Santa Fe, NM – Governor Bill Richardson says he's planning to stay in Santa Fe after he ends his second term next month and hands over the reigns to Republican Susana Martinez. The Democrat Richardson, who just returned from a diplomatic trip to North Korea, says he'll make Santa Fe a base to expand his work on international relations.
It's been a bit of a roller-coaster eight years for Richardson: budget surpluses early on that led to things like tax cuts and a commuter train, and then deficits that led to criticism from some lawmakers and painful cuts to state agencies. Add to that an investigation by a federal grand jury into pay-to-play allegations against his administration that led to his name being withdrawn for a cabinet appointment for President Obama. And then some relatively large environmental victories in New Mexico that he helped lead. But some of his bigger successes have been outside the state: including numerous unofficial diplomatic trips to North Korea and successful hostage negotiations in places like Iraq, Sudan, and Cuba. Richardson, a former U-S ambassador to the United Nations, told KUNM he wants to focus the next phase of his life on that kind of work.
"Well yeah," Richardson said, "I'm gonna set up in Santa Fe a new institute, small, that focuses on peacemaking, on dealing with the North Koreas, the Cubas, other countries; and a hostage rescue operation. I'm also gonna do some speeches and join some non-profit and for-profit boards. But I'm gonna stay in Santa Fe, engaged internationally. I'm not gonna get involved in local politics. The governor and the legislature need to fix their problems without me, and I'll be very pleased with that."
Richardson's most recent trip to North Korea may have been the most successful yet. Tensions between North and South Korea had been high in recent weeks, but Richardson says he was, among other things, able to get the North to agree to allowing nuclear weapons inspectors into that country. It's not clear how soon his Santa Fe peacemaking institute might begin operating.