03/21/2014 23:15 EDT | Updated 05/21/2014 05:59 EDT

Joe Cressy launches bid to replace Chow in Trinity-Spadina

The race to replace Olivia Chow isn’t even officially underway, but longtime NDP supporter Joe Cressy on Friday night launched his campaign to be the next, and last, MP for Trinity-Spadina.

The Toronto riding was vacated when Chow stepped down last week to run for mayor. And though the prime minister can wait six months before calling a byelection, Cressy and supporters packed into a bar in the Annex neighbourhood to get a head start.

“I learned from Jack [Layton] and Olivia to always campaign like you’re 20 points behind,” Cressy told CBC News.

He said he intends to focus on issues important to the diverse, downtown riding including transit, affordable housing and childcare.

“I've spent my life working on human rights issues — throughout Africa, on First Nations issues in the Aboriginal north, in Ontario and on environmental issues right across this country,” he said.

City councilor Mike Layton— son of late NDP leader Jack Layton and step-son to Chow — is among Cressy’s early supporters.

“He's got strong roots within the NDP and working as my campaign chair and the campaign chair for other individuals like Olivia and [longtime MPP] Rosario Marchese,” said Layton

The byelection will be the riding’s last, as it will be divided it into three new ridings for the 2015 general election.