Richardson Withdraws Bid For Commerce Secretary The governor of New Mexico and former presidential candidate has withdrawn his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama's commerce secretary.
NPR logo Richardson Withdraws Bid For Commerce Secretary

Richardson Withdraws Bid For Commerce Secretary

NPR's Ted Robbins Reports For 'Morning Edition'

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New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says he is withdrawing his name from consideration as commerce secretary with "great sorrow" amid an investigation into a company that did business with his state.

A grand jury is investigating how a company that contributed to Richardson's campaign won a lucrative New Mexico state contract. Richardson says he and his administration acted properly, but that the investigation would force a delay in the confirmation process. He says he could not, in good conscience, ask the president-elect to delay important Commerce Department work in the face of the economic situation the nation is facing.

President-elect Barack Obama says he accepted Richardson's decision with deep regret, and says he will move quickly to fill the void left by Richardson's withdrawal.

Richardson says he will remain as New Mexico's governor, and that he told Obama he is eager to serve in the future. The president-elect says he looks forward to Richardson's future service to the country — and in the Obama administration.

Statement Of Gov. Bill Richardson

For nearly three decades, I have been honored to serve my state and our nation in Congress, at the U.N., as Secretary of Energy and as governor. So when the President-elect asked me to serve as Secretary of Commerce, I felt a duty to answer the call. I felt that duty particularly because America is facing such extraordinary economic challenges. The Department of Commerce must play an important role in solving them by helping to grow the new jobs and businesses America so badly needs.

It is also because of that sense of urgency about the work of the Commerce Department that I have asked the President-elect not to move forward with my nomination at this time. I do so with great sorrow. But a pending investigation of a company that has done business with New Mexico state government promises to extend for several weeks or, perhaps, even months.

Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process. Given the gravity of the economic situation the nation is facing, I could not in good conscience ask the President-elect and his Administration to delay for one day the important work that needs to be done.

So, for now, I will remain in the job I love, Governor of New Mexico, and will continue to work every day, with Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish, to make a positive difference in the lives of New Mexicans. I believe she will be a terrific governor in the future. I appreciate the confidence President-elect Obama has shown in me, and value our friendship and working partnership. I told him that I am eager to serve in the future in any way he deems useful. And like all Americans, I pray for his success and the success of our beloved country.

Statement Of President-Elect Barack Obama

It is with deep regret that I accept Governor Bill Richardson's decision to withdraw his name for nomination as the next Secretary of Commerce. Governor Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would have brought to the job of Commerce Secretary and our economic team great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal and state office. It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet in order to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time. Although we must move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson's decision, I look forward to his future service to our country and in my administration.