HALIFAX - The leadership of Nova Scotia's Liberal party remained a one-horse race Monday as the party kicked off its official campaign.

Leadership hopefuls have until Feb. 15 to announce their candidacy under rules for the two-day convention on April 27 and 28 in Dartmouth, N.S.

So far, only Colchester County Mayor Mike Smith has announced he'll run for the leadership, which was vacated by Francis MacKenzie after he failed to win a seat during the 2006 provincial election.

There has been speculation that caucus members Diana Whalen and Stephen McNeil will also enter the race.

Interim leader Michel Samson, who was considered a potential front-runner, has announced he won't run.

Still, campaign officials said Monday they were expecting a number of candidates to enter the race as the deadline nears.

"This leadership is an opportunity for Nova Scotia Liberals to come together in a process of renewal and rejuvenation,'' said Paula Lunn, the campaign's co-chair.

Leadership candidates will be able to spend a maximum of $150,000 on their campaigns.

The new leader will be elected by delegates -- similar to the system used by the federal Liberals in December -- rather than the one-member, one-vote system,

Unlike their federal counterparts, however, provincial delegates will not have to be tied to any one candidate on the first ballot at the convention.

"We are very lucky to just have gone through this process federally,'' said Lunn. "We're able to take what we liked ... out of the federal process and ... combine that into a process that will work for Nova Scotians.''

Delegates will be selected during a so-called super weekend in late March. Thirty delegates will be chosen from each Nova Scotia riding. "It gives an equal opportunity to the 52 ridings across the province from Yarmouth to Cape Breton,'' said Charles Gaudet, the campaign's co-chair. "We feel that is going to make for an exciting convention.''