New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson began a run for the Democratic presidential nomination Sunday, betting that his deep resume and Hispanic heritage will boost his chances in a field already stocked with better-known candidates.
"I am taking this step because we have to repair the damage that's been done to our country over the last six years," Richardson wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "Our reputation in the world is diminished, our economy has languished, and civility and common decency in government has perished." Richardson also announced his intentions - in Spanish and English - on his campaign Web site.
Richardson will file paperwork establishing a presidential exploratory committee with the Federal Election Commission today but will not formally announce his bid until New Mexico's legislative session ends in March.
His announcement comes just one day after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, of New York, joined the race and less than a week after Sen. Barack Obama, of Illinois, made his intentions clear. Polling done in early voting states like Iowa shows Clinton and Obama along with former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, of North Carolina, in the Democrats' top tier.
Richardson joins a group that also includes Sens. Joseph Biden, of Delaware, and Christopher Dodd, of Connecticut, as well as former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.
Unlike the other second-tier candidates, however, Richardson's candidacy is a historic one as he seeks to become the first Hispanic president of the United States. Although Richardson said his ethnicity is not a point of emphasis in the campaign, it could help his chances. Hispanics are the largest minority group in America and are becoming increasingly active and influential in the country's politics.
While acknowledging that he is not yet on the level of the front-runners, Richardson argued that he alone in the field has a record of creating solutions to tough problems. "I can talk the talk and walk the walk," Richardson said.
Richardson spent 15 years in Congress before being named U.S. ambassador to the United Nations by former President Clinton in 1997. A year later he was appointed energy secretary. Richardson returned to elected office in 2002, winning the gubernatorial race. Last fall he cruised to a second term with 69 percent.