Gov.-elect Christopher J. Christie made his first cabinet nomination this afternoon, choosing Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow as his attorney general.

Dow was a top official in Christie's U.S. Attorney's office before she became the county prosecutor. If confirmed by the state Senate, she would head up the state's legal and law enforcement arms, a job that includes overseeing the state police, corruption investigations and consumer affairs, and serving as the legal voice of state government, among other duties.

Christie, standing with Dow at a Statehouse news conference, said he wanted an attorney general who would be "tough" and made his choice "purely on the merits."

Dow, a Democrat, would hold one of the most significant jobs in the new Republican administration if she is confirmed.

"What I care most about is competence," Christie said.

Christie said he was committed to "the absolute independence" of the attorney general from the governor's office.