Karen Lewis' mayoral exploratory committee launches online effort

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Karen Lewis' mayoral exploratory committee seeks volunteers
It looks more and more like the head of the Chicago Teachers Union wants to be the head of Chicago.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It looks more and more like the head of the Chicago Teachers Union wants to be the head of Chicago. An exploratory committee for Karen Lewis has launched an online effort, recruiting volunteers to circulate petitions to get her name on the mayoral ballot.

She is an accomplished speaker with a built-in base of support. And as president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis has already proven she can win an election.

Her feisty battles with Mayor Rahm Emanuel have helped raise her public profile not only in Chicago, but across the country among labor unions. But now she is poised to try to take the mayor's job.

She has a Facebook page set up uniting volunteers who will help her get the 12,500 signatures she needs to get on the ballot.

"I'm not concerned about his war chest, because I will tell you, you know, people vote, money doesn't," said Lewis.

"I would be surprised at this point if she doesn't run," said Laura Washington, Eyewitness News political analyst.

Washington says Lewis still has several hurdles to overcome if she is to mount a serious campaign.

"Her message so far has been 'I'm not Rahm Emanuel, I represent the entire city.' I think she's got to put some meat on those bones," said Washington.

Lewis says she is encouraged by recent polls that show her with a slight edge over Emanuel if the election were held today. Second Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti is also among those who have announced petition drives to get on the ballot.

But experts say Lewis has the highest profile of any of Emanuel's possible opponents at this point, and she says she believes many Chicago residents are dissatisfied with the job Emanuel has done.

"All neighborhoods and all people need to have some voice in how this city is run," said Lewis.

Some analysts suggest it would be a conflict of interest for Lewis to continue as CTU president while running against the mayor. They say that she should not be trying to negotiate a new contract while sitting across the table from the man whose job she is seeking. Lewis said she has no intention of stepping aside.