TORONTO (NEWS1130) – The first ballot for the federal NDP leadership has left Thomas Mulcair at the head of the pack with 30.3 per cent of the vote, but it could be a long day before a winner is crowned.

The Quebec MP was first among the seven leadership candidates on the first ballot, followed by Brian Topp and BC MP Nathan Cullen. Peggy Nash was in fourth place.

Ottawa MP Paul Dewar immediately dropped off the second ballot after finishing a disappointing fifth, while last-place finisher Niki Ashton is automatically eliminated from subsequent ballots. Martin Singh, who finished sixth, also dropped out and threw his support behind Mulcair.

Speaking with News1130 from the convention floor, Vancouver East MP Libby Davies says she was surprised with Dewar’s 5th place finish.

“I thought actually Paul would do better. We knew that Nathan was doing well and in the last few weeks of the campaign he gained momentum, so I don’t know that was a big surprise. The next ballot is going to be really interesting to see where the growth the remaining candidates goes.”

“I’m hoping very much that Brian Topp will take it all the way because he’s really close to BC,” adds Davies. “He was the guy who’s been working, not only very closely with Jack Layton over the years, but also with Adrian Dix.”

A total of about 65,000 ballots were cast in all, including about 4,600 by delegates in Toronto at the largest leadership convention in the NDP’s 50-year history.

The winner will replace the late Layton as leader of the party and the Official Opposition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.