Democratic Sen. Jon Corzine (search) of New Jersey intends to announce as early as Thursday that he will run for governor while retaining his seat in Congress, according to party officials.

Corzine, 57, a Senate freshman, would become the first Democrat to step into the unsettled terrain of the gubernatorial race in his home state.

James E. McGreevey (search), a Democrat, resigned as governor this month, several weeks after stunning the state with the disclosure that he had had an extramarital affair with a man.

Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey (search), a Democrat who also retains his post as Senate president, has not said whether he plans to seek a full term in the November 2005 election.

Corzine's intentions were confirmed by several officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the senator has not yet announced his intentions. His spokesman, Brad Woodhouse, would not comment.

Corzine was elected to the Senate in 2000, the first try for public office for a man who made millions as head of the investment firm Goldman Sachs (search). He spent $60 million of his own money in winning the seat, prevailing with slightly over 50 percent of the vote in a multicandidate field.

Corzine's personal wealth and his political standing in the state would make him a formidable contender for the gubernatorial nomination. A Quinnipiac University poll released two days after McGreevey left office showed the senator with 60 percent support in a matchup with Codey and also showed him running well ahead of potential GOP rivals.

Former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler (search), a Republican who lost to McGreevey in 2001, announced this week he intends to run for governor a second time.

Businessman Douglas R. Forrester (search), who lost a bid for U.S. Senate in 2002, announced last week that he will run for governor.

Corzine was only two years into his Senate term when the party tapped him to head the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (search), a job that involves extensive fund raising as well as candidate recruitment.

The organization raised $80 million over two years, but the political odds were stacked heavily against the party almost from the outset. Five southern Democrats decided to retire rather than seek re-election, and the party lost four seats on Nov. 2.