Mount Pearl North MHA Steve Kent launched his campaign for the leadership of the province's Progressive Conservative Party late Thursday afternoon.

Kent is the third candidate to enter the race to become the next Tory leader, going up against fellow cabinet minister Paul Davis and former minister John Ottenheimer.

Kent told a crowded room at a Mount Pearl hotel that he has devoted his life to public service, and he's "here to stay."

"The people of this province want something fresh, they want something different, they want a proven leader. My experience in the private sector, in the community sector, and in public life puts me in the unique position to deliver this for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," said Kent.

'Our ideas have brought us here, and our renewed focus under my leadership will create and foster an open government with a strong vision for the future.'- Steve Kent, candidate for PC leadership

"People say that we [the PCs] don’t have ideas, that we’ve lost our way. Well I’m here to tell you that isn’t true. Our ideas have brought us here, and our renewed focus under my leadership will create and foster an open government with a strong vision for the future."

Kent said he plans to reconnect with Tory supporters during his campaign to be the next party leader.

"This race is about leading our party and our province into the future. It's about reinvigorating a party that has brought unprecedented success to this province. It's about reconnecting with grassroots PC supporters and reaching out to each and every citizen to let them know that I am here to be their leader," he said.

"I believe, from the bottom of my heart, I am the best candidate to lead this great party and this great province."

No room for negative thinking

Kent took a dig at Liberal Leader Dwight Ball during his address to the crowd at Hotel Mount Pearl Thursday, saying negative thinking isn't the way to govern the province.

"Dwight Ball describes us as the worst, the last, and the lowest. Well, that’s not the Newfoundland and Labrador that we’ve been striving to build," he said.

'There will never be an ideal time, that’s for sure, but there’s an opportunity before me right now and I’m going to seize it.'- Steve Kent

"We have come a long way, we have come too far to bring that thinking back to this province. If Mr. Ball and the Liberals want to keep thinking about being last, then I suggest they’re predicting their election future."

Kent added he believes there are the makings of a great leadership race ahead, as he faces off against Davis and Ottenheimer.

“I have great respect for Paul Davis and John Ottenheimer. I bring something a little different, I bring some youthful energy and enthusiasm and I bring a unique perspective because of my background," said Kent.

"I’ve been involved in all three [political] sectors and because I’m at this point in my life it’s a good time for me to step forward. There will never be an ideal time, that’s for sure, but there’s an opportunity before me right now and I’m going to seize it.”

Bid to be next premier

The winner of the leadership race automatically becomes Newfoundland and Labrador's 12th premier.

Davis launched his campaign in Paradise on Wednesday, calling himself the right person for the job and issuing a call for a new beginning for the party.

Ottenheimer was the first of the three to officially enter the race, filing his papers when nominations opened on June 23.

Nominations close on July 7, and delegates will elect the new party leader at a convention slated for Sept. 13 in St. John's.

Kent was first elected to the House of Assembly in 2007, and re-elected in 2011.

Before entering provincial politics he was the youngest person ever elected to public office in Mount Pearl, becoming deputy mayor in 1997.

He went on to become mayor of the city in 2003, and was re-elected by acclamation in 2005.

Kent resigned in 2007 to run for the PCs in Mount Pearl North.

He has been the minister responsible for Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Office of Public Engagement, Fire and Emergency Services, as well as the Registrar General.

He resigned from cabinet Thursday in order to run for the party leadership, as dictated by Premier Tom Marshall.