The 49-year-old New Jersey native announced his bid to represent his hometown of Willingboro on Monday.
"When I run - as you see from my record - I run to win," Lewis said outside a historic courthouse in his home county, where he announced his candidacy with his mother and other family members standing nearby.
Lewis said he hopes to inspire people, encourage communities to get together and improve educational opportunities, particularly physical education, for children. He said he'll announce a specific issue-based platform in coming days.
This is his first bid for elected office. In fact, he said he had registered to vote earlier in the day but said he had been registered previously in California and Texas, two states he has recently lived in.
Lewis won nine Olympic gold medals and is considered among the best track and field athletes of all time.
In Los Angeles in 1984, he won gold in the 100 and 200 meters, long jump and 400-meter relay. At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, he triumphed in the 100 meters and long jump. In the 1992 Games in Barcelona, he took the long jump and anchored the U.S. 400 relay team that won in world record time. He won his fourth straight Olympic gold in the long jump in 1996 in Atlanta.
He is a member of the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame and was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame last May.
Lewis will run as a Democrat in the 8th legislative district now represented by Republican Dawn Addiego.
Addiego spokesman, Chris Russell, said Lewis failed to articulate a platform.
"We all know Carl Lewis was once one of the world's greatest athletes, but after a 30-minute press conference ... we still don't know much else other than that he just registered to vote in New Jersey today," Russell said.
Lewis said he understands he's entering the rough-and-tumble world of New Jersey politics, but said he felt "it's time to get in the dance." He joked that he is "slower than I used to be," but said he was ready to visit all 20 towns in his district.
"I'll be an independent thinker all the way through, I will do what I think is right, I'm going to always look at the issues and vote that way," Lewis said after the announcement. "We've got Carl guaranteed in our corner is just not going to happen."
Lewis has been a civic activist and community volunteer. He ended the news conference so he could get to Willingboro High School, where he has been a volunteer track coach for four years.
New Jersey Democrats are glad to have someone with Lewis' star-power and wealth on the ticket. Democrats currently control both houses of the state Legislature, but with a big-personality Republican - Gov. Chris Christie - in the top political spot and all 120 legislative seats up for grabs, they are delighted for the chance to win a seat that has traditionally favored the GOP candidate.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, who was at the announcement, said Lewis brings "a very real chance of winning this district."
"I told people earlier, Carl Lewis doesn't lose races and he's not going to lose this one," Sweeney said.
Monday is the filing deadline for anyone who wants to run for the New Jersey Legislature.
All 120 seats of the Senate and Assembly will be on November's ballot.
In other noteworthy races:
- Richard Kanka, father of the murdered girl who spawned the "Megan's Law" sex-offender registry legislation, has declared his candidacy as a Republican in the 14th legislative district against Democratic incumbent Sen. Linda Greenstein.
- Two members of the state's largest gay rights organization, Garden State Equality, were vying for the Democratic nod for an Assembly seat representing Bergen County. Maywood Mayor Tim Eustace was chosen over Jeff Gardner at the county's political convention on Sunday.
Steven Goldstein, who chairs the gay rights group, called the contest between two openly gay candidates "a first in New Jersey political history."
The state Senate failed to pass a same-sex marriage bill last year.
- Marie Corfield, the public school teacher who went toe-to-toe with Gov. Chris Christie over his assault on the teachers union and was captured in a YouTube video, is seeking an Assembly seat representing voters in Princeton and Somerville.