Former Governor Jim McGreevey is expected to officially kick off his campaign for mayor at an event next Thursday. The email announcement came a day after McGreevey submitted a filing with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission indicating a run. McGreevey will be the first candidate to formally enter the race.
In announcing next week’s event, McGreevey said, “It is a day when we will begin to bring the change we need to Jersey City: to work for greater accountability, reliable services, clean and safe streets, and control property taxes for working families.”
McGreevey, who was born in Jersey City, was the governor of New Jersey from 2002-2004. Before that, he represented the 19th Legislative District in the New Jersey General Assembly, was the mayor of Woodbridge Township, and served one term in the New Jersey Senate.
McGreevey was forced to step down as governor when his former homeland security advisor, Golan Cipel, whose appointment to the position many in the state legislature had questioned, threatened to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against McGreevey. An advisor to the former governor called the potential lawsuit “a clear extortion attempt.”
At an August 2004 press conference announcing his resignation, McGreevey came out as “a gay American,” making him the first openly gay state governor in the country, and admitted to having “an adult consensual affair with another man,” later identified as Cipel.
McGreevey recounted his affair with Cipel in his memoir, The Confession. Cipel repeatedly denied having any consensual relationship, instead claiming that McGreevey sexually harassed him with repeated unwanted sexual advances.
Following his resignation, McGreevey, who was raised Catholic, studied to be an Episcopal priest at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in New York City, where he earned his master’s degree in divinity. His first bid to become a priest was rejected “amid the fallout of his bitter divorce” from his second wife, former First Lady of New Jersey Dina Matos. He has since rejoined the Catholic Church.
In 2013, McGreevey was appointed to head the federally funded non-profit Jersey City Employment & Training Commission, which provided re-entry training for ex-inmates to help them find employment, housing, and treatment. McGreevey had worked with Hudson County female inmates with drug addictions during his seminary studies. Mayor Fulop cited McGreevey’s experience in government as a qualification for the position, calling him a “valuable asset” for the re-entry program.
During the course of McGreevey’s work with the re-entry program, McGreevey and Fulop had a falling out, leading to McGreevey’s termination from the organization. Fulop accused McGreevey of misappropriating funds, and McGreevey claimed Fulop was retaliating against him for firing one of Fulop’s political allies. Both have denied all accusations, but the bad blood has lingered. The JCETP closed in 2022 following a scandal involving McGreevey’s replacement, Sudan Thomas.
Nine Hudson County mayors have endorsed McGreevey. Fulop has not made an endorsement in the race.
No other candidates have officially entered the race for mayor, but Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea is expected to announce his candidacy by the end of the month. Council President Joyce Watterman and Ward E Councilman James Solomon are also predicted to join the race.
With over two years until the 2025 election, McGreevey has not yet released a platform or announced his positions on hot-button issues that are important to Jersey City voters, including taxes, education, mass transit, policing and mental health response, and the budget.
“He seems like a blank slate as of now,” said local artist and activist Amy Wilson. “There’s a ton of stuff out there and I haven’t heard McGreevey comment on any of them in any kind of depth.”
In a letter last month to Jersey City homeowners, McGreevey announced that he is developing “Working Groups” to get insight from locals on several areas of concern: public safety, community well-being, economic development, education, housing affordability, responsible government taxes, and quality of life.
Beyond his political positions, McGreevey’s associates during his campaign will be a sign of things to come. “Let’s just say we’ll learn a lot about him when he tells us who he’s running with,” said Wilson.