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George Takach, shown Jan. 18, 2013, is the first person to drop out of the federal Liberal leadership race after choosing to support Justin Trudeau.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau has received the endorsement of the first candidate to drop out of the Liberal Party of Canada's leadership race.

Cementing his status as the front-runner, Mr. Trudeau announced on Monday that he has won the support of Toronto lawyer George Takach.

Mr. Takach enjoyed little profile outside of Liberal circles, but his decision to leave the race gives another boost to Mr. Trudeau's well-funded and highly organized campaign.

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"Justin Trudeau has what it takes to be a great prime minister," Mr. Takach said in a statement. "He has brought an energy and purpose to the political scene and has proven himself to be an articulate leader focused on the future, not the past."

There are now eight candidates in the race to replace Bob Rae as the leader of the Liberal Party. Mr. Takach's exit came on the same day as another candidate in the race, Liberal MP Marc Garneau, challenged Mr. Trudeau to a one-on-one debate. Mr. Garneau has attacked Mr. Trudeau on a number of occasions, stating that his rival lacks the proper experience and policy platform for the job.

Mr. Trudeau quickly rejected the challenge and vowed to participate only in the all-candidates debates, the next of which is scheduled in Halifax on March 3.

In so doing, Mr. Trudeau earned the support of another leadership candidate, former Liberal MP Martin Cauchon, who said on his Twitter account that Mr. Garneau was starting to sound "desperate."

Mr. Takach said in his statement that he will run in the next election in the Toronto area, vowing to build on his short-lived leadership bid that included much emphasis on technological issues.

"We brought many policies and ideas to the table that will drive our economic growth and social progress in the years to come," he said. "Canada's transformation from a resource-based economy to a digital one is now a central issue."

Mr. Trudeau called on Mr. Takach's supporters to join his own campaign in the race that will see a new Liberal leader elected on April 14.

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"I want to thank and congratulate you for the hard work you have given your candidate. This is an exciting race and there is much work still to do, I hope that you will stay engaged, and that you'll consider joining my team in these crucial final weeks of the race," Mr. Trudeau said in a statement.

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