SANTA FE, New Mexico (CNN) -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday after fourth-place showings in the campaign's first contests.
"The time has come to end my quest and come home to tackle the challenges before us in New Mexico," Richardson told cheering supporters in his state capital of Santa Fe. "Our legislature starts next week, and I intend to put my full efforts behind our No. 1 priority -- extending health insurance to every New Mexican by the end of my term."
When making his announcement, Richardson declined to endorse any candidate but called the Democratic field "the most promising field in my lifetime." He predicted the party's eventual nominee would win the White House.
While praising each of the remaining contenders, he also urged them to swear off personal attacks against one another. Watch Richardson bow out of the race »
"To do otherwise could result in another four to eight years of more of the same, and that would be the biggest tragedy of all," Richardson said.
Richardson, who served as United Nations ambassador and energy secretary in the Clinton administration, drew 5 percent of the vote in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.
As the Latino governor of a swing state, Richardson was interviewed as a possible running mate for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in 2004, but told reporters he remained committed to finishing his term as governor. He won a second term in 2006.
He said he raised about $22 million during his yearlong campaign -- far short of the $100 million-plus claimed by Clinton, the Democratic winner in New Hampshire.
"Despite overwhelming financial and political odds, I am proud of the campaign we waged," he said. Watch Richardson explain his decision »
In New Hampshire on Tuesday night, Richardson was looking ahead to the Nevada caucuses on January 19.
"We head out West, and the fight goes on," he told a crowd of cheering supporters.
"And we will continue to raise the issue of getting all our troops out of Iraq, and America becoming a clean-energy nation, and getting rid of No Child Left Behind." E-mail to a friend
CNN's John King, Candy Crowley and Mark Preston contributed to this report.
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