The newlyweds Bill and Barbara Richardson headed to Washington, D.C.
after college. Bill worked on Capitol Hill and began to understand how
politics could create positive change. After a few years in D.C., the
Richardsons decided it was time to move west to New Mexico.
Once he arrived in New Mexico, Bill worked as a staffer for the local Democratic Party and taught Government at a Santa Fe Community College. In 1980, Bill entered his first campaign to challenge Republican Manuel Lujan in New Mexico's 1st Congressional District. That first campaign taught Bill the basics of campaigning: he worked for months, and shook practically every hand in Northern New Mexico, he pulled together a grassroots organization that had the support of many local leaders and motivated the Hispanic electorate like never before. And he lost by less than one percent.
But he tried again, and two years later 35 year old Bill Richardson became one of the youngest freshman Congressmen of the class of 1982. He represented the newly created 3rd Congressional District, one of the nation's most diverse.
Congressman Richardson got straight to work for the people of New Mexico, and was known for holding more town-hall meetings with his constituents than any other Congressman over 2,500 eventually. Reflecting the values his parents had instilled decades before, Bill wanted to make a difference, not just for the people in New Mexico, but for the whole country.
From his position on the Energy and Commerce committee he proposed an amendment to the Clean Air Act that mandated cleaner gasoline; a law that has made a significant contribution in the fight against pollution and global warming.
Bill Richardson has always fought for environmental protections, and when he was in Congress he also led the fight to protect and preserve thousands of acres of New Mexico's wilderness. After the Exxon Valdez spill, Congressman Richardson also encouraged research into preventing oil spills with his contributions to the Oil Pollution Prevention Act.
Bill spent fourteen years in Congress and also sat on the Interior Committee and the House Select Committee on Intelligence; he was also Chair of the Hispanic Caucus and was later picked as Chief Deputy Whip.
Congressman Richardson's position on the Interior Committee allowed him to fight for one of New Mexico's, and one of the country's, most underserved populations: Native Americans.
New Mexico has a substantial population of Native Americans and is home to dozens of tribes, pueblos and reservations. For too long, politicians had been breaking promises made to Native Americans, and Bill was determined to change this. The Interior Committee focuses on the environment, land use, water, and Indian affairs; all issues of great importance to New Mexicans, and the entire Mountain West. As Congressman and Governor, Bill Richardson has been committed to working with Native Americans to protect their land and improve their quality of life. Bill returned important tribal land to local control, sponsored or cosponsored legislation that improved tribal health care and schools and sparked economic development. Bill was also the first chairman of the newly created Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. As Congressman Richardson so colorfully put it, the Indians had been getting screwed by the United States Government for two centuries. I couldn't even the score, but I could try to do what was right.
Chief Deputy Whip Richardson worked tirelessly to pass legislation, and always kept an open door policy. He worked with members of both parties to build support for bills and keep Congress moving forward. During the 103rd Congress (1993-1994) he introduced 56 bills and 17 of them became law, accounting for 7% of all legislation that became law that year.