November 4, 2005

Richardson urges Democrats not to ignore Hispanics

By Richard Satran

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the
United States' only Hispanic governor, said on Friday Democrats
should not take the Hispanic vote for granted and doing so may
already have cost them the White House.

Richardson, starting a national tour to promote his new
book published on Friday, "Between Worlds: The Making of an
American Life," which details his globe-trotting diplomatic
missions and shortlisting as the Democratic vice presidential
pick in the past two elections.

Democratic candidates have enjoyed hefty majorities among
Hispanic voters, but that will not always be the case, he said.
Spanish-speaking President George W. Bush's campaign appeal to
Latino voters on social issues cut into the majority, claiming
some 44 percent in 2004, up from just a third for Republican
candidates in past presidential elections.

"The erosion of the Hispanic vote with the Democratic Party
has been consistent in the last three elections," Richardson
said, and in the last one it may have been fatal.

"The Hispanic vote would have been important in states like
Nevada and Arizona and New Mexico," he said. "If John Kerry had
carried those states, he would have been president."

Richardson said he was on a personal campaign to make those
states "more than just flyovers" for political campaigners, and
he wants more substantive Democratic efforts to woo Hispanics.

Hispanics are the largest U.S. racial or ethnic minority,
accounting for about 14 percent of the population. They are
expected to account for 24 percent of the total U.S. population
in 2050.

"Democrats can't take this vote for granted," Richardson
said. The party needs to talk "not just about civil rights" but
about "a broad range of issues like jobs, small business and

"They can't just focus on a few narrow issues and trot out
the mariachi bands, like both parties have traditionally done,"
he said.


A former U.S. congressman, energy secretary and ambassador
to the United Nations, Richardson, 57, said he was "considering
a presidential run."

He has launched a campaign for a second term as governor,
but will not commit to serving the four-year term if higher
office intervenes. "I'm going to be having a conversation with
my constituents where I'm going to be open and very candid
about my plans and I may say to them that I am running for
reelection and beyond that we will see," he said.

The son of an American businessman and Mexican mother who
was born in California and raised in Mexico City, Richardson is
known as a maverick who at times takes contrarian positions.

His recent declaration of a "border crisis" rankled some

That "was popular with those who live near the border," he
said, but "it was not so popular with Hispanic groups
nationally." Still he said, he "had to do it" because of a
growing crisis created by 12 million undocumented aliens. The
Bush administration's commitment of 1,500 new border guards to
the Southwest will ease the crisis, he said.

In his book, Richardson tracks a public career that hit its
zenith with highly publicized personal diplomacy that brought
him face-to-face with Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro and into
the heart of North Korea's nuclear complex.

Richardson visited North Korea in October and said he saw
signs of change, after years of failure by U.S. policy-makers
trying to keep the country from producing nuclear weapons.

Richardson toured a nuclear facility and was "encouraged by
the openness" of North Korean scientists and felt "a better
mood toward Americans than at any time in 15 years of dealing
with them."

He attributes the new attitude toward a desire to expand
the economy, and the growth of Chinese and South Korean