WASHINGTON - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson intends to take the first step toward the Democratic presidential nomination, several officials with knowledge of his plans said yesterday.

The former congressman, U.N. ambassador, and Energy Department secretary is hoping his extensive resume will fuel a campaign to become the nation's first Hispanic president.

He plans to announce tomorrow that he will soon file the papers to create a presidential exploratory committee, the officials said. The governor is due to appear on ABC's This Week.

His office did not immediately return a call for comment.

Richardson, 59, brings a wealth of experience in international affairs that has extended even into his governorship of a small but politically important swing state. He most recently traveled to Sudan to meet with the country's president to press him for an end to the bloodshed in Darfur.

Despite having one of the most varied and impressive portfolios in politics, Richardson enters the race as an underdog. He lacks the national fund-raising network of some of his rivals in what is bound to be a very costly race.

But Richardson's decision to form an exploratory committee will allow him to begin raising money and putting together his campaign organization. A decision on whether to formally enter the race is expected in the spring.