NEW YORK – The quirky Massachusetts Republican who once made a splash by jumping fully clothed into the Charles River during a news conference is plunging into the New York governor’s race.

William Weld, an intellectual Yankee blue blood who walked away from the corner office in Boston at the height of his popularity, is planning to dive back into politics after nearly a decade of novel writing and quiet money making.

“I’m trying to arrange my business interests so that I could make the race,” he said. “I think this is definitely doable. I can feel the old juices flowing again.”

He is expected to make his formal announcement at a meeting of Republican county chairmen in Rockland County Sept. 8.

Weld, 60, brushed off an early what-if Quinnipiac poll showing popular Democrat Eliot Spitzer would crush him 60 to 16 percent.

“I started as an asterisk in Massachusetts,” said Weld, who was governor from 1991 to 1997. “I view starting at 16 percent as almost tantamount to a mandate.”

If Weld were to win, he would be the second man to have governed two states – Sam Houston served in Tennessee and Texas in the 1800s.

Some observers believe the millionaire lawyer, who was born and raised in New York and returned in 2000, could be the GOP’s best chance to retain the governor’s mansion. He is a fiscal conservative who cut taxes and curbed welfare, but a social liberal who supports abortion rights and gay marriage.

“If I was a New York Republican, I would be … praying for him to run,” said Kevin Sowyrda, a GOP political consultant in Boston who worked in the Weld administration.

(c) 2005, New York Daily News.

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AP-NY-08-19-05 1235EDT

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