Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., took the first step Sunday toward an expected White House run in 2008, a high-profile state chief who promoted his extensive experience in Washington and the world stage as he seeks to become the first Hispanic president.
He said he had set up an exploratory committee that will allow him to begin raising money and assembling his campaign organization.
Richardson joins a crowded and historically diverse field of contenders in a fast-developing campaign. On Saturday, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she wanted to be the first female president. Last week, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois jumped in, a formidable contender who would be the first black commander in chief.
In his statement, Richardson stressed his foreign affairs experience, said he wanted U.S. troops to return quickly from Iraq and urged a change of leadership in Washington that would work to bridge a wide partisan divide.
He added that the next president “must be able to bring a country together that is divided and partisan. It is clear that Washington is broken and it’s going to take a return to bipartisanship and simple respect for each other’s views to get it fixed.”
Most policy innovations, he said, are coming these days from governors, Richardson said. “On issues like the environment, jobs, and health care, state governments are leading the way. And that’s because we can’t be partisan or we won’t get our jobs done. That’s a lesson I’ve learned as governor and that’s what I’ll do as president.”
Other Democratic contenders include former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack; Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd; Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the party’s 2004 vice-presidential nominee. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden has said he will run and planned to formalize his intentions soon. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the party’s 2004 standard bearer, is also contemplating another run.
Richardson does not have the national fundraising network of some of his rivals in what is bound to be a very expensive race. Also, he will have to spend the next two months concentrating on a legislative session in Santa Fe, N.M., instead of campaigning.
William Blaine Richardson was born in Pasadena, Calif. His father was an international banker from Boston; his mother was Mexican. He spent his early childhood in Mexico City, where his father worked for CitiBank. As a teenager, he attended a boarding school in Concord, Mass.
After graduating from Tufts University in 1971 with a master’s degree in international affairs, Richardson worked first as a congressional aide and then for the State Department. He was a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he decided to leave Washington in 1978 to launch a political career.
Richardson settled in New Mexico, partly because of the state’s large Hispanic population. In 1982, Richardson was elected to the House and then was re-elected seven times.
In 1996, President Clinton named Richardson ambassador to the United Nations, where he served until 1998, when he joined the Clinton cabinet as energy secretary.
He was easily elected governor of New Mexico in 2002 and re-elected in November with 68 percent of the vote.