New Mexico leaders react to death of former Gov Richardson

Sep. 2—As news of former Gov. Bill Richardson's death spread Saturday, the state's politicians, many of whom have worked with him over the years and credit him for their own political careers, shared their condolences.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, who last month nominated Richardson for the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize for his work to free hostages and political prisoners around the world, said in a statement that Richardson "believed New Mexico could do big things. His ambition for our state meant he never accepted mediocrity, and always pushed us to fight for the future we deserved.

"Governor Richardson's legacy will have a lasting impact on the United States and the world, as it already has had on me and so many others," Heinrich continued.

Richardson's long political career included years in Congress, working for the administration of Bill Clinton and work as a hostage negotiator, including his recent involvement in the successful negotiations to free basketball star Britney Griner from prison in Russia. President Joe Biden, who was in the U.S. Senate while Richardson was in the House in the 1980s and 1990s, offered his condolences Saturday.

"He was a good friend," Biden said Saturday, according to CNN, adding that his death was "disappointing."

U.S. Sen. Ben Ray Luján, who also nominated Richardson for this year's Nobel Peace Prize along with Heinrich, said in a statement that Richardson was "a giant in public service and government." Before running for the Senate, Luján represented the same Northern New Mexico congressional district that Richardson did decades earlier.

"In his post-government career, he was trusted to handle some of the most sensitive diplomatic crises, and he did so with great success," Luján said. "Here in New Mexico, we will always remember him as our Governor. He never stopped fighting for the state he called home.

Richardson, 75, died in his sleep Friday night at his home in Cape Cod. He was a Democrat, as are most of the statewide elected officials and federal representatives who rushed to offer their condolences Saturday.

"He was a visionary who saw the potential of our great state before so many others did," Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. "He saw us taking on Hollywood and reaching for the stars, launching both the film and space industries that continue to reap significant economic benefits today. His reputation preceded him around the globe: Bill Richardson is someone who gets things done."

Lujan Grisham added that Richardson "was a mentor and advisor who was instrumental in my own journey into elected office. He was a steadfast friend who celebrated my successes, and someone I could turn to in those moments when leading is particularly challenging."

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-N.M., said Richardson "lived and loved big, mentored a generation of leaders, and served our great state and nation."

Stansbury said she first met Richardson when he was her congressman, "and like so many others, was catalyzed into a path of public service on behalf of our state. Governor Richardson's loss will be felt across the planet."

U.S. Rep. Gabe Vasquez, D-N.M., said a statement Richardson solved "some of the most difficult hostage negotiations in American history."

"I mourn the passing of this New Mexico legend, one of the most powerful Hispanics in politics that this nation has seen. Today, we reflect on decades of his service and for always proudly representing New Mexico," Vasquez said.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat, tweeted that Richardson was "a legend in Latino politics" and "a role model for many."

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber called Richardson's death "an enormous loss for us all."

"His achievements on behalf of our state, nation, and the world are immeasurable," Webber said. "He was a visionary and a doer, an innovator and an implementer, an executive and a diplomat. I am forever grateful to him for his wise advice and conversation."

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Richardson was "a giant in New Mexico modern history and [led] our state into the national and international spotlight like no one else before." He had the "a rare combination in public service — the ability to push a bold vision and powerful negotiating skills to make things happen," Keller said.

"Always, even though we disagreed at times, he taught me the valuable lesson of compromise, making a deal to move the ball forward. It's something I appreciate and remember to this day," Keller added.

New Mexico Speaker of the House Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, called Richardson "a fierce advocate for New Mexico's working families and for democracy, human rights, and free speech worldwide. ... Vaya con Dios, amigo."

Sen. Joe Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, tweeted that he "learned most of what I know of governing from Bill Richardson.

"An incredible force, indomitable politician and one of the few true leaders in politics I've been privileged to serve alongside," Cervantes said. "We will miss him and the work he had left in him."

In a statement, Conservation Voters New Mexico Executive Director Demis Foster called Richardson "one of the nation's most distinguished advocates for community well-being and environmental protection." She pointed to his work to establish the state's first renewable portfolio standard, creating the Rail Runner Express, cleaning up the Los Alamos National Laboratory, co-founding the Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade efforts and supporting the National Heritage Conservation Act, which created a permanent mechanism to fund conservation projects.

Foster also said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Richardson "was a mentor to me when I first started working in [New Mexico] politics. He cared deeply for the natural world, and loved animals — especially wild horses. He forged the path for bold conservation and climate policy in [New Mexico]."

Former New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican who succeeded Richardson after he left office in 2011, thanked Richardson for "many years of service" in a tweet. "My prayers are with Barbara and the Richardson family," Martinez said.