Richardson in Denver: Hispanics to decide next president

On the heels of John McCain’s visit, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson swept into Denver Friday to stump for Barack Obama at the 60th annual American GI Forum’s National Conference at the Grand Hyatt downtown.

Richardson told the enthusiastic crowd that Obama understands the importance of diversity and, as president, will look out for the country’s veterans.

“I believe that as president, our veterans’ priorities will be his priorities,” Richardson said.

Richardson delivered his speech at a dinner for about 250 members of the GI forum, which promotes Hispanic Americans’ past military service and lobbies for veterans’ rights.

“I’m proud the Hispanic vote is going to decide who will be the next president of the United States,” Richardson said.

Whether Obama can win the support of enough of the country’s 40 million Latinos to win the election has been the subject of much debate. But 57 percent of Hispanic voters identify as members of or lean toward the Democratic Party, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report out late last year.

But Richardson, who served as President Clinton’s energy secretary, said this year’s election isn’t about party, but hope for the country’s future. 

“You’ve always backed me. You’ve always trusted me. I have a very good feeling about this man. I hope everybody here, as much as you can, will look at this race and say, ‘What’s not best for the [Democratic] or Republican Party, what’s best for our country?’ as you always have served our nation so well.”

Richardson also took the opportunity to criticize McCain’s track record on supporting veterans’ services, pointing to his opposition of a Democratic-backed GI Bill this May, which Obama supported.

“At a time when we’re facing the largest military homecoming since World War II, the real test of American patriotism is whether we will serve our returning heroes as well as they have served us,” Richardson said.