It's not an announcement, but it's close.

Cape Breton Regional Mayor Cecil Clark says he is seriously considering running for the leadership of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party.

"I've been asked to explore taking on the leadership of the PC Party of Nova Scotia. That's something I'm willing to consider," Clarke said Monday.

Clarke toured the Annapolis Valley and south shore late last week, meeting with party faithful and hearing residents' concerns. Clarke already has supporters, particularly on the website

PC MLA Eddie Orrell stopped short of endorsing Clarke for the leadership, but says he hopes to see him run.

"It's always better to have a contested race for the party,” Orrell says. “It brings people together and makes sure we get the right person for the right job. So I think if he's considering it that's a good idea."

So far, Pictou East MLA Tim Houston is the only candidate that has officially declared. Cape Breton University political scientist Tom Urbaniak predicts a challenge from Clarke would result in a tight race.

"If Cecil Clarke were to declare, and there's a very good chance that he will, he would immediately catapult himself into a major contender," says Urbaniak.

Clarke still has three years remaining on a second term as mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. He has always said he would see his work through to the end in efforts to develop the Port of Sydney.

"I believe in the coming weeks, as was indicated with the trip to China, that people will see the outcomes and the benefit of our hard work,” says Clarke. “But I'll leave it to our partners to come and bring that news themselves in the new year."

Clarke says he is exploring the possibility of running for the PCs on his own time and his own dime. He doesn't think it will detract from his municipal duties.

"You have to be prepared to take a risk. You have to be courageous in politics and you have to know that it doesn't come without criticism and personal sacrifice,” Clarke says.

Clarke launched an unsuccessful bid ran for a big Conservative post for the federal riding of Sydney-Victoria seven years ago.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.