By Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
President-elect Barack Obama will name New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to head the Commerce Department at a news conference today in Chicago, according to transition sources.
Richardson will appear alongside Obama at 11:40 a.m. Eastern time, and his nomination will mark the latest in a series of moves by the president-elect to put his Cabinet in place well before he takes office Jan. 20.
On Monday, Obama introduced a national security team that included Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) as his pick for secretary of state. Richardson, who backed Obama over Clinton during the Democratic primaries, aspired to be secretary of state, according to those close to him. After Clinton emerged as the front-runner for the diplomatic post, Richardson became a leading contender for secretary of commerce.
The job will add to an already lengthy Washington résumé for Richardson that includes stints as secretary of energy and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during President Bill Clinton's administration, as well as nearly two decades as a congressman representing New Mexico. He left the nation's capital in 2002 to run for governor of New Mexico and was reelected with 69 percent of the vote four years later.
After an abbreviated run for president earlier this year, Richardson was courted by the presidential campaigns of Clinton and Obama. His support of Obama was seen as a coup for the senator from Illinois, given Richardson's long ties to the Clintons.
Richardson made no secret of his desire to return to Washington after Obama's election, as he was entering his seventh year as governor. He is the first Hispanic to be selected for Obama's Cabinet. Should Richardson be confirmed as commerce secretary, New Mexico Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D) would take over as the state's chief executive until Richardson's term runs out in two years.
Alex Conant, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, used the Richardson pick to criticize Obama for picking numerous people with ties to Bill Clinton. "The Clinton band is getting back together," Conant said. "Nothing says change like picking the Clinton administration's energy secretary and U.N. representative to be commerce secretary."