By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and her husband are a Trenton power couple. Now that Kevin O’Dowd has been nominated to be attorney general, their stock only rises.
Gov. Chris Christie has worked with O’Dowd for a decade and steadily promoted him. Christie’s Republican allies applaud this latest promotion.
“I think it was the single best appointment this governor has made and could have made,” said Sen. Kevin O’Toole.
O’Dowd was deputy chief counsel for the first two years of Christie’s governorship, then became the governor’s chief of staff. In both positions, he was responsible for maintaining good relations with the legislature and getting enacted there what the governor wanted.
“More or less, he built the bridge or builds the bridge. When there’s a significant difference — sometimes from fellow Republicans or sometimes the Democrats — it’s almost like the Bugs Bunny cartoon. He’s one first base, second base, third base. He’s so valuable,” O’Toole said.
“For me, he’s the point person, the go-to person,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo.
Sarlo, a Democrat, is another fan of O’Dowd’s.
When asked what O’Dowd’s strength is, Sarlo said, “His personality. I have found him to be very honorable and a pleasure to deal with. When we agree to disagree, we shake hands and walk away.”
Acting Attorney General John Hoffman has been on the job since June. With 600 lawyers 8,100, the Department of Law and Public Safety is sometimes called the largest law firm in the state.
Port Authority Chairman David Samson a former Attorney General and Christie confidante says he’s worked with O’Dowd on some difficult matters.
“In each one he performed at the highest level, he severed the governor extremely well and I believe that he possess the full arsenal of skills to handle the attorney general’s job. He’s first rate lawyer, first rate person,” said Samson.
O’Dowd would not appear on camera in deference to the senators who will vote to confirm him. He has been very much a behind-the-scenes guy anyway, but an effective one apparently and also a loyal one.
“I’ve said two thing in politics, you can’t teach smart, and you can’t teach loyal, you can teach everything else but you can’t teach smart and you can;t teach loyal,” Christie said Monday.
Ironically, Christie and O’Dowd will part company to some extent, since the governor doesn’t believe a governor should involve himself in law enforcement cases and operations.