Richardson: Primary first

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Bill Richardson
Governor, NM
Born: 11/15/1947
Birthplace: Pasedena, CA
Home: Santa Fe, NM
Religion: Catholic
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EXETER Presidential hopeful Bill Richardson appealed Saturday for an end to the one-upsmanship among states vying to hold the earliest Democratic party primary.

Speaking after a campaign stop at a home in Exeter, the New Mexico Democrat said he believes it is important that the leadoff roles of Iowa and New Hampshire "not be usurped."

Richardson was speaking after the national party said Florida Democrats would forfeit their votes in selecting a presidential nominee unless they delay their state election by at least a week. Saturday's warning by the DNC rules committee is intended to discourage others from leapfrogging ahead to earlier dates.

The Florida party has 30 days to submit an alternative to its planned Jan. 29 primary or lose its 210 delegates to the nominating convention in Denver next summer.

"As a candidate, I just want to get this settled and just appeal to all parties to get their act together and have some definitive roles," Richardson said. "Let's have an orderly process instead of states trying to outdo each other."

Richardson said he learned about the DNC tough stance on Florida after the Exeter event.

He joked last week that the states' scramble to hold the nation's first primary hasn't helped his "underdog campaign," saying he needs as much time as he can get to compete against better-financed and better-recognized rivals.

Party rules say states cannot hold their 2008 primary contests before Feb. 5, except for Iowa on Jan. 14, Nevada on Jan. 19, New Hampshire on Jan. 22, and South Carolina on Jan. 29.

The calendar was designed to preserve the traditional role that Iowa and New Hampshire have played in selecting the nominee, while adding two states with more racial and geographic diversity to influential early slots.

Richardson answered questions from more than 100 people in a sweltering living room, saying the U.S. can and should withdraw its troops from Iraq within six months. He also called for the lowering of the Medicare age from 65 to 55, and cautioned against expanding the use of coal as a source of energy.

"What we need more than anything is an electorate in this country that is willing to get behind these positions," he said.

Peg Gaillard, 43, of Exeter, liked many of Richardson's ideas. She pointed out, however, that the candidate came up short on spelling out what sacrifices they would require of citizens. "In order to do all of this stuff, we've got to give up a lot," she said. "I wish more candidates would be straight about that."