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Inside Politics

Corzine won't run for N.J. governor

Whitman to McGreevey: Step down now

CNN's Alina Cho on James McGreevey's surprise resignation.

McGreevey: "I am a gay American."
New Jersey
James E. McGreevey
Christine Todd Whitman
Jon Corzine

(CNN) -- U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine said Wednesday he will not pursue the New Jersey governorship, after being told by outgoing Gov. Jim McGreevey that he has no intention of stepping down immediately -- a move that would trigger a special election.

"The governor made clear in our conversation his absolute intent to serve until November 15," Corzine said in a statement. "I accept that decision as final."

McGreevey announced last week that he would resign effective November 15, after disclosing that he was gay and had an extramarital sexual relationship with a man.

However, he has come under increased pressure to depart immediately, which would allow a special election to be held November 2 for the remaining 14 months of his term.

If McGreevey sticks to his schedule, no special election would be held, and his term would be finished by state Senate President Richard Codey, who -- like McGreevey and Corzine -- is a Democrat.

Corzine was being mentioned as a likely Democratic candidate if a special election were held. Democratic leaders in Washington were leery of that possibility because of Corzine's key position as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which raises money for the party's Senate hopefuls around the country.

Meanwhile Wednesday, former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman called on McGreevey to leave office immediately.

"The good of the state needs to be put ahead of politics now, and Jim McGreevey said he won't be able to do this job in November. That means he's distracted today," Whitman, a Republican, told CNN's American Morning. "If he can't do it the way he needs to do it today, he should step aside."

Whitman also discounted McGreevey's argument that the delay would allow for a smooth transition.

"Even when you have a change through the electoral process, you don't have three months, you only have two at the most," she said.

Whitman, who left the Garden State's governorship in 2001 to become director of the Environmental Protection Agency, said she is not likely to run for her old job. However, she said she might consider running in the special election and serving the remainder of McGreevey's term "if it were clearly just going to be an interim, just to keep the state quiet and move things along."

However, Whitman said she thinks that it would be better for New Jersey to elect an interim governor who also wanted the job permanently -- and she is not interested in running for a full term in 2005

"I really think you should have someone new for that," she said.

McGreevey's stunning announcement came as a former aide, Golan Cipel, was considering taking sexual harassment allegations to court. A federal law enforcement source said McGreevey's office told the FBI last week that Cipel was demanding millions of dollars to keep the matter out of court -- an allegation Cipel's lawyer has denied.

Cipel returned to his native Israel on Tuesday, making few comments to the news media.

"I have had a very difficult time. I have come to Israel to be with my family at this time. I cannot expand on anything for legal reasons," he said.

CNN's Jonathan Wald contributed to this report.

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