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Profile of Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico

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Profile of Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Bill Richardson: Commerce Secretary, Governor, Congressman:

Bill Richardson is President Obama's nominee for U.S. Commerce Secretary. Richardson was elected New Mexico Governor in 2002 and reelected in 2006.

On May 21, 2007, Richardson entered the 2008 presidential race, and withdrew on January 10, 2008.(See Bill Richardson in 2008 Info Center Hub)

Richardson was a Congressman from 1983-97, served as UN Ambassador from 1997-98 and was Secretary of Energy under Bill Clinton from 1998-01.

U.N .Ambassador and International Diplomat:

Richardson is a gifted and respected diplomat who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, 1997, 2000 and 2001. He has personal charm, grace, wit and a "knack for finding a warm spot in even the surliest of despots," per Time magazine in 1996. And he is an excellent listener.

He has successfully won the release of hostages, soldiers and prisoners in Iraq, Cuba, the Sudan and North Korea. At the UN and beyond, he has defused and deflected difficulties and crises all over the world.

Major Areas of Interest:

Richardson tackles the issues of education, environmental responsibility, clean/renewable energy, and healthcare with hands-on gusto and common sense.

Richardson slashed New Mexico's income tax rate from 8.2 percent to 4.9 percent, increased tax deductions for lower and middle-class taxpayers, and created new tax incentives for business. The Cato Institute rates him the highest of any Democrat on its latest fiscal-policy report card.

Prior Experience:

After graduation, Richardson worked for the State Department on congressional relations, then completed a 3-year stint as an aide to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He moved to Santa Fe in 1978, where he lost his first run for Congress. He won a seat on his second attempt, and served for 14 years.

In Congress, his avid interest in foreign relations resulted in travel on US business to Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cuba, Peru, Iraq, North Korea, India, Nigeria and the Sudan.

Personal Data:

  • Birth - November 15, 1947 in Pasadena, California.
  • Education - B.A. in Political Science from Tufts University in 1970; M.A. in International Relations, Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, 1971.
  • Family - Married over 35 years to Barbara. No children. (See Profile of Barbara Richardson, Married to Gov. Richardson.)
  • Faith - Roman Catholic
Richardson was a top-rated high school baseball player and excellent pitcher.

Growing Up and Bill Richardson's Parents:

Bill Richardson's mother was Mexican and his father a non-Hispanic banker from Boston who worked for Citibank in Mexico City. Richardson was raised in Mexico City until he was age 13, when they moved to Massachusetts in 1961. He attended private schools, then Tufts University in Boston.

The Richardson Reputation:

Richardson has a colorful reputation for living large and joyfully. The new state-owned jet provoked local Republicans to dub it proof of his "lifestyle of the rich and famous."

Time magazine called him "beefy, cigar-chomping," a man whose "addiction to winning over people is almost as legendary" as President Clinton's. He's been likened to good friend Clinton in his gregariousness and ability to spin a tale.

Raising Hackles in New Mexico:

Richardson raised hackles in New Mexico in June 2005 when he earned another speeding ticket in his Lincoln Navigator, and earlier when he coaxed the legislature to buy a pricey $5.5 million private jet with leather seats and a wet bar.

Memorable Quotes:

"Sixty-four (basketball) teams start (NCAA tournament) and they've whittled down to just one. Kind of reminds me of what we've done with our allies."

"We have an immigration system that's broken. We have 10 million illegal immigrants in America, 25 percent in the last two years. So if you have an earned legalization program that has benchmarks of law-abidingness,that has benchmarks of working hard, and you combine it with tough law enforcement, more border guards, a crackdown on illegal smuggling, better detection of those that overstay their visas, stolen-lost passports--what is needed is a comprehensive immigration reform, not piecemeal, punitive measures....What I would do and what I think makes sense is there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel so these immigrants come out of the shadows. And that means a clear path toward some kind of legal status."

"I announced last week a pilot program that will bring basic change to how mid-school and high school students learn. More than 700 students and 80 teachers will receive laptop computers in the first phase of this initiative. Eventually, I want every 7th grader to have one. Every teacher in every discipline--math, languages, social studies, history--will be trained in how to make use of the computer and the internet directly in their subject areas." -- January 20, 2004, State of the State speech to the New Mexico Legislature

"A lot of people, especially the media, have had some fun at my expense regarding reports of my state police drivers exceeding the speed limit. I am the first to admit that I try to cram as much business as possible into each and every day. As you know, I'm impatient." Richardson added that he is "not above the law" and "sometimes I have gone fast, too fast." -- June 2005 in response to another speeding ticket

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