At a Glance
- Career History: Senior Managing Director of Kissinger McLarty (2001 to 2002); Secretary of Energy (1998 to 2000); U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (1997 to 1998)
- Birthday: Nov. 15, 1947
- Hometown: Pasadena, Calif.
- Alma Mater: Tufts University, B.A., 1970; Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, M.A., 1971
Path to Power
Richardson was born in California but grew up in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City, where his father was head of Citibank. His mother is from Mexico and still lives there, but his father is from Boston. Richardson went to Middlesex School in Concord, MA, before earning his undergraduate degree from Tufts University, his father's alma mater. He was a star baseball player at Tufts, but he injured his pitching arm during his junior year. Instead of playing in the Major Leagues, Richardson got a master's degree from Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
After finishing graduate school in 1971, Richardson got a medical deferment from the Vietnam draft and moved to Washington. His first job was as a staffer for the Wednesday Group, a gathering of moderate Congressional Republicans. He also worked in the State Department's Congressional Relations office and on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's staff on human rights. He lived in Washington for about five years, finishing with a low-level job at the State Department and doing a short stint with Sen. Hubert Humphrey's (D-Minn.) staff.
Richardson is considered a relatively moderate Democrat. His tax cuts as governor made him popular among Republicans as well as Democrats, and in 2005, the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute called Richardson, "bar none, the best new Democratic governor in the nation - for that matter, he is one of the best new governors of any party." As a congressman, he was a strong supporter of NAFTA and tried to round up Democratic votes for the trade agreement. He supports gun rights and also supports increasing the minimum wage. In New Mexico, he planned to drastically cut spending to pay for tax cuts, but instead he agreed to a tobacco tax and ended up with a large surplus.
Richardson was strongly opposed to the war in Iraq, and cited that as a major reason for endorsing Obama. During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Richardson pledged to withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of his first term as president and tried to convince the rest of the Democratic candidates to make the same pledge. He also said he would cut $57 billion from the Pentagon's budget. "We need to invest less in planes and more in people, less in outdated missiles and more in state-of-the-art troops," he said.
Despite working in the Clinton administration, Richardson endorsed Barack Obama in March 2008 instead of backing Hillary Rodham Clinton, a decision that earned Richardson the title of "Judas" from James Carville, a Clinton strategist.
Richardson said his support for the Clintons "will never waver," but "it is now time for a new generation of leadership to lead America forward." Even though he has since repaired his relationship with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Richardson said he might have created a "permanent fissure" with President Clinton.