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State Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver, speaks to a reporter at the Colorado Capitol on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

State Sen. Angela Williams on Monday joined the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, becoming the first sitting elected official to enter the crowded race.

State Sen. Angela Williams, D-Denver. (Handout)

The news first broke midday when Williams filed with the federal government to launch her candidacy. The northeast Denver lawmaker then followed up with a news release to reporters and video making her bid formal.

“For me, politics is personal,” Williams said in a written statement. “Throughout my career in public service and in the private sector, I’ve been driven by the values of hard work, honesty, and standing up for others. Those are the values I want to take to the United States Senate.”

Williams also attacked Colorado’s Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and President Donald Trump for seeking to “divide Coloradans and American for far too long.”

“I’m eager to go to Washington to bridge the divide and tackle the toughest challenges facing our state and our nation,” she said in the statement.

Williams had said in May that she was seriously looking at the race and told Politico that she met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about the idea. She also said that she was encouraged to run following conversations with business and labor groups.

At the Colorado Capitol, Williams has been known for her work on business issues.

She joins more than 10 other Democrats who are running for a chance to unseat U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner next year.

MORE: Here’s who’s running to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020 — and who’s thinking about it

Also mulling runs — or refusing to rule one out — are a number of other prominent Colorado Democrats, including: Secretary of State Jena Griswold, state Sen. Kerry Donovan, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse.

In the past week pressure has also been mounting for former Gov. John Hickenlooper to jump into the contest and abandon his presidential bid. Hickenlooper says he remains focused on the presidential race even though some of his staffers have urged him to reconsider.

Williams was elected to a four-year term in the Colorado Senate in 2016, where she currently chairs the Business, Labor and Technology Committee. Before that she spent six years in the Colorado House.

In 2019, Williams spearheaded efforts to abolish Colorado’s death penalty and to create a state-run parental and family leave program. The capital punishment initiative was halted because of disagreements within the Democratic party and the latter was postponed for further study.

This year she also worked on efforts around making it easier for Colorado businesses to navigate the state’s sales tax system. She also was behind a new law allowing children to operate businesses, like a lemonade stand, without having to worry about local regulations.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....