Community Board 2 chairman Brad Hoylman told DNAinfo New York that he plans to run for state Senate after Duane praised him as a potential successor.
"I hope to follow in Tom's progressive, activist footsteps and am humbled by his comments," Hoylman said.
"I would be extremely honored to have Tom's support for the State Senate in the newly drawn 27th District."
Hoylman, Duane's heir apparent, would have to give up an expected run for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's seat in 2013 in order to run for Senate — clearing the way for Corey Johnson, the chairman of Community Board 4, to consolidate support.
"This is a game-changer," said one longtime Democratic political operative who asked not to be named.
"We could soon see Senator Hoylman and Councilman Johnson."
Quinn got her political start managing Duane's 1991 campaign for the City Council seat she now holds.
Hoylman and Johnson are both openly gay, both appeal to similar constituencies, and have deep roots in the West Side's LGBT political machine, as well as connections to both Quinn and Duane. If Hoylman successfully runs for Duane's Senate seat, it would stop any vote-splitting between the two candidates, something that many Democrats feared.
Sources said that many of the party's establishment in the area have begun to coalesce behind Hoylman to represent Chelsea, Hell's Kitchen, Greenwich Village, the Upper West Side and parts of the East Village in the Senate. Hoylman would have to win the Democratic primary on Sept. 13 to move forward.
Duane has all but endorsed the CB2 chair, and said he spoke to Hoylman before making the decision not to run in November.
"I would be proud to be represented by Brad Hoylman," he said at a press conference Monday.
"Whoever is going to represent the 29th District will be a fighter for tenants. I know Brad is a fighter for tenants."
Johnson's name has also been raised as a potential candidate for the seat, but he said in a statement that he has not made any decisions yet.
"As many of you know, I have been preparing for a campaign for the City Council seat currently held by Speaker Quinn," he said.
"I will be weighing this decision very carefully in the coming days, and will make an announcement in due course. Right now, however, I ask that we lay the question aside and instead focus on honoring a true leader and pioneer, Sen. Tom Duane."
Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh is also seriously interested in the seat, sources said, but has not received the level of party support that Hoylman has seen.
Several others named as potential successors for Duane have already taken their hats out of the ring, including City Councilwoman Gale Brewer, who does not live in Duane's district, and Councilman Dan Garodnick.
"Dan is focused on his 2013 campaign for comptroller and continuing to serve his East Side constituents," a campaign spokesman said.
Councilwoman Rosie Mendez also decided not to run, preferring to remain in the City Council.
"While I would consider it a profound honor to follow in his footsteps at the state level, my heart and my mission remain District 2 driven," she said in a statement.
"I am personally choosing to remain in Tom’s first legislative home, the New York City Council."