There was nothing but praise for Gov. Bill Richardson today during his first visit to Las Cruces since announcing himself as a candidate for president.
In his speech endorsing the proposed spaceport tax increase, Richardson made no references to his national ambitions, but the event was colored by the comments of others and lots of applause. Two middle-school students who introduced Richardson read off a list of accomplishments provided by the governor’s office.
Las Cruces Mayor Bill Mattiace, a Republican, was the first to mention the presidential race by saying, after Richardson concluded his speech and it was his turn to speak, that “it’s hard to follow the governor.”
“In the future, we may be following the next president of the United States,” Mattiace said.
That elicited a loud round of applause from the hundreds in attendance.
Doña Ana County Commissioner Kent Evans, another Republican, had especially kind words for the Democratic governor.
“I love him and I think he’s doing a great job,” Evans said. “I think he is going to be the next president of the United States.”
More thunderous applause.
I asked Evans after the event if he was endorsing Richardson’s candidacy, and he said he was, adding that Richardson is the best candidate he knows about.
There weren’t many members of the national media following Richardson, but the governor took questions from members of the local media after the spaceport event. The first few questions had to do with the spaceport tax increase, but questions about his campaign soon came up.
Richardson said he will continue to do his job as governor even while he is campaigning and pledged to work on issues important to New Mexicans – raising the minimum wage, improving health care, combating drunken driving and developing clean energy initiatives. He said if he is elected president, he won’t forget New Mexico.
“I will take care of New Mexico no matter where I am,” Richardson said.
After speaking with the media, Richardson signed autographs for students and a number of other people. One girl asked him if he was running for president, and Richardson told her he had announced that last week.
“Isn’t Hillary running for president?” the girl asked.
“Yeah. I’m running against her,” Richardson said.
Then he smiled and corrected himself.
“She’s running against me,” he said.
Following the Las Cruces event, Richardson said he was heading to a private fundraiser for his presidential campaign in El Paso.