Gov. Chris Christie today nominated his current chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd as NJ Attorney General. He’s asked the state senate to confirm him during the lame duck session, which ends in just 43 days. Christie also named Regina Egea, now director of the authorities unit, to replace O’Dowd as his COS.
In his first term, Christie has positioned a number of former colleagues from when he ran the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey into positions of influence. Legitimate questions have been asked both about Christie politicizing that office while he had it, in sharp difference from requirements that U.S. attorneys exercise their responsibilities without inappropriate political considerations. And he has made some questionable decisions in promoting some to high government positions they may not be qualified for.
Without question, like most of those promoted from the former ranks of Christie’s U.S. Attorney Office stable, it’s easy to see that loyalty to the boss would be an attractive qualification for Christie in picks like this one. And also without question, O’Dowd is an intelligent and capable lawyer, or he wouldn’t have lasted in the Christie-centric jobs he’s had for 10 years; chief of staff to Christie, deputy chief counsel to Christie, and 7 years as United States Attorney in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, much of it under Christie. O’Dowd’s wife also works in the Christie administration; Mary O’Dowd, is the commissioner of the Department of Health.
With the added scrutiny of Christie’s still-unofficial but ramping 2016 ambitions and some of the debatable staffing staffing decisions he’s made as governor, I would hope the Senate applies some process to such an important nomination. But the quotes below, from the Senate President, Senate Republican Leader and Assembly Republican Leader, it’s unclear where the will for a reasoned examination of O’Dowd would come from in the senate confirmation process to come.
“I have had the pleasure of working with Kevin for several years now and I can say that he is the ultimate professional. He is courteous, responsive and willing to listen, even in areas where we have vigorously disagreed. I look forward to working with Kevin in his new capacity and wish him the best of luck.”
– Senate President Steve Sweeney
“I’ve known Mr. O’Dowd to be one of the most dedicated and devoted servants to the people of New Jersey, in his leadership position in this administration and his tenure in the U.S. Attorney’s office. Kevin is abundantly qualified to lead the state Department of Law and Public Safety for the next four years.
“New Jerseyans can rest assured that Gov. Christie has once again nominated the right person to ensure the protection of our families and communities. As the industry of criminality continues to evolve, specifically with the advent of new technology, I look forward to working with Attorney General O’Dowd on measures to protect children and keep New Jersey safe.”
– Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean, Jr.
“Congratulations to Kevin O’Dowd. Kevin is an outstanding lawyer and a person of the utmost integrity. We are very lucky to have people like John Hoffman and Kevin O’Dowd who are willing to serve. Credit must also be given to the governor for appointing the best and the brightest to be part of New Jersey government.”
– Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick