HARTFORD, Conn. — Hartford’s mayor is taking a key step toward a running for Connecticut governor.

Democratic Mayor Luke Bronin on Thursday filed papers with the state to form an exploratory committee as he weighs a bid to succeed Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is not seeking a third term.

Bronin cited his work tackling Hartford’s fiscal woes and stressed the need to defend the “progressive values” under attack from Republican President Donald Trump in an email to supporters.

Bronin would become an early front runner in the wide open governor’s race.

He’s a 38-year-old Rhodes Scholar, Yale Law School graduate and officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve who was a legal adviser to Gov. Malloy. Bronin was elected mayor in 2015 after defeating incumbent Mayor Pedro Segarra in a Democratic primary.