- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, one of the country’s top Hispanic Democrats, yesterday told presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry that he no longer wants to be considered as a running mate.

Mr. Richardson said he wants to keep a promise to the people of New Mexico to serve a full, four-year term and added that Mr. Kerry has “numerous experienced and talented leaders” from which to choose a vice-presidential candidate.

“It is with that knowledge and comfort that I must tell you that I respectfully remove myself from the selection process and withdraw my name from consideration for the vice-presidential nomination,” Mr. Richardson said.

He delivered the news in a letter sent yesterday to Mr. Kerry’s campaign headquarters.

Kerry campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter declined to comment on the governor’s decision.

“Senator Kerry has the utmost respect for Governor Richardson’s abilities and leadership both as a leader in New Mexico and across the nation,” she said, adding that Mr. Kerry looks forward to working with Mr. Richardson in the future.

Mr. Richardson was one of several politicians mentioned as vice-presidential candidates for the Massachusetts senator, who is expected to announce his selection ahead of the Democratic National Convention in Boston, which starts July 26.

Other politicians who have been talked about include North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Florida Sen. Bob Graham and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

In the letter, Mr. Richardson spoke of the commitment that he made to the people of New Mexico after taking office in January 2003, the issues his administration has dealt with and the work that he says remains to be done.

“I need to honor that pledge,” he wrote.

Mr. Richardson, who had said on several occasions that he was very happy learning the ropes as governor, apparently reached his decision after a two-hour meeting with Mr. Kerry on Tuesday in Phoenix, a person familiar with the process said.

Mr. Kerry was in Arizona to address a meeting of the National Council of La Raza.

Although his name often was mentioned, largely because of his Hispanic heritage, Mr. Richardson was not considered a leading candidate for the No. 2 slot. And adding him to the ticket would not have been risk-free for Mr. Kerry.

Soaring oil prices and the government’s investigation of former nuclear-weapons scientist Wen Ho Lee marked Mr. Richardson’s two years as energy secretary during the Clinton administration. Mr. Lee pleaded guilty to one felony count of mishandling classified information and spent nine months in prison. He is suing Mr. Richardson for defamation of character, accusing the former official of leaking his name to journalists.

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