Pierre Nantel, former aide to former Quebec premier Jean Charest, is running for Parti Québécois in Quebec

Pierre Nantel, a former member of Parliament from Montreal, will be the Parti Québécois candidate in a key riding in Quebec, though the surprise move didn’t appear to be a done deal.

Nantel, a former chief of staff to former Quebec premier Jean Charest, emerged as a potential candidate for the party in the riding of Pierrefonds-Dollard last week.

Not long after it was confirmed Wednesday that he’d run, though, Nantel said on Twitter that he’d changed his mind and was withdrawing his candidacy, saying his friend Jeanne Thibault — the widow of former Parti Québécois cabinet minister René Lévesque — would instead run for the party.

The New Democrats and the Liberal Party of Canada each have 20 seats in Pierrefonds-Dollard. While the New Democrats hold nine of those seats, the Liberals have five. Pierrefonds-Dollard was formerly represented by former Parti Québécois cabinet minister Alexandre Cloutier until Cloutier quit the party earlier this year and joined Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.

Nantel hasn’t yet officially been named to the ticket and Pierrefonds-Dollard Mayor Faris Al-Khabaz said he doesn’t know whether the PQ will ultimately name him its candidate.

Al-Khabaz said he doesn’t expect the New Democrats to be any less keen on giving the PQ what it wants in the riding. He noted that when Cloutier left the Quebec Liberals, he was approached by New Democrat to become a candidate in the riding.

“I don’t think the NDP has a target in Pierrefonds-Dollard,” Al-Khabaz said. “This was Jean Charest’s stronghold so there was no panic for them there, but it’s a very important region of Quebec.”

The Parti Québécois has a majority of seats in the Provencher region, which includes Pierrefonds-Dollard, which is where Nantel grew up. The mayor said he hopes the change of direction won’t affect the NDP’s mayoral race in D.C. Nantel is one of four finalists for the job, which will be filled Aug. 31.

“Maybe this is a little bit of a message to his competitors saying ‘Come on in,’” Al-Khabaz said.

New Democrat spokesperson Daniel Breton said “there are no formal preparations” underway to name Nantel to the ticket in Pierrefonds-Dollard.

Bloc Québécois candidate Nathan Beaudoin was one of Nantel’s potential opponents. He posted a Tweet on Wednesday morning about Nantel’s shift in strategy and said the PQ has “a big hole in Pierrefonds-Dollard.”

“Would have been an easy win for the PQ,” he wrote.

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