SANTA FE, N.M. — Voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and other states have seen more of Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson than his New Mexico constituents since he announced his bid for president.
Richardson has traveled outside of New Mexico about 60 percent of the time since entering the race in late January, and more recently, in June and July, he was on the campaign trail three out of every four days.
When Richardson leaves the state, Lt. Gov. Diane Denish serves as acting governor.
Richardson maintains he's not neglecting his duties despite his frequent absences. He said he conducts state business by telephone and keeps in contact through e-mail with his BlackBerry.
"I usually spent a day a week in New Mexico. My voters knew when I ran for re-election I may be undertaking this race and they're supportive," Richardson said recently during a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
Besides Richardson, the six senators seeking the presidency — four Democrats and two Republicans — have made varying attempts to keep up with Senate business in Washington while campaigning. John McCain, R-Ariz., had missed about half the Senate's more than 200 votes through late June, and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., had missed about a third.
Among the Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois had missed only a handful votes, while Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut had missed about a quarter of the votes.
Grumbling about Richardson's travel has been muted in New Mexico so far.
"He needs to spend less time with his agenda and more time with the state of New Mexico's agenda," said Lisa Orona, 40, of Albuquerque, N.M., a Republican. "They need to limit the time he spends out of state. After all, we're paying for him to be here taking care of us."
As governor, Richardson is paid $110,000 a year.
Kevin Van Der Aa Keeffe, 29, said New Mexico has gained national exposure because of Richardson's presidential bid and he's not seen a drop in Richardson's performance as governor because he's campaigning.
"The publicity has been really positive for the state. I have family members from out-of-state that have told me, 'Oh, looks like you've got a (presidential) candidate.' And it's not often that we have a New Mexico candidate," said Van Der Aa Keeffe, a catering supervisor at an Albuquerque hotel and an independent who voted last year to re-elect Richardson.
Some New Mexico lawmakers complained in March that Richardson forced them to return to Santa Fe for a special legislative session and then left the state to campaign for president.
"Well governor, if it's so important to you, you should be here while we're here," Republican state Rep. Dan Foley of Roswell, N.M., said at the time.
From late January through July, Richardson traveled outside the state for all or part of at least 109 days, according to his campaign schedules and published reports of his campaign appearances. That doesn't count Richardson's nearly weeklong trip to North Korea in April. The total number of Richardson's out-state travel days is likely higher because his campaign initially didn't disclose when the governor left New Mexico to attend fund-raisers.
For elected officials who campaign for president, absenteeism from their taxpayer-paid job is inevitable. When George Bush first ran for president, he took himself off the public payroll as Texas governor in 2000 when he was absent from the state for a full day.
Associated Press Writers Holly Ramer in Concord, N.H. and Melanie Dabovich in Albuquerque, N.M. contributed to this report.