Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer has chosen well in picking a new commissioner to oversee the state's crime-fighting agencies. Denise O'Donnell has the resume and disposition to do a first-rate job for the residents of New York.
O'Donnell has worked here as U.S. attorney and as a victim's advocate. She has had roles in two of the prominent prosecutions of the past decade: those of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who was from Pendleton, and James Kopp, the anti-abortion militant who killed Dr. Barnett Slepian.
Last year, she sought the Democratic nomination for state attorney general. When she lost the party's nomination to Andrew Cuomo at the state convention in Buffalo, her graceful exit from the general-election race sat well with party leaders, especially Spitzer, then the Democratic nominee for governor.
Politically, that paid off. Her prospects of winning a primary election against Cuomo were remote, but her bid drew attention, and by quitting the race O'Donnell earned some appreciation that no doubt helped put her atop the state criminal justice system, overseeing a $4 billion budget, a dozen state agencies and the work of 40,000 people. Far more importantly, though, she is well qualified for this important justice system post.
The job includes not just fighting crime but also punishment, rehabilitation and prevention. In that regard, it will be especially useful to the people of Buffalo if O'Donnell makes a priority of attacking the drug and gang violence that has plagued this city and others in New York. On the crime front, little would be more helpful for the state's millions of urban residents than quelling the assaults and homicides that remain too much a part of the fabric of inner-city living.
The position requires approval by the State Senate, which is controlled by Republicans. We hope Senate leaders will use their confirmation powers wisely, and not as an opportunity to try to slow down a popular and active governor. One good move would be to approve O'Donnell, whose skills make her a natural for this job.