Mr. Richardson set more efficient energy standards for air-conditioners and other appliances, established the National Nuclear Security Administration, carried out a nuclear waste disposal plan, and oversaw the return of 84,000 acres of federal land to the Northern Ute tribe of Utah.
As governor, he raised teachers’ salaries, abolished the death penalty, signed legislation to allow New Mexicans to carry concealed handguns, established a fund to pay for public works, supported gay rights, raised the minimum wage and offered prekindergarten programs for 4-year-olds. But he declined to pardon William H. Bonney, known as Billy the Kid, for killing a New Mexico sheriff 130 years earlier. (Bonney was said to have been promised a pardon if he testified in another case.)
Mr. Richardson said of his two terms as governor: “It’s the most fun. You can get the most done. You set the agenda.”
In 1997, when he was at the United Nations, he was asked by the White House to interview Monica Lewinsky, the White House intern who would figure in Mr. Clinton’s impeachment and who wanted to return to New York from Washington, for a job. He was said to have offered her one, which she declined.
He usually got his way, though, as a result of relentless bargaining and a gregarious personality.
In his first campaign for governor, Mr. Richardson set a Guinness World Record by shaking 13,392 hands in eight hours at the New Mexico State Fair. And the lengths to which he went to impress the president who appointed him U.N. ambassador became the stuff of legend. Those means were not necessarily always intentional.