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I’m not usually a supporter of second-tier candidates. Recognizing the typical inevitability of the political structure, I tend to seek out the candidate in the front of the pack I can most reasonably support. But, I have to say, Gov. Bill Richardson is a man after my heart (er … vote).

Governor Bill Richardson today praised Iowa Governor Chet Culver and the Iowa Legislature for passing new civil rights legislation that expands civil rights protections to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Governor Culver and Iowa lawmakers understand that we must look past our individual differences and concentrate on the qualities that bring us together as a country. This legislation is a step in that direction,” said Governor Richardson. “Throughout my entire career I have fought against discrimination and as President I will continue to work to ensure each and every American is treated with respect and fairness.”

This year in New Mexico, Richardson fought for passage of the Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act, legislation designed to provide domestic partners access to basic health care coverage; family leave and presumption of parentage, inheritance rights and decision-making in case of a partner’s incapacity.

Despite bringing back the legislature for a special session, the bill stalled in the Senate. Richardson has vowed to continue fighting for the legislation when lawmakers return next year.

Since taking office, Richardson has championed the advancement of gay and lesbian rights. Since 2003, he fought for and signed significant civil rights legislation, including the first hate crimes law in New Mexico history; a statute extending civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity; and a law ordering access to health insurance and benefits be extended to the domestic partners of state employees.

If Richardson has a secret weapon, it’s his ability as a governor to push for change that his fellow Democratic candidates could only dream of when faced with a GOP president and a slim majority in the Congress. Do I see the man winning the election? Sadly, no. But I still consider him the best running mate a front runner could ask for.