01/01/2015 06:20 EST | Updated 03/03/2015 05:59 EST

Cabinet minister Kevin Chief opts out of Manitoba NDP leadership race

WINNIPEG - A Manitoba cabinet minister who has been touted as a potential NDP leader has decided to not enter the race.

Kevin Chief said Thursday he kept the door open to a leadership run, but has now decided his efforts are best focused on his cabinet and constituency duties.

"I'm still learning a lot," said Chief, who was first elected the to legislature in 2011.

"Having the opportunity to serve in a cabinet is very exciting and being able to represent a neighbourhood that has given me so much not only makes me very proud, but this is where I do believe I can make the biggest contribution."

Chief, 40, represents the Point Douglas constituency — a low-income area in Winnipeg's core. The former community leader has been seen as a rising star in the NDP and has held three cabinet posts. He is currently minister responsible for the City of Winnipeg and minister of jobs and the economy.

The race for the helm of the governing NDP was prompted by a caucus revolt against Premier Greg Selinger. Five senior cabinet ministers resigned their portfolios in November after suggesting he should quit in order to help the party rebound in the polls.

One of those former ministers, Theresa Oswald, is in the leadership race, as is Steve Ashton, the province's infrastructure and transportation minister, who ran for the leadership in 2009 as well.

Selinger has vowed to fight to keep his job and is expected to file his nomination papers as early as Friday. The deadline to enter is Tuesday. NDP delegates will make their decision March 8.

Chief said Thursday he is supporting Selinger, although he appeared to choose his words carefully.

"I've always said that the premier has always been very supportive of me and the work that I've done. I believe that when someone is supportive, you reciprocate that support, because that is how you get things done for people.

"As a sitting cabinet member, sitting in the premier's cabinet, I do support the premier. I think that's important to be effective in the job that I'm doing."