Richardson gets nod as commerce chief
Associated Press
December 4, 2008


Tucson, Arizona | Published:

CHICAGO — President-elect Barack Obama selected New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary Wednesday, naming a prominent Hispanic to his new Cabinet and calling him a leading "economic diplomat for America" in troubled times.

Richardson's nomination brings to three the number of former campaign rivals Obama has welcomed to his team. Joe Biden is the vice president-elect, and Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the next secretary of state, pending confirmation by the Senate.

At a Chicago news conference, Obama praised Richardson's long résumé. He served as United Nations ambassador and energy secretary during the Clinton administration, and he is in his second term as New Mexico's governor. He also served seven terms in the House of Representatives.

"During his time in state government and Congress, and in two tours of duty in the Cabinet, Bill has seen, from just about every angle, what makes our economy work and what keeps it from working better," Obama said.

Obama referred to reports that the country has been in recession for a year and that manufacturing production is at a 26-year low.

Said Obama: "With each passing day, the work our team has begun, developing plans to revive our economy, becomes more urgent."

Despite the crisis, he struck an optimistic tone, saying: "I am more confident than ever that we have everything we need to renew our economy. We've got the ingenuity, the technology, the skill and commitment, we just need to put it to work."

Richardson pledged — in English and Spanish — to work to renew the economy when he is confirmed by the Senate to take over the sprawling department that oversees the National Weather Service, the Census Bureau, economic development programs and more.

His appointment adds more demographic diversity to a Cabinet that already includes several women and blacks. Richardson is the first Hispanic named to Obama's Cabinet.

New Mexico's Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, a Democrat, will become the state's first female governor when Richardson leaves to assume his new post. Denish will take over for the remainder of Richardson's term, which runs through 2010.

Among those Cabinet posts yet to be disclosed, if not chosen: the heads of the Interior, Transportation, Labor, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs departments.

Obama also has yet to name his intelligence team, including his director of national intelligence and CIA chief.