In a newspaper opinion piece published Sunday, New Jersey's embattled governor says his decision not to leave office immediately because of a sex scandal was "difficult" to make but one he will not change.

Democratic Gov. James E. McGreevey (search) used The New York Times to make his first public defense of his Nov. 15 resignation date, which has been criticized roundly by both Republicans and members of his own party. McGreevey announced Aug. 12 he is leaving his post because he had an extramarital affair with a man.

"While I see the merits of both sides of the debate, I stand firm with my decision," McGreevey wrote in the Times. "My obligation is to complete the important work already started and to achieve an effective transition of state government."

McGreevey identified two specific reasons for remaining in office: to address several policy matters, including plans for a stem cell research center (search), and to make use of personal privilege set forth in the state Constitution.

"I acknowledge that the constitution would permit a special election to occur if I were to resign at or about the first week of September. .... While the constitution does provide the mechanism for an election, the decision of when to make that resignation effective is a personal one."

Since New Jersey does not have a lieutenant governor, state Sen. President Richard J. Codey (search) will become acting governor and will serve out McGreevey's term, which expires in January 2006.

"An acting governor is more inclined by title to finish the good work that has been started," McGreevey said, adding that holding a special election would not be in the state's best interest.

"There is a great cost to staging an election hastily; even a statewide race could get lost in a national election year and the momentum and the investment made in still developing initiatives would most likely be diminished," he said.

Sources close to McGreevey have identified the man as Golan Cipel (search), a former homeland security aide, and said the Israeli had demanded millions of dollars to stay quiet.

Cipel's lawyer Allen Lowy maintains that McGreevey harassed the former aide. Cipel, who has returned to Israel, insists he is not a homosexual.