truth... My truth is that I am a gay American.”

The scandal leading to the New Jersey governor’s resignation is a potential political earthquake in an election campaign in which gay marriage is an issue after they were legalised in Massachusetts. In Ashbury Park, a small town in New Jersey, local officials started issuing marriage licences to gay couples in March, but were stopped by the state’s attorney general.

McGreevey, 47, has consistently said in public that he opposed gay marriage, but he helped draft some of America’s liberal laws in New Jersey to provide homosexual partners spousal benefits, medical and legal rights.

McGreevey’s administration was dogged by scandals almost from the start of his administration in January 2002. The first scandal involved Indian-American Chugh, a Punjabi immigrant, who was appointed an assistant commissioner in the office of New Jersey’s secretary of state.

Chugh claimed that he was assistant secretary of state and there were complaints that he was extorting money from other Indian Americans. Chugh, who started his life in America in 1986 as a taxi driver, was accused, among other things, of having pocketed hundreds of thousands of Air India's dollars when he ran a travel agency later.

McGreevey defended Chugh, who was a fundraiser for the governor, but the Indian American was forced to resign in June last year.

Last fortnight, a real estate developer and fundraiser for McGreevey, Charles Kushner, was charged with interfering in a federal campaign-finance investigation by luring a grand jury witness into meeting a prostitute and videotaping the encounter.

In July, McGreevey became embroiled in a scandal involving extortion of $40,000 in donations from a farmer in exchange for helping him get a better price for his land.

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