COVER STORY YEAR IN REVIEW Jena Griswold (copy)

Newly elected Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold addresses the election-night watch party for Colorado Democrats at the Westin Hotel in downtown Denver on Nov. 6, 2018.

Less than a week after the release of a voter survey showing her out-polling all but one of the Democrats running in Colorado's 2020 U.S. Senate primary, Secretary of State Jena Griswold has formed an exploratory committee to consider joining the field of candidates hoping to unseat Republican Cory Gardner.

According to the Senate primary poll, which was commissioned by Griswold supporters and conducted by Democratic firms Keating Research and Onsight Public Affairs, Griswold finished second, behind former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and ahead of former state Sen. Mike Johnston, two of the 10 declared candidates for Gardner's seat.

"The fact that an undeclared entrant could garner second reaffirms the fact that this race is wide open," said pollster Chris Keating.

A full 42% of the likely Democratic primary voters surveyed said they were undecided, followed by 23% who said they would vote for Romanoff, 15% who picked Griswold and 12% who went with Johnston

The other three candidates included in the survey — former House Democratic leader Alice Madden, former U.S. attorney for Colorado John Walsh and former ambassador Dan Baer — all polled at 2%, under the survey's 4.4% margin of error. Another 2% said they preferred another candidate.

Gardner is widely viewed as one of the most vulnerable Republican senators seeking re-election next year after Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Colorado by about 5%, and Democrats swept every statewide race and won control of both chambers of the legislature last year.

Late Monday, while candidates raced to meet a Federal Election Commission campaign finance report filing deadline, a statement of organization appeared on the FEC site for Griswold's exploratory committee — fueling speculation that has simmered for months, since Griswold acknowledged meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to discuss a run against Gardner.

Griswold didn't respond Monday night to a phone call and text message from Colorado Politics seeking comment on her formation of an exploratory committee, but her brother, campaign consultant Chris Griswold, said to expect a quick decision on whether or not to run.

Jena Griswold, a Louisville attorney, was sworn into office in January after defeating Wayne Williams, the Republican incumbent, in her first run for office — becoming the first Democrat elected secretary of state in 58 years and the first Democratic woman ever to hold the position.

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