Flanked by local Latino leaders and a large contingent of politicians from his home state, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson formally entered the 2008 presidential campaign yesterday, saying that his thick resume offered him an ability unmatched by others in the race to tackle the country's problems at home and abroad.
The Democratic candidate, who has been running for months and has already aired campaign ads, made his announcement in downtown Los Angeles' Millennium Biltmore Hotel.
The official entry of Richardson expands what is becoming the most diverse field of mainstream presidential candidates in U.S. history. He is of Mexican heritage, and his candidacy joins on the Democratic side those of Sen. Barack Obama, the son of a black man, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first woman to campaign in the top tier of her party's presidential contenders.
While the staging of the announcement emphasized his ethnicity - county Supervisor Gloria Molina hosted the event - Richardson himself played up his resume, one of the most wide-ranging among the major candidates. He served seven terms representing New Mexico in Congress, and was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary in the Clinton administration.
A Pasadena-born Democrat who was raised primarily in Mexico City, Richardson also has performed several high-profile diplomatic missions, including negotiating for the release of Americans who had been detained in North Korea, Iraq and Darfur.
"This nation needs a leader with a proven track record, an ability to bring people together to tackle our problems here at home and abroad," Richardson said.
But Richardson is not well-known, and in early fundraising - key to making ad buys to introduce voters to him - he has lagged well behind the record-setting levels of Obama and Clinton.
Energizing Latino voters could be key to his political viability, said Jaime A. Regalado, director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.
In his announcement, Richardson continued a theme that he established in two recent campaign ads, in which he is seen being interviewed by a hiring director. The ads tout his experience and jokes that he might be overqualified to be president.
"Running for this office is the ultimate job interview," Richardson said yesterday. "It's not just about the positions that you've held, what you've done, but your ability on Day 1 to lead this country at a critical time in our nation's history."
Richardson offered several proposals, including a plan for withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq in tandem with negotiating a political truce. In a swipe at the Bush administration, Richardson said that "being stubborn is not a foreign policy."
Scott Martelle writes for the Los Angeles Times.