Richardson to NM: I will never forget you
Obama says governor is uniquely qualified to lead department that’s critical to nation’s economic recovery
This article has been updated.
“New Mexico, I will never forget you, and I will forever be grateful,” Richardson said.
This morning’s news conference formalized what has been known for weeks: Richardson is leaving his job as governor of New Mexico with two years left in his term, meaning Lt. Gov. Diane Denish will become governor. In a news release that followed the news conference, Richardson provided additional details on the transition to the Denish administration.
He said he won’t resign from his New Mexico job until the U.S. Senate confirms him, which won’t happen until after Obama takes office on Jan. 20. The state Legislature convenes on the same day to begin addressing a budget shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars, and though Obama will be inaugurated in Washington on that day, Richardson pledged to give the State of the State address in Santa Fe.
“This is by no means an easy decision and brings with it a mix of emotions,” he said of leaving New Mexico. “I am proud of what we have accomplished in New Mexico during the past six years, and we’re not done yet. I will be here to deliver the State of the State address when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 20. I will present an aggressive, responsible and balanced budget plan as well as a full slate of important initiatives.”
“I have said many times that being governor of this great state is the best job I have ever had,” Richardson said in the release. “I have been honored by the trust and support of our citizens, and together we have helped build a New Mexico that is stronger and better prepared to face the challenges and embrace the opportunities of this new century.”
‘A deep understanding of today’s global economy’
Obama, during the Chicago news conference, introduced Richardson as his “great friend” who shares his values, and said Richardson’s years as a congressman, U.N. ambassador, energy secretary and governor make him uniquely qualified to run the Commerce Department, which he said will be central to the nation’s economic recovery.
Saying that Richardson has “a deep understanding of today’s global economy,” Obama said the outgoing governor “knows that America’s reputation in the world is critical not just to our security but to our prosperity, that when the citizens of the world respect America’s leadership, they are more likely to buy America’s products.”
“I know that Bill will be an unyielding advocate for American business and American jobs,” Obama said.
That will be Richardson’s primary job: promoting the creation of American jobs and the selling and trading of American products around the world. Both Richardson and Obama spoke today about the creation of jobs in the area of alternative energy, which Obama said will be central to his plan to make America energy independent.
At the news conference, Richardson called the Commerce Department the “nerve center” of fixing the American economy.
“Boosting commerce between states and nations is not just a path to solvency and growth – it’s the only path,” he said.
‘Looking for the best people’
In addition expressing his gratitude to New Mexicans at today’s news conference, Richardson thanked his wife and family, then thanked Obama in Spanish and delivered a few words in his native tongue. He closed his speech by saying, “It will be an honor to once again serve a president who recognizes that America’s diverse heritage is its greatest strength.”
Diversity has been a hot topic surrounding the appointment of Richardson, the first Hispanic Obama has named to his cabinet. A Bloomberg.com article highlights the fact that Hispanics want more. Obama was asked about that at today’s new conference, and he said, while he expects his White House staff and cabinet to be one of the most diverse ever, he’s focused first on hiring the most qualified people for important jobs.
“I’m looking for the best people, first and foremost, to serve in my cabinet. It just so happens that Bill Richardson is one of those people,” he said.
U.S. Sen.-elect Tom Udall, D-N.M., in a statement released by his office, agreed that Richardson has “unparalleled” qualifications for the job.
“Gov. Richardson has made sure that New Mexico remains economically competitive, even during these difficult times, by growing businesses big and small, promoting job growth and cutting taxes. He is the ideal pro-growth Democrat for the post, and I am confident he will serve our nation with the same foresight as he has served our state,” Udall said.
U.S. Rep.-elect Ben Ray Luján of the state’s 3rd Congressional District called Obama’s selection of Richardson “a wise choice.”
“His selection as commerce secretary shows President Obama’s commitment to turning our economy around and his ability to bring in a diverse team of leaders with exceptional talents and backgrounds,” said Luján, also a Democrat.
State Republican Party Chairman Allen Weh issued a brief statement about Richardson’s appointment, simply saying, “We congratulate Gov. Richardson on his nomination to become secretary of commerce.” Outgoing U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., wasn’t so kind.
“Richardson is skipping town and leaving behind a crushing $500 million budget deficit for someone else to clean up. What a mess he’s created in Santa Fe,” she said.
The Denish era
Richardson, in the statement released by his office, asked New Mexicans to offer their trust and support to Denish, who he called “a strong and insightful leader.” He said she “has been a great partner as we have grown our economy, worked to build and expand development and production of renewable energy, created jobs and improved our education system.”
“I am confident she will build on the momentum we have started and continue to work in the best interests of our people,” Richardson said.
Though Denish spokeswoman Danielle Montoya previously said I would be granted the opportunity to interview Denish today, Montoya said today that Denish is releasing only a brief statement this afternoon and will not grant interviews until next week.
“Today is Gov. Richardson’s day,” Montoya said.
Richardson said in the statement from his office that he and his wife will always view New Mexico as home.
“There are no words to express our love for the people, the culture and the beautiful land of this great state,” he said. “We will carry with us the many friendships we have made as well as the spirit and kindness of the citizens.”
Update, 11:25 a.m.
You can watch the Obama/Richardson news conference right here:
Update, 12:25 p.m.
Here’s what Bill Riggs, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, had to say:
“The nomination of another Washington insider and former Clinton cabinet member is hardly the ‘hope and change’ Barack Obama claimed to represent,” he said.
Meanwhile, Brian Colón, chairman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico, had this to say:
“New Mexico’s loss is the nation’s gain. New Mexico has moved forward under Gov. Richardson’s leadership. Bill Richardson will be an outstanding commerce secretary and his experience will be crucial in turning our economy around as he works with world leaders to build a stronger global economy,” Colón said. “Bill Richardson served with distinction as energy secretary and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, in addition to serving New Mexicans both in Congress and as governor. He will be missed by countless New Mexicans who have come to appreciate his vision for our state and his tireless efforts on our behalf.”
“Lt. Gov. Diane Denish has built an exemplary record while serving as lieutenant governor, and she will in no doubt be ready to be our next governor,” he said.
Update, 2 p.m.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., had this to say:
“Bill Richardson is an excellent choice to lead the Department of Commerce. In this capacity, he will be able to do for the country what he has done so well in New Mexico: create good and lasting jobs,” Bingaman said. “With New Mexico as a national leader in the creation of ‘green’ jobs, Gov. Richardson and I understand that growing the renewable energy sector can help us get out of our current economic crisis. We have been partners in this effort in New Mexico, and I look forward to being his partner in Washington.”
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