Richardson Aims For Hispanic Vote

Nedra Pickler, AP, May 22, 2007

Democrat Bill Richardson officially entered the presidential race Monday with a naked appeal to Hispanics, saying in an interview that it’s “rudimentary politics” to make sure the country’s fastest growing voting bloc knows he’s one of them.

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Richardson told The Associated Press that he’s not running exclusively as a Hispanic, but as the American governor of New Mexico who is proud to be Latino.

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In the interview, Richardson said his goal is to “somehow break out” in the first two nominating states of Iowa and New Hampshire, but not necessarily win.

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Richardson has been running for president for months, but he had gone only so far as to form an exploratory campaign under federal election rules.

He raised $6.2 million in the first three months of the year—about a quarter of what Obama and Clinton brought in and less than half of what Edwards raised. He said he would focus more intensely on fundraising now that he’s fully engaged in the race, but he doesn’t expect to catch up to the roughly $25 million mark that Clinton and Obama set.

He said he plans to spend half his time campaigning in the first four nominating states, where he needs to do well, and the other half raising money in western states near his home base—along with New York, Florida and Texas, three states that have large Hispanic populations and have moved up their primaries.

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In both English and Spanish, Richardson criticized the immigration bill under debate in Congress, which he said would separate families by requiring illegal immigrants who are heads of households to return to their home countries before gaining legal status. But he said the proposal is a “step in the right direction” because it would establish a path to citizenship and because it increases border patrols.

In an interview later at the exclusive Regency Club, where he was holding an evening fundraiser, Richardson said he would vote for the bill if he were in Congress. But he said he would try to amend it to make improvements, including an elimination of the required return to home countries and the creation of a 370-mile border fence.

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