Richardson makes first presidential campaign stop in Nevada

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RENO, Nev. (AP) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson sought to
separate himself from a crowded Democratic presidential field as he
launched his campaign Saturday in Nevada.

Richardson became the first Democrat to accept an invitation to
appear in two candidate forums in the state - Feb. 21 in Carson
City and March 24 in Las Vegas. He also pledged to campaign in all
17 Nevada counties.

For the first time in 2008, Nevada's Democratic presidential
caucus will be held on Jan. 19, between Iowa's first-in-the-nation
caucus and the New Hampshire primary.

"I know I'm the underdog, but I'm going to out-work the other
candidates," Richardson told more than 50 supporters who greeted
him at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

"Nevada is going to be a critically important state because of
its early caucus. I'm going to campaign very hard, door to door.
I'm after voters, not big endorsements," he added.

The rally was the first of a series of activities that
Richardson was to hold through Sunday in the Reno area. He also was
scheduled to address a Democratic group Saturday night in Minden,
to appear at a fund-raising breakfast Sunday in Reno and to hold
meetings with labor, minority and political leaders both days in

The visit marks Richardson's first official campaign trip since
announcing a week ago that he would set up an exploratory committee
that will let him raise money and assemble his campaign
organization, said Mike Stratton, a campaign adviser.

Richardson also is the first candidate to announce hiring staff
to organize his campaign in Nevada. Reynaldo Martinez, a former
aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is his statewide
campaign chairman.

Richardson told reporters at the Reno airport that his
experience as a U.N. ambassador, Energy Department secretary and
congressman sets him apart from the rest of the field. He also said
he's the only Democratic candidate who hails from the West and is a
sitting governor.

"I'm a fellow Westerner," he said. "The main issues today
require someone with the background and heart, and I believe I have
the best qualifications."

Richardson said he's proud of his heritage but is not running as
a Hispanic in a state that is nearly 23 percent Hispanic.

"I think it's a growing population, and I'll fight for every
vote," he said.

Richardson thanked a Reno supporter, Sean McHaney, for his
recent six-month tour of duty in Iraq and asked him about his
future plans. The 24-year-old Navy veteran served as a body guard
for a chaplain in Iraq.

"I'm going to support him for president," McHaney said. "He
has more experience and is the best choice for the job. I also like
his stand on the war in Iraq.

"I think the war is an atrocity. I think we've unnecessarily
killed 100,000 Iraqis and more than 3,000 Americans. We've caused
more problems than good by being there, and I think it's time we
got out of there."

Richardson said he wants U.S. troops to return quickly from

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)