POLITICS
08/29/2011 06:48 EDT | Updated 10/29/2011 05:12 EDT

Jack Layton: NDP Leadership Race Heating Up

OTTAWA - Just two days after mourning Jack Layton at a state funeral, jockeying has begun among potential contenders to succeed the fallen NDP leader.

Party president Brian Topp was the first New Democrat to openly admit he's considering a run for the top job.

And his candidacy seems more likely now that Topp has indicated he's already taken steps to ensure he won't wind up in a conflict of interest.

As president, Topp is a member of the party's federal council, which is to meet Sept. 9 to set the rules for the leadership race.

The party's secretary-treasurer, Rebecca Blaikie, is leading a review of the party's rules, regulations and precedents and will make recommendations to the council.

Topp says he's "not going to play any role in that review" and will take a leave of absence from the presidency should he throw his hat in the leadership ring.

Topp indicated Monday he won't take long to come to a decision.

"I well understand that this can't remain an open question for too very long," he said.

Ottawa MP Paul Dewar also left his name Monday on the list of possible contenders.

NDP insiders say phone lines were buzzing as other potential candidates assessed their chances and lined up their ducks.

Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair is widely expected to take the plunge and, with 59 of the party's 103 seats from Quebec, would be a frontrunner. Topp, who was one of Layton's closest advisers and has deep roots in the party, would be another.

Layton's widow, Olivia Chow, is the sentimental favourite but she does not speak French, which senior New Democrats believe is a prerequiste for leading the Quebec-dominated caucus.

Other names being floated include MPs Peter Julien, Libby Davies, Megan Leslie and former Toronto mayor David Miller.