PORTLAND — New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof after months of public exploration has taken a step toward running for Oregon governor by forming a political action committee.

Kristof, 62, officially filled the committee paperwork Tuesday, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. That allows him to raise money and hire staff ahead of an official announcement of his candidacy.

Carol Butler, a political consultant who has been working with Kristof as a volunteer, somewhat downplayed the significance of the filing, calling it “another step toward a potential run for governor.”

“It allows us to continue exploration,” she said.

Kristof in recent years has moved back to the Yamhill, Oregon, farm where he grew up, and he’s been working to turn it into a vineyard and cider orchard.

Kristof is viewed by political consultants and potential candidates as a possible contender for the Democratic nomination. Politics watchers expect he will have enough money to be competitive in a race against House Speaker Tina Kotek, Treasurer Tobias Read and others.

The Democratic primary will be open in 2022 as current Gov. Kate Brown finishes her second term and cannot run again.

Kristof’s campaign had not reported any contributions as of Tuesday morning.

While considering a run for office, Kristof has taken a leave of absence from his duties at the Times, the paper reported last month.