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Manitoba New Democrats are choosing a new leader today that party members hope will lead them back to power.

Wab Kinew — a rookie politician, Indigenous activist and author — is widely considered the front-runner but has run into controversy over recently revealed domestic violence charges from 2003.

The charges were stayed by the Crown, but Kinew's former partner went public this week and said she was thrown across a room by Kinew and suffered severe rug burns.

Kinew has denied the accusation and said he never hit or threw the woman.

Kinew's opponent, former cabinet minister Steve Ashton, has criticized Kinew for not disclosing the charges earlier.

This is Ashton's third run at the party leadership — the 61-year-old ran unsuccessfully for leader in 2009 and 2015 and lost his legislature seat in last year's election.

Ashton says Kinew's history would make it harder for him to lead the Opposition New Democrats into the next election, slated for October 2020.

"If Wab Kinew is elected leader, we run the risk of the next election being about Wab Kinew," Ashton's campaign team wrote in an email to party members this week.

The New Democrats are choosing a replacement for former premier Greg Selinger, who stepped down after the party lost last year's election to the Progressive Conservatives and saw 17 years in power come to an end.

The NDP currently holds 13 of the 57 legislature seats.