Dominic Cardy announced Wednesday that he will seek his party's nomination in Fredericton West-Hanwell later this year for the 2014 election.
Cardy said while his party typically has strength in Saint John-area ridings, his decision to seek a Fredericton constituency shows his commitment to changing the province.
"I didn't want to just run in a seat where people would say, 'Well, that's just the leader looking for a safe seat,'" Cardy said in an interview. "We're seen as a very limited party looking to be a voice of conscience in the legislature. That's not my goal with this party. I want us to be able to win."
Cardy said Fredericton is not only where he grew up, but also a constituency that serves as a cross-section of New Brunswick that includes French- and English-speaking constituents, rural and urban communities, and the Kingsclear First Nation.
"I think it's a real microcosm for the province," he said. "Seats like Fredericton West-Hanwell are exactly the seats the NDP need to be able to win next year if we're going to form a government."
Cardy has been leader of the New Democrats since 2011, but has never held a seat in the provincial legislature.
He finished third out of five candidates in a provincial byelection last summer in the Saint John suburb of Rothesay, a longtime Tory riding that was won by Progressive Conservative Hugh Flemming.
Next year's election will be the first under a newly redrawn electoral map. The province's electoral boundaries commission reduced the number of ridings to 49 from 55.
Fredericton West-Hanwell includes two constituencies held by Progressive Conservative members Brian Macdonald and Carl Urquhart.
The New Democrats have not held a seat in the legislature since Elizabeth Weir stepped down in 2005.