TORONTO - The New Democrats have chosen a new candidate to fill the void left by the late Jack Layton in his former riding.

Local party members selected law professor Craig Scott as the NDP candidate for the east-end riding of Toronto-Danforth.

Scott will go on to represent the NDP in a yet-to-be-called byelection.

MP Olivia Chow, Layton's widow, as well as several leadership hopefuls were on hand to watch the proceedings at a local church.

It began with a stirring slideshow tribute to Layton, which brought some of the party faithful to tears.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has until Feb. 22 to announce the date of the byelection.

Scott, who specializes in human rights law, beat out two other candidates, Claire Prashaw and Justin Duncan. All are all virtual unknowns in federal politics.

A fourth candidate, Hanif Shaikh, dropped out of the race before nominations began Monday night.

Duncan is an environmentalist and lawyer, while community activist Prashaw worked with Layton in his constituency office.

Prashaw had elicited support from well-known figures such as ex-MP Tony Martin and Wayne Samuelson, former president of the Ontario Federation of Labour.

But Scott received a number of high-profile endorsements, including Layton's political mentor, philosopher Charles Taylor, and former Ontario NDP president Janet Solberg.

The riding is located east of downtown Toronto and represents a diverse section of the city. Affluent enclaves are located alongside co-operatives and social housing. The area also includes large Chinese, Greek and South Asian communities, whose support will be key for the NDP to hang on to the seat.

Before Layton won the seat in 2004, it was held for 16 years by former Liberal MP Dennis Mills. Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae also held the seat from 1979 until 1982, when he was a New Democrat.

Layton died of cancer in August at age 61, just a few months after he led the NDP to a historic finish in last May's federal election.

New Democrats picked up a record 103 seats, vaulting into official Opposition status thanks largely to a surge of support in Quebec, which delivered 59 seats to the party.

The party had just 19 seats when Layton became leader in 2003.

His death set off a national wave of grief that was particularly pronounced in Toronto, where he honed his political skills as a municipal councillor.

Eight candidates are currently vying for the party crown, including former party president Brian Topp, Montreal MP Thomas Mulcair and Toronto MP Peggy Nash.

The election is slated for March 24 at a leadership convention in Toronto