President-elect Barack Obamas pick to be Commerce secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), has withdrawn, the Associated Press reported this afternoon. Obama has accepted the resignation.
The move comes amid a grand jury investigation of possible "pay-to-play" dealings between CDR Financial Products and someone in a position to push the contract through with the state of New Mexico, the AP reported.
"It is with deep regret that I accept Gov. Bill Richardson's decision to withdraw his name for nomination as the next Secretary of Commerce," Obama said in a statement. "Gov. Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would have brought to the job of Commerce Secretary and our economic team great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal and state office. It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the cabinet in order to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time."
Obama said he would "move quickly to fill the void.
Richardson, in a statement obtained by NBC, said, "Let me say unequivocally that I and my administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process."
Richardson was one of the leading Hispanic figures in Obama's developing team, and he was one of the most experienced figures as well, having served not only as governor but as Energy secretary, ambassador to the United Nations and a House Member.
He said he would remain governor "for now." Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D) had already been undertaking a transition process to become the new governor. She could either take over as governor if Richardson steps down before his term ends or seek to succeed him in 2010.