WINNIPEG -- Author, indigenous activist and rookie politician Wab Kinew has picked up more support in his bid to become leader of the Manitoba New Democrats.

Andrew Swan, a former justice minister who has held a legislature seat since 2004, says he believes Kinew can reunite the party and attract voters.

Kinew already had the support of caucus members Nahanni Fontaine and Matt Wiebe.

The New Democrats are trying to regroup after an election loss last year that ended 17 years of NDP government in Manitoba.

The defeat prompted Greg Selinger to step down as leader; he was replaced on an interim basis by Flor Marcelino.

Kinew is so far the only candidate for the leadership, which is to be determined Sept. 16, although former infrastructure minister Steve Ashton has not ruled out making a bid.

Swan, who was one of five cabinet ministers who openly challenged Selinger's leadership in 2014, said he believes Kinew can mend rifts in the party.

"I think a lot of people who are not afraid to put in hard work for the party, if they think it's going in the right direction, are quite prepared to put aside any differences that might have existed in the past," Swan said.

"I've had the chance to work with (Kinew) now for over a year and I can see that he's the real deal ... and he's prepared to roll up his sleeves and get the work done."

Kinew was brought in as a star candidate in the last election by Selinger and won one of 14 seats for the NDP. Since announcing his leadership bid in May, Kinew has attracted the support of former advisers to both Selinger and Theresa Oswald, who led the rebellion supported by Swan and other.

Oswald came within 33 votes of toppling Selinger at a leadership convention in 2015.

Kinew, 35, was criticized last year when homophobic and misogynist rap lyrics and social media comments surfaced from his past.

Swan said Kinew is a changed man.

"I didn't come to that conclusion the first time I met him ... but I've had a chance to listen to his words and to watch his deeds and his actions, and I think he has apologized and he has explained for any mistakes he might have made."