The SDLP's youth wing has backed Margaret Ritchie as the next leader of the party.
The Social Development Minister faces a battle with South Belfast MP Alasdair McDonnell for the post.
Youth wing chairperson Matthew McDermott said both had impeccable records.
“Margaret Ritchie was deemed to be the best person for the job due to her courage as a minister standing up to the DUP, Sinn Fein and the UDA, her dedication and commitment to a shared future and her work to bring the voices of young people to the centre of policy debates where they belong,” he said.
Mr McDonnell said the battle for the top post would be positive. He wants Ms Ritchie to stand as his deputy.
Mr McDermott said young people were vital to politics and added the merits of both leadership contenders were discussed.
“The decision was taken that the group needed to get involved in this process early on and contribute positively to what should be a very good contest,” he said.
Outgoing leader Mark Durkan wants to concentrate on his bid to defend his Foyle MP seat.
Nominations open on Sunday and the vote will be held next February at the party's annual conference.