Frequently referred to as “the resume candidate” in the 2008 Democratic presidential field, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson is running a campaign based on his considerable domestic and foreign policy experience. A strong social liberal on many issues, he is to the right of most Democrats on other issues and considers himself a friend to business. He is also opposed to most gun control legislation and has been favorably rated by the National Rifle Association.
More recently the one-supporter of the Iraq war has nevertheless gained ground with anti-war Democrats and members of the netroots for support of an immediate pull-out from Iraq. Also, in a race currently dominated by the first woman and the first African-American regarded as likely Presidential candidates, he is the continental United States’ only Latino governor and another history-maker as a major presidential candidate.
Bill Richardson was born in Pasadena, California in 1947. A true internationalist from the start, he grew up in Mexico City, the son of a Mexican mother and a Mexican-American banker who had grown up mostly in Nicaragua. (His Anglo surname derives from his grandfather on his father’s side.) At age 13, Richardson moved back to the United States to attend a Boston prep school. The only Latino student there, his adjustment was helped partly by his skill as a varsity baseball player in high school and college. He eventually earned a Masters Degree from Tuft University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Flavin, in 1972.
With school behind him, Richardson went into government almost immediately, taking staff jobs with the U.S. State Department and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. After moving to Sante Fe, New Mexico, Bill Richardson was elected to Congress on his second try in 1982. Remaining in congress for seven terms, Richardson concentrated, among other issues, on foreign policy and Native American affairs. Starting in 1995, he has also participated in several successful negotiations to free American hostages held in countries like Sudan, North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Starting in 1997, Bill Richardson held two posts in the Clinton White House, first as an ambassador to the United Nations and then as Secretary of Energy. While in that second post, he was been heavily criticized for his involvement in the imprisonment on spying charges of Taiwan-American scientist Wen Ho Lee.
After Bill Clinton left office in 2000, Richardson worked with energy concerns, joined a consulting firm co-founded by Henry Kissinger and former Clinton aid Mack McClarty and ran for governor of New Mexico. He won in 2002, becoming the only Latino governor in the continental U.S. Once in office, he instituted tax cuts and won praise from the Libertarian Cato Institute for being, in their view, one of the nation’s most fiscally responsible Democratic governors. He also won praise from others for a series of infrastructure projects and was reelected by historically wide margins in 2006.
After that, he started to become involved in the kind of controversies that get nationwide attention, signing one bill law legalizing medical marijuana and another bill illegalizing cockfighting. After a number of early unofficial announcements, he officially threw his hat into the Presidential ring in late of 2007, becoming the only current or former governor in the Democratic race. While seriously overshadowed by three current or former senators and running fourth or below in polls, his named is frequently mentioned as a vice presidential possibility.
Bill Richardson on the Web
A detailed biography with extensive references and links to media coverage.
Bill Richardson, President
The official web site of the Richardson for President campaign.
“The Richardson Difference”
A July 20, 2007 interview with Governor Richardson, conducted by writer Walter Shapiro.
“N.M. Gov Admits He Wasn't Baseball Pick”
2005 news article on an odd mini-scandal regarding a disputed item on the famed Richardson resume.
A pair of humorous early campaign ads emphasizing the Governor’s famed CV.
Richardson outlines his position on the Iraq war, from Spring of 2007.
Real Time with Bill Maher
The governor discusses North Korea and other matters with the controversy-courting comic. From Fall, 2006.
“Long Enough” Ad
Richardson for President campaign ad featuring top liberal bloggers endorsing Richardson’s position on the Iraq war (though not necessarily the Richardson campaign).
At the NEA Convention
Richardson discusses “No Child Left Behind.”
AFL-CIO Debate Highlights
Richardson gets off to a slightly rocky start courting union support.
On the Campaign Trail
Governor Richardson remains a serious candidate. He is polling in fourth place in a number of states, including the key early primary and caucus states of Iowa and New Hampshire. His campaign, however, may have been partially stalled by some debate gaffes, perhaps caused by a somewhat off-the-cuff speaking style that Salon writer Walter Shapiro suggests may be a major liability. (Shapiro cites an appearance where the governor jokingly confessed that his “mind was mush,” a statement the writer found less than Presidential.)
The most notable of these gaffes was an embarrassing moment from a Los Angeles debate on gay issues when, already on the defensive for his use of a Spanish-slur for homosexuals on the Don Imus radio program the year before, he seemed to be supporting the idea that homosexuality is a choice and not inborn, a position strongly disagreed with by almost all of the gay community. When musician Melissa Etheridge asked him to clarify his position in a follow-up question, his vague attempts to explain himself without causing further controversy only made the situation more uncomfortable. As a result, some pundits became more skeptical of his campaign and even his vice presidential chances.
The Quotable Bill Richardson
“Education enables people and societies to be what they can be.”
On energy in the United States:
“We're a superpower with a Third World grid.”
On energy in Bill Richardson:
“I've been told that I have a lot of energy. The secret is that I use renewable resources. Some days I'm solar powered. Some days I'm wind powered. And some people in this room might think I'm hybrid gas-powered. You'll just have to guess which it is today.”
On his business policies:
“We must never forget that it is the private sector - not government - that is the engine of economic opportunity. Businesses, particularly small businesses, flourish and can provide good jobs when government acts as a productive partner.”
On the U.S. Foreign policy and the NCAA Basketball Tournament:
“Sixty-four teams start and they're whittled down to just one. Kind of reminds me of what we've done with our allies.”
Comments, questions and suggestions can be sent to Gerardo Orlando at firstname.lastname@example.org.