DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE - BILL RICHARDSON
William Blaine "Bill" Richardson III is an American politician, and the current Governor of New Mexico. He has previously served as a U.S. Representative, Ambassador to the United Nations, and as the U.S. Secretary of Energy. He was chairman of the 2004 Democratic National Convention as well as Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in 2005 and 2006, overseeing the Democrats' re-capturing of a majority of the country's governorships.
William Blaine Richardson III was born in Pasadena, California. His mother, María Luisa López-Collada Márquez, was Mexican. His father, William Blaine Richardson Jr., was a naturalized American (being the son of an American father and Mexican mother) banker who grew up in Nicaragua. His paternal grandfather, William Blaney Richardson, was a naturalist who worked for the Smithsonian Institution. His parents met while working at the Mexico City branch of what is now CitiBank. After spending his childhood in Mexico City, Bill Richardson was sent to the United States at age 13 to go to preparatory school in the Boston area. Richardson played baseball at Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts, and later for Tufts University. He was a star pitcher but his hopes of playing professional baseball were cut short by arm injuries. At Tufts, he majored in French and political science and was a President of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. He then earned a master's degree from Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. In 1972, he married Barbara Flavin, whom he met during his high school years.
After college, Richardson worked on congressional relations for the State Department. He was later a staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 1978, he moved to Santa Fe and ran for Congress in 1980, losing narrowly to longtime 1st District congressman and future United States Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan (R). Two years later, Richardson was elected to New Mexico's newly created third district, taking in most of the northern part of the state. Richardson spent a little more than 14 years in Congress. As a congressman, he kept his interest in foreign relations. He visited Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, Peru, India, North Korea, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Sudan to represent U.S. interests.
Richardson served one term as Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Native American Affairs in the 103rd Congress (1993–1994). While in the House, Richardson sponsored bills such as the Indian Tribal Justice Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act Amendments, the American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act, the American Indian Agricultural Resource Management Act, the Indian Dams Safety Act, the Tribal Self-Governance Act, the Indian Tribal Jurisdiction Bill (commonly known as the “Duro Fix”) and the Jicarilla Apache Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act.
In 1995, he traveled to Baghdad with Peter Bourne and engaged in lengthy one-on-one negotiations with Saddam Hussein to secure the release of two American aerospace workers who had been captured by the Iraqis after wandering over the Kuwaiti border. He became a member of the Democratic leadership, where he worked closely with Bill Clinton on several issues. This was one of several times that Richardson went overseas during the Clinton years to negotiate the release of American prisoners. He was also successful in this task in Sudan and North Korea.
In 1997, Clinton appointed Richardson as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. As ambassador, he represented the United States in UN proceedings regarding Palestine and the State of Israel, the completion of negotiations that strengthened the role and mandate of the United Nations Environment Programmer regarding ecologically sustainable development, as well as other duties of an ambassador to the UN. Richardson served there until 1998, when he was appointed U.S. Secretary of Energy, leading the U.S. Department of Energy for the remainder of the Clinton administration.
Richardson created the Director for Native American Affairs position in the Department in 1998, and in January 2000 oversaw the largest return of federal lands, 84,000 acres (340 km²) to an Indian Tribe (the Northern Ute Tribe of Utah) in more than 100 years. Richardson also directed the overhaul of the Department's consultation policy with Native American tribes and established the Tribal Energy Program.
With the end of the Clinton administration in January 2001, Richardson took on a number of different positions. He was an adjunct professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and a lecturer at the Armand Hammer United World College of the American West. He also joined Kissinger McLarty Associates, a "strategic advisory firm" headed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Clinton White House chief of staff Mack McLarty, as Senior Managing Director.
He also served on the corporate boards of several energy companies, including Valero Energy Corporation and Diamond Offshore Drilling. He withdrew from these boards after being nominated by the Democratic Party for governor of New Mexico, but retained considerable stock holdings in Valero and Diamond Offshore. He would later sell these stocks during his campaign for President in 2007, saying he was "getting questions" about the propriety of these holdings, especially given his past as energy secretary, and that it had become a "distraction".
Richardson was elected governor of New Mexico in November 2002, having defeated the Republican candidate, John Sanchez, 56-39 percent. He succeeded a two-term Republican governor, Gary E. Johnson. He took office in January 2003 as the only Hispanic Governor in the United States, other than then-Governor Sila María Calderón of Puerto Rico. In his first year, Richardson proposed "tax cuts to promote growth and investment" and passed a broad personal income tax cut and won a statewide special election to transfer money from the state's Permanent Fund to meet current expenses and projects. In early 2005, Richardson made New Mexico the first state in the nation to provide $400,000 in life insurance coverage for New Mexico National Guardsmen who serve on active duty. Thirty-five states have since followed suit.
Working with the legislature, he formed Governor Richardson's Investment Partnership (GRIP) in 2003. The partnership has been used to fund large-scale public infrastructure projects throughout New Mexico, including, through the use of highway funds, a brand new commuter rail line (the Railrunner) that runs between Belen, Albuquerque, and Bernalillo. In 2006, Forbes credited Richardson's reforms in naming Albuquerque, New Mexico the best city in the U.S. for business and careers. The Cato Institute, meanwhile, has consistently rated Richardson as one of the most fiscally responsible Democratic governors in the nation.
During the summer of 2003, he met with a delegation from North Korea at their request to discuss concerns over that country's use of nuclear energy. At the request of the White House, he also flew to North Korea in 2005, and met with another North Korean delegation in 2006. On December 7, 2006, Richardson was named as the "Special Envoy for Hemispheric Affairs" for the Secretary General of the Organization of American States with the mandate to "promote dialogue on issues of importance to the region, such as immigration and free trade".
He was named Chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and announced a desire to increase the role of Democratic governors in deciding the future of their party. In December 2005, Richardson announced the intention of New Mexico to partner with billionaire Richard Branson to bring space tourism to the proposed Spaceport America located near Las Cruces, New Mexico. In March 2006, Richardson vetoed eminent domain legislation in response to a surge of interest created by the Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London to increase local governments' eminent domain power.
On September 7, 2006 Richardson flew to Sudan to meet Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir and successfully negotiated the release of imprisoned journalist Paul Salopek. Salopek had been charged by the Sudanese with espionage on August 26th, 2006 while on a National Geographic assignment. Richardson won his second term as Governor of New Mexico on November 7, 2006, 68-32 percent against former New Mexico Republican Party Chairman John Dendahl. The outcome made Richardson the most successful governor at the ballot box in New Mexico's history. In January 2007, at the request of the Save Darfur Coalition, he brokered a 60-day cease fire between al-Bashir and leaders of several rebel factions in Darfur, the western Sudanese region. The cease-fire never became effective, however, with allegations of breaches on all sides.
Richardson supports the death penalty. During New Mexico's most recent legislative session, Richardson signed a bill into law that made New Mexico the 12th state to legalize marijuana for medical reasons. When asked if this would hurt him in a Presidential election, he stated that it did not matter, as it was "the right thing to do." He opposes the war in Iraq, and has called for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the region by the end of 2007. Distinguishing himself from other candidates for the Democratic Party nomination, he has stressed that he would leave "zero troops" in Iraq. As part of a diplomatic mission, Richardson traveled to North Korea in early April for meetings with government officials and successfully recovered the remains of six U.S. servicemen in that country.
On January 21, 2007 Richardson announced that he has formed a presidential exploratory committee. Richardson joins a diverse field for the Democratic nomination, which already includes Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. While Obama would be the first African American and Clinton would be the first woman, Richardson's own background would make him the first Hispanic to earn a major Presidential nomination. Moreover, with the departure of Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Richardson is the only candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination with executive experience. He has been named the "candidate most likely to become a serious contender" A recent Iowa poll shows Richardson moving up to ten percent, only eleven points behind Hillary Clinton, and he also rose to ten percent in New Hampshire, only five points behind John Edwards.
On March 4, 2007, while attending a campaign breakfast event in Des Moines, Iowa, Richardson said he believed that the Democratic contest will be decided very early — by the end of January 2008 after the first four state contests (Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina). "I believe the first four states, with Iowa and New Hampshire being the top ones, will determine who the president is. I always felt that way," Richardson said in an Associated Press interview. "What the pundits say about who's in, who's out, who's got the most money doesn't matter," Richardson said. "I have a sustained plan to introduce myself to the voters ... and so far I feel very satisfied. I feel I can do very well." Richardson also stated that he believes Iowa voters want a candidate with executive experience.
On the 21st of May, Richardson officially declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination saying, "The United States faces huge challenges, but also huge opportunities. I am running for President because these times call for a leader with a proven track record, and a demonstrated ability to bring people together to tackle our problems at home and abroad, I am that person, not because I say so, but because of what I have done, and what I can do for the American people."
BILL RICHARDSON QUOTES
"My father made it very simple, he used to say, 'If you're going to do something, be the best at it, that usually means you have to work harder than everyone else.'"
"Senator Humphrey was a proud Democrat and presented his convictions with such strength, that I began to realize how a progressive vision could change the world."
"I can bring a country together that is divided and partisan -- and restore civility to the political dialogue."
"My background, experience and record enable me to bridge gaps, achieve political solutions, restore America's moral leadership abroad, heal partisan divisions and solve problems at home."
"My Catholic beliefs reinforce my commitment to social justice like a fair minimum wage, equal and civil rights for all and a belief that government exists to help people and to be a catalyst for change -- not get in the way with barriers, unnecessary regulations and bureaucracy."
"I believe in America -- the greatest nation in the world -- but we've lost our moral compass at home and abroad."
"I am optimistic about the future. America should not be afraid. We have to be bold, patriotic and confident that we can resolve problems and bring peace by working together. We need hope, faith, and optimism. These qualities have always represented and defined the American spirit and are desperately needed now at a time when the nation has so many problems and is no longer a leader abroad."
"I pushed for and signed legislation increasing New Mexico's minimum wage to $7.50. We've cut taxes for every New Mexican and targeted cuts to lower and middle income people, single parents and eliminated the sales tax on groceries."
"I've made New Mexico the clean energy state by adopting environmental standards that exceed the international Kyoto standards and requiring utilities to produce energy from renewable sources."
"To meet our challenges, Americans need to work together not as red and blue states, but as American states."
"We must build coalitions of churches, community groups, businesses and government to create a stronger nation and address our basic needs as people such as education, health care, and energy. We have to build a safer, freer world led by an America that represents democracy, the rule of law and human rights."
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Bill Richardson Official Website
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