Gov. Richardson ‘pretty close’ to calling for Gonzales to resign

Presidential candidate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) said Monday the reason he has not called for the removal of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is that the two both have Hispanic backgrounds.

Richardson, in an interview with The Hill, said he is “pretty close” to making such a call, but added that he is reluctant to do so before Gonzales’s Senate testimony despite the high-profile involvement of New Mexico in the U.S. attorneys scandal.
“The only reason I’m not there is because he’s Hispanic, and I know him and like him,” Richardson said, adding, “It’s because he’s Hispanic. I’m honest.

“I want to give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Gonzales has come under fire from Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill for the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, with some lawmakers charging that the dismissals were motivated by the attorneys’ reluctance to become involved in politically motivated witch-hunts of Democrats.

U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico was one of the higher-profile firings.

Richardson said Gonzales is “really in quicksand,” and that he is disappointed the attorney general “thinks of himself as the president’s lawyer” instead of that of the American people.

Richardson went on to say that if Gonzales were to endorse Senate confirmation of U.S. attorneys — as well as tougher advise-and-consent laws for their termination — he might be satisfied and want to see Gonzales remain in office.
Richardson spoke with The Hill earlier this week, on the heels of a trip to North Korea where he joined a bipartisan delegation in helping secure the remains of six U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War.

Richardson said that and other trips highlighting his foreign-policy experience will help buoy his campaign.
“The North Korea trip has given me a lot of visibility and good buzz,” he said.

Richardson’s campaign is continuing to try to raise that level of visibility behind a strong finish in last week’s Iraq war town hall survey and respectable first-quarter fundraising numbers.

Initial results from the survey showed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) finishing ahead of Richardson on the question of “Which candidate do you believe would be the best able to lead the country out of Iraq?”

But reports show that those who actually listened to the debate voted Richardson into second place behind Edwards and ahead of Obama.

“Every time I go in front of a group like MoveOn … I make inroads because of my résumé and my positions,” Richardson said. “You’re not canned. You’ve got no talking points. You just got to let it rip.”

That said, Richardson acknowledged that he still has a “problem” with fundraising, despite a first-quarter tally of $6.2 million with more than $5 million cash on hand.

“I don’t have that rock-star status,” he said.

That, coupled with trips overseas and an emergency session of the New Mexico legislature, hindered any sustained fundraising pushes, Richardson said.

The governor said raising money will be the focus of his campaign in the second quarter.

“It has to be a major part,” Richardson said. “You know, you can’t get away from it.”

In coming days, Richardson said he has fundraisers planned in New York and campaign stops scheduled in Iowa.
“I wish I could reverse it,” the governor said of his schedule.

In the first quarter of 2003, the governor’s haul would have been enough to rock the punditry, but with frontrunners Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Obama obliterating fundraising records, Richardson’s numbers seem paltry by comparison.

That said, the governor noted the success he and other Democrats are having in raising money as a sign of Democrats’ “desperation” to take back the White House after four years of Republican rule.

“There’s a thirst for dramatic change that I’ve never seen before,” he said.

The relative fundraising success of the first filing period has put the campaign in a position to expand its infrastructure in the early-voting states.

Yesterday, the campaign announced it had hired a state director and communications director in Iowa.
Richardson said similar staff hires in New Hampshire and South Carolina would be forthcoming.