Lewis, 47, told party leaders and regulars at the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner over the weekend that he was making a run at the seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr. Lewis is jumping in early, but he could face hefty competition if Attorney General Roy Cooper opts in.
Lewis said his business experience and years of work with nonprofit groups, such as Action for Children, will help guide his work for ordinary citizens.
"We need to invest in a new prosperity that is broad-based and sustainable," Lewis said.
A Winston-Salem native, Lewis clerked for then-N.C. Supreme Court Justice Henry Frye after graduating from law school in 1986 and has worked at firms in Charlotte, Raleigh and Durham.
He raised money for Obama's U.S. Senate race in Illinois in 2004 and helped lead finance operations for Obama's presidential campaign in North Carolina last year. He lives in Chapel Hill with his wife, Holly Ewell-Lewis, and three school-age children.
Previously: Lewis invites Stephon Marbury to Obama fundraiser.