Newcomer Griswold plans a fast start as next secretary of state

Secretary of State Jena Griswold.

Jena Griswold, the novice candidate who was elected last November as Colorado secretary of state, said Friday she had decided against running for Cory Gardner's U.S. Senate seat next year.

The announcement came about 3-1/2 weeks after the Democrat formed an exploratory committee to consider joining the crowded field of candidates hoping to unseat Republican Gardner in the wake of a poll showing her leading all but one of her potential rivals in the 2020 Democratic primary.

“I was surprised and humbled when Coloradans began to approach me about running for the US Senate," Griswold said in her announcement Friday. "I knew I needed to take this encouragement seriously and give it real consideration.

"After some heartfelt deliberation, I have decided that now is not the right time for me to run for the Senate," she added. "Last year, Coloradans gave me the honor of electing me to serve as their Secretary of State. Together, we’ve already passed bi-partisan reform to shine light on dark money, we’ve made it more accessible for Coloradans to vote, we lead the nation in election security, all of which makes Colorado a national model on democracy."

Griswold said her committee had raised over $200,000 in two weeks.

"I am moved by the encouragement I have received, and sincerely want to thank everyone for their support. I look forward to continuing to work to ensure that Coloradans have a democracy they can believe in," she said.

According to the Senate primary poll in July, 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 what were then 10 declared candidates for Gardner's seat. (An 11th, Michelle Ferrigno Warren, has since entered the race.)

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.

There had been speculation for months that Griswold, who defeated Republican incumbent Wayne Williams last November, might enter the Senate race. She previously acknowledged meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to discuss a run against Gardner.

Unlike Griswold, none of the declared Democratic candidates has won a statewide race before. But there has been mounting pressure on former Gov. John Hickenlooper to abandon his sputtering presidential bid and jump into the Senate race.

Jena Griswold, a Louisville attorney, is the first Democrat to be elected secretary of state in 58 years and the first Democratic woman ever to hold the position.

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