CALGARY -- Another obstacle has been removed from former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice's path to the leadership of Alberta's Progressive Conservative party.

Ken Hughes, Alberta's former municipal affairs minister and the first person to throw his hat into the ring, has announced he is dropping out to support Prentice.

"It was my intention, in good faith, to lead a positive, principled campaign to a successful conclusion in September," Hughes said in a statement.

"When it became apparent that Jim Prentice would consider leading Alberta over the past 10 days or so, I started to reflect on what is best for Alberta given the alternatives," he said.

"After listening to many Albertans, it became clear there is a growing consensus that Jim Prentice is the leader Alberta needs now."

A source close to Prentice announced weeks ago that he was putting together a campaign team. That announcement is expected next week but at the moment he is still undeclared.

The decision by Hughes leaves former Alberta cabinet minister Ric McIver as the only official candidate in the race.

Hughes said he's known Prentice for nearly 40 years and considers him a close friend.

"He embodies the kinds of characteristics needed for the difficult role of leadership in the modern world today: a strong intellect, competence, common sense, experience in business and public service and an ability to project strong leadership within Alberta and outside to the rest of Canada and the world."

The decision by Hughes follows an announcement late Sunday night from Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis that he would not be seeking the leadership and would also support Prentice.

"Our team has heard from many Albertans who want a leader with a vision of smaller government, safer communities and living within our means. I believe Jim Prentice shares this perspective. I will be supporting him for leader of our party and our next premier," said Denis.

Finance Minister Doug Horner also decided last week not to seek the leadership, saying he will support a candidate who has still not "officially" declared his candidacy.

Alberta Jobs Minister Thomas Lukaszuk said he will make his intentions known early this week.

Alberta Conservatives will elect their new leader in September.