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CTU chief Karen Lewis ‘seriously thinking’ of running for mayor

Karen Lewis President Chicago Teachers Unispoke podium. The Chicago Public School Board meeting was held Wednesday May 28 2014. |

Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union spoke at the podium. The Chicago Public School Board meeting was held on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. | Al Podgorski / Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 28, 2014 1:10PM

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said Thursday she is “seriously thinking” about mounting a formal challenge to Rahm Emanuel.

“I’m a little sick of the mayor and I don’t see anyone stepping up,” Lewis told the Chicago Sun-Times by telephone Thursday evening. “I am seriously thinking about it.”

She denied a WMAQ-Channel 5 report that she has met with election lawyers about her own campaign possibilities, saying she has spoken with attorneys about CTU members who are running for office.

Lewis has made no bones about wanting to oust Emanuel, with whom she’s sparred since he took office in 2011 and who supposedly shouted, “F - - - you, Lewis” in an early meeting with her.

Lewis has been Emanuel’s chief adversary throughout his administration. And she has not only stared him down, she has defeated him. He raised the strike threshhold, and she and her members blew past it. She took her members out on strike for first time in 25 years — and got the better of the deal that ended the walkout.

She blamed him again Thursday for the layoff of an additional 1,150 Chicago Public Schools staffers, saying, “Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his Board continue their war on our educatorsbydoing nothing to salvage school budgets other than forcing principals to terminate valued teachers and staff. . . . This decision further demonstrates the disdain for public education and the lack of leadership and vision for the city from our mayor and his handpicked board. Do we want ‘Star Wars’ museums or public, neighborhood schools? Do we want presidential libraries or librarians for every child?”

The mayoral election takes place in February, and only former alderman Robert Shaw has declared his candidacy.

Emanuel, meanwhile, has raised well over $7.4 million, even before the tally from last week’s fundraiser headlined by former President Bill Clinton. And that doesn’t count the super PAC formed last week by a mayoral ally to push Emanuel’s agenda and attack his opponents.

“There’s plenty of time for politics,” said Peter Giangreco, Emanuel’s campaign spokesman. “The mayor is focused on moving every Chicago neighborhood forward.”

Lewis has praised the leadership style of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle as “less confrontational” than Emanuel’s and said a few weeks ago that Preckwinkle would defeat him in a head-to-head race.

A Sun-Times poll in May put Lewis in third place behind Emanuel and Preckwinkle, who is running unopposed for election in November. She has refused as recently as Thursday afternoon to rule out a race for mayor. That poll also showed that only 29 percent of those surveyed and 8 percent of African-Americans would support Emanuel.

“I’m not looking to make anybody’s election year easy at all, especially someone who doesn’t want to make our lives easy,” Lewis said in May after a speech at the City Club of Chicago. “So if there’s a way we can have some reasonable conversation, then sure, but if not, it’s going to be contentious, absolutely, as it should.”

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