Richardson, who experts say is strong in qualifications but weak in fundraising, stopped in Monterey Park on Friday to highlight his cultural identity as well as his ideas. “I am very proud to become the first Latino to run for president of the United States,” Richardson said at the Luminarias Restaurant, where Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina hosted the campaign stop. Molina, who endorsed Richardson, said he shares her political values on such issues as immigration and health care. Molina spokesman Miguel Santana said Richardson’s ethnicity “is an added bonus.” Richardson has served as a U.S. Representative, ambassador to the United Nations and as the U.S. Secretary of Energy. He was also chairman of the 2004 Democratic National Convention as well as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in 2005 and 2006. On Friday, he discussed the war, health care, minimum wage, immigration, civil rights, gas prices, affordable housing and the environment. “In our own hemisphere, the issue of immigration is suddenly taking an ugly turn,” said Richardson, who occasionally spoke to the audience in Spanish. “I’m running for president because I believe the nation needs to come together,” he said. “The nation needs to heal.” Richardson suggested that the federal government could take the $500 million used in funding the war and apply it to universal health care. He also hopes to reduce dependence on imported oil from 65 percent to 10 percent in 10 years. Molina said Richardson has a proven track record and can “even charm the Republicans.” But not everyone is convinced with Richardson’s shared vision as president. “It was a canned speech,” said Industry resident Jo Ruiz. Richardson is vying for president against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. Poll show Clinton’s approval rating at 38 percent, followed by Obama at 24 percent. Edwards is at 12 percent. Richardson’s ratings is at 5 percent, an increase by 2 percent over the past two months. Richardson’s ethnicity could be a factor in the race, experts said. The country has been asked lately whether they are ready for a black, Latino or female president to lead the country, they said. “You can never discount the possible effect of race,” said Jack Pitney, politics professor at Claremont-McKenna College. “But the November election is going to turn to the Iraq War and the economy.” Pitney believes that out of all the Republican and Democratic candidates, “Just by resume alone, he is the best qualified.” But, he said, Richardson’s challenge will be in raising enough money. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington D.C.-based watchdog group, Richardson has so far raised more than $6 million. But that figure lags behind Clinton, with $36 million, and Obama, with nearly $26 million. But Andr Pineda, senior strategist for Richardson, said that it is still too early to make any predictions. “At this point in the process, who know’s what is going to happen?” Pineda said. “There could be so many twists and turns.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2477 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! MONTEREY PARK – Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson’s parents drove to Pasadena in 1947 from Mexico so that his mother could give birth to her son in the United States. Three hours later, they returned to Mexico City, where Richardson was raised until he was 13. But the New Mexico governor’s last name hides his heritage. “The first thing I need to do is tell people that Bill Richardson is Hispanic,” he said Friday.