New Mexico is a beautiful state and home to some of the friendliest
people (and some of the best food) you'll find anywhere in the world.
But when Bill and Barbara Richardson returned to New Mexico, the state was struggling: unemployment was high, the economy was stagnant, schools were underperforming, and the government was stuck in gridlock.
In 2002 Bill Richardson decided to run for Governor to help improve the state that had been his home for decades.
Bill ran as the guy who was going to make a difference. He covered every inch of the state and talked to people in every corner of New Mexico; Bill even broke the world record for handshakes at the New Mexico State Fair. People began to realize that this was the guy who could make a difference -- and he was elected in a landslide in a three-way race.
With an aggressive, hands-on approach, Bill has focused on results -- and leading New Mexico in a new, positive direction. Over 80,000 new jobs have been created, and unemployment is the lowest it has been in 30 years. Personal income is rising at near record levels. Teacher pay and standards have risen, and the overall quality of the schools has gone up accordingly. Tax cuts have sparked economic growth. Bill balanced the budget for five years in a row and our rainy day funds have grown by over $4 billion.
Furthermore the state has seen these improvements while at the same time making sure that working families are protected. New Mexico now offers health insurance to every child under five years old. The minimum wage was increased. Tax relief has been passed that focuses on putting people to work and investing in renewable energy development.
And every tax cut and fiscal initiative has been achieved while standing with labor unions and by working families. One of Governor Richardson's first acts was to reinstate collective bargaining. The prevailing wage is a union wage and New Mexico now has the first public works labor agreement in the state's history.
Under Bill Richardson's leadership New Mexico has also become the Clean Energy State. Just this year, Bill signed a law requiring state utilities to quadruple their use of renewable energy. The state's wind, solar and biofuels industries are booming -- creating hundreds of new jobs. And New Mexico has some of the country's toughest greenhouse gas reduction goals.
George Bush might not want the United States to follow the Kyoto Treaty, but that hasn't kept New Mexico from being on track to exceed Kyoto in the coming years.
But Bill hasn't been content to just focus on domestic issues -- he has continued his diplomatic missions when called upon.
Just before his first inauguration Governor Richardson received a call from one of the North Korean ambassadors to the United Nations. A delegation of North Korean leaders wanted to come to Santa Fe to meet with Bill Richardson -- they wanted to know how they were supposed to work with a President who thought that “Axis of Evil” was a bargaining position. Bill and the North Koreans tried to reach an agreement on nuclear disarmament, but were ultimately frustrated by the lack of diplomatic willingness on the part of the Bush administration.
In September of 2006, Governor Richardson travelled to Sudan to negotiate the release of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Paul Salopek. Governor Richardson had first travelled to Sudan in 1996 when he met with Sudanese President al-Bashir, and Sudanese rebels, to secure the release of Red Cross workers who had been taken hostage. When Bill heard that Salopek, a fellow New Mexican, had been arrested and falsely charged with spying, he knew he had to do something. After meeting with the Sudanese ambassador in Washington, D.C., Bill flew to Sudan and met with al-Bashir. Governor Richardson successfully negotiated Salopek's safe return to New Mexico -- an act which Salopek and his wife say saved his life.
Bill's experiences in Sudan led the Save Darfur coalition to ask him to travel to Sudan in January of 2007. Governor Richardson toured refugee camps and met with President al-Bashir and Darfuri rebels; at the end of his visit he brokered a fragile cease fire. The world has failed to stop the Darfur genocide. When Bill Richardson is President he will make Darfur a top priority and bring peace to that troubled country.
In April of 2007, Bill traveled to North Korea to retrieve the bodies of American servicemen who had died during the Korean War. While in North Korea he brought up the issue of nuclear disarmament, and is confident that there is a diplomatic solution to the North Korean confrontation.
The people of New Mexico have responded to Bill Richardson's commitment to improving their lives and fighting for what's right. In 2006 Bill was reelected with almost 70% of the vote -- and with almost 40% of the Republican vote!
Bill is running for President because he wants to makes a difference, and because he has the experience and record of accomplishment necessary to bring this country together. America needs leadership that can bridge the divides in this country and get to work focusing on the issues that are really important. Bill has experience dealing with health care, creating jobs, improving schools and fighting global warming.
The next few years are going to be a turning point for America and the world. It's time for a President who has the ability and the experience to lead us through the coming trials -- and to unite us so we can face the challenges that lie ahead.