WEST ORANGE, N.J. – In a private swearing-in ceremony at his home, State Senate President Richard Codey (search) took the oath of office as New Jersey's (search) acting governor, later saying he hoped to give voters "calm, peace and a sense of harmony."
The transfer of power Sunday caps a transition period that began with Gov. James E. McGreevey's (search) stunning disclosure in August that he would resign because of a gay sex scandal.
McGreevey's announcement threw the state's executive branch into turmoil and put Codey in line to assume the governor's job with 14 months left in McGreevey's term.
"I'm looking forward to governing and bringing back calm, peace and a sense of harmony to the state of New Jersey," Codey, 57, a Democrat, said minutes after his brief ceremony.
Codey said he had spoken a few days ago with the man he is replacing. "He's looking forward to starting a new life and finding peace for himself and for his family as well," Codey said.
Because New Jersey is one of eight states without the position of lieutenant governor, Codey will wield the clout of both governor and Senate leader for a time, filling the governor's term that ends in January 2006.
Although he was not constitutionally obligated to, Codey recited the oath that specifically empowers him as Senate president to perform the duties of governor. A signed version of his oath will be filed with the secretary of state, making Codey governor at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Aides said McGreevey's last day in office was expected to be quiet, spent with family away from Trenton. He is not expected to grant any pardons or conduct state business.
On Friday, a pair of moving trucks carted the governor's belongings away from the Statehouse. McGreevey is reportedly moving to an apartment in Rahway while his wife moves to a home in Springfield, where she plans to live with the couple's 2-year-old daughter.
Codey said last week that he has not ruled out a run next year for a full term as governor, although U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine, a popular politician with vast financial resources, is expected to pursue the Democratic nomination. Some of the state's highest-profile Republicans also have been lining up to run for the job.
When asked what his plans were for Monday, Codey said he would do what he has done many times during his decades as a public servant — spend the day at unglamorous committee meetings. And the day after that, he said, he would start making New Jersey's executive office his own.
Codey plans to make ethics reform a top priority. Ending the practice of awarding government contracts in exchange for campaign contributions has topped lawmakers' agendas over the past few months.
McGreevey faced serious questions about the ethics of his administration, including the hiring of his alleged lover as his homeland security adviser.
Codey, a longtime champion of mental health concerns, added that one of the first things he will do is form a task force to look at ways of improving New Jersey's care for mentally ill people.
Codey also has been a longtime proponent of putting slot machines at the Meadowlands horse-racing track, a move that could help close a projected $4 billion budget deficit but could also reshape gambling in the state, where Atlantic City casinos have long been the top players.