New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson surprised many people yesterday when he withdrew his name from consideration to be the next Commerce Secretary. He withdrew as an investigation is under way in his home state to determine if a California company that received lucrative state infrastructure contracts got those contracts because of the big contributions they gave to Richardson's re-election campaign.
In light of the Blagojevich investigation in Illinois, it is very enlightening of Richardson to realize that this would hinder his confirmation, even though I believe him when he says he did nothing wrong. Richardson has had a distinguished career in public service and has been a source of pride in the Latino political community. President-elect Obama definitely wanted Richardson on his team in some capacity.
But due to the very nature of the position Richardson was appointed to, there can be no sign of impropriety as well as any misguided signals that you have to pay to play with the Obama administration. Richardson is an above the board politician and all of the facts will reveal such as the investigation moves forward.
At that point in time, when all the smoke as cleared, Obama will bend over backwards to find a spot for Richardson to fill at a time where his expertise will be greatly appreciated. Right now, the only Latinos in a Cabinet position now is U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-CA). Hopefully Obama can replace Richardson with another member from that community but there are no leading candidates that have hit the radar.
Meanwhile, Obama will have to hit the ground running without a key component of his team filled. Despite that fact, Richardson did the right thing in drawing that attention away from the President-elect.