Richardson speaks

The New Mexico governor explains his decision to drop out of the running to be commerce secretary, and says his political career isn't over.

Published January 5, 2009 6:35PM (EST)

One day after the sudden announcement that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's nomination to be commerce secretary was being withdrawn, Richardson offered additional details during a press conference. It did not go off without a hitch.

Richardson maintained that the decision to withdraw was his, and said he came to make that choice because an investigation into state contracts given to CDR Financial Products Inc., whose president is a Richardson donor, had gone on longer than he expected it to -- he'd hoped it would be done in December, removing the cloud from over his head before confirmation hearings were to begin. The governor said, as he had in a statement on Sunday, that the country couldn't afford any delay in confirming a new head for the department. "Sometimes your own dreams and plans must take a back seat to what is best for the nation," he told reporters.

Still, Richardson made clear that he doesn't believe this is the end of his political career. Referencing a statement from Barack Obama in which the president-elect said he "look[s] forward to his future service to our country and in my administration," Richardson said, "I still believe I have a future in public service."

There was one odd note Monday afternoon. When one reporter asked Richardson -- who'd previously said he would not take any questions related to the CDR investigation -- whether he had a lawyer, the governor responded, brusquely, "I am not getting into any more questions," and the press conference was over.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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