Voters in the vast majority of states elect their attorney general – the chief law enforcement officer and government’s top lawyer.
In New Jersey, the job is handed to the governor’s cronies.
Chris Christie continued the parade of patronage by appointing his chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, as the fourth attorney general in his first four years as governor.
O’Dowd will succeed Jeffrey Chiesa, who was Christie’s chief legal counsel before he was named attorney general in 2012. Chiesa changed jobs last summer when the governor named him to fill the unexpired U.S. Senate term of the late Frank Lautenberg.
During the interim, Christie tapped longtime subordinate John Jay Hoffman as his acting attorney general.
Christie’s first attorney general was Paula T. Dow, who held the office in 2010 and 2011. Dow, Chiesa, Hoffman and O’Dowd all worked under Christie when he was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.
“You’re only as good as the people around you,” said Christie at a press conference to announce O’Dowd’s promotion. ”You can’t teach smart, and you can’t teach loyal.”
O’Dowd’s appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate. His salary would remain $141,000 a year.
The attorney general heads a department that employs roughly 7,800 staffers and spends nearly $800 million a year in state and federal funds.
New Jersey is only one of seven states in which voters do not elect their attorney general. The post is also the governor’s choice in Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Wyoming. In Maine, the attorney general is selected by the legislature. In Tennessee, the state’s Supreme Court does the honor.