The Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, the Democratic party's highest-ranking Latino, withdrew his nomination to serve as Commerce Secretary in the new Obama administration. It seems a disappointing turn of events for a man who has accomplished so much during his political career, and served as a role model to Latinos nationwide.
Richardson's political dossier is long and impressive. He was elected governor of New Mexico in November 2002. During the campaign, he set a Guinness World Record for most handshakes in eight hours by a politician He served in the Clinton administration as a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and as Energy Secretary. Richardson also held the post of U.S. Congressman, and he was chairman of the 2004 Democratic National Convention and chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. Prior to being elected governor, Richardson served in the Clinton administration as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Energy Secretary. Richardson has also served as a U.S. Congressman, chairman of the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.
It was on December 3, 2008, that President-elect Barack Obama designated Richardson for
appointment to the cabinet-level position of Commerce Secretary. But today, January 4, 2009, Richardson announced his resignation because of an investigation into improper business dealings in New Mexico.
Richardson's sudden and surprising resignation from the proposed Cabinet, is not, in fact, unusual. Most of our recent Presidents have had at least one appointee resign before they could be confirmed. For President George W. Bush it was Linda Chavez (Secretary of Labor); For President Bill Clinton, it was the Attorney General nominee, Zoe Baird and for George H. W. Bush, it was John Tower (Secretary of Defense).
Even though this could be considered a setback for the new Obama administration, recent polls suggest Americans for the most part are pleased with Obama's attitude and decisions since his election, and this resignation is not expected to knock him off-track as he enters the White House. A CNN/Opinion Research Company
poll conducted just before Christmas showed more than eight in ten voters approved of the way Obama had handled the transition. And a USA Today/Gallup survey done in mid-December showed 75 percent of the sample believed Obama has handled the transition period well.
In a statement today, Barack Obama said he accepted Richardson's withdrawal with "deep regret."
"It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet in order to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time."
But a New Mexico grand jury is now examining a scheme of "pay-to-play" concerning the awarding of state contracts to a firm that allegedly contributed money to various Richardson causes. The case has taken on more weight in light of the allegations currently involving Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich.
Obama promised that he would "move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson's decision."
With confirmation hearings set to begin next week, this is the first serious political faux pas for one of Obama's Cabinet nominees.
Richardson says he will remain as Governor for now.