Rookie MLA David Eby once considered a bid to lead the B.C. New Democrats, but has decided to co-chair the campaign of the more-experienced John Horgan.
The announcement came on Tuesday at Mr. Horgan's second leadership event in as many days, a youth roundtable held in Vancouver the day after the Juan de Fuca MLA launched his campaign in his riding with the surprise support of former party leader Carole James, who had previously ruled out endorsements.
The race has only one other candidate, former NDP cabinet minister Mike Farnworth, a Lower Mainland MLA who is now the party's finance critic. Other rallies for Mr. Horgan are planned in the next week in Prince George and Vancouver. New Democrats are to pick a successor to Adrian Dix on Sept. 28 after four days of voting.
Best known for beating Premier Christy Clark in the last election to represent Vancouver-Point Grey, Mr. Eby made his debut in his new role with co-chair Michelle Mungall, the MLA for Nelson Creston.
Mr. Eby, who ruled out a leadership bid because he will soon be a first-time father, noted that Mr. Horgan had urged him to run, and he called Mr. Horgan "one of my big supporters behind closed doors."
When Mr. Eby ruled it out, Mr. Horgan asked him to be co-chair of the campaign. Mr. Horgan placed third in the 2011 leadership race.
Mr. Eby, who is emphatically opposed to pipeline projects such as as Northern Gateway, said he is okay with Mr. Horgan's view, which is to allow them if they meet rigorous environment assessment standards.
"If we're going to win the next election, we have to speak to resource communities in the province. That's one of the reasons I support John. He has the ability and credibility on these issues to speak to them in a way that makes sense to them," Mr. Eby said in an interview. "Certainly, I understand that part of my role in this campaign is to make sure that we don't lose our environmental focus as part of that."
He said the priority will be creating a coalition among New Democrats on such issues. The party is trying to rebuild after its surprising defeat in the 2013 election, which polls had suggested it would easily win.
"Any time you join a coalition, you understand you're not going to get everything that you want, but I don't currently know of any issues where John and I aren't on the same page, so we're all right now."
Mr. Horgan, 54, said he decided to run after such younger prospects as MP Nathan Cullen and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson ruled out bids.
Mr. Horgan has been an MLA since 2005, and was opposition house leader until he stepped down on Tuesday to focus on the leadership.
Some have suggested the Vancouver Island-based Mr. Horgan will face a challenge rallying support among New Democrats in the populous Lower Mainland, where Mr. Farnworth has deep roots as a former city councillor and long-time MLA.
"In the last campaign, I had seven days between my announcement and the closing of sign-ups for the leadership campaign. I have three months now. I like my chances," Mr. Horgan said.
Mr. Farnworth, the party's finance critic, has yet to hold any major media events since declaring, in a newspaper interview earlier this month, that he would seek the leadership.
However, he said in an interview on Tuesday that he will campaign at his own pace.
"This is a seven-month campaign," he said.
"I've been very busy working the last few months. I feel very good about where we are at." He said the public launch will be held soon.