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Super PAC, Seven-Figure Donations Could Bolster A Karen Lewis Mayoral Run

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 22, 2014 7:30PM

2012_8_10_lewis.jpg Karen Lewis must be privately enjoying the way local media are hanging on her every move these days, as she continues to play coy with thoughts on a mayoral run. The Chicago Teachers Union president spoke before a group of people at a Morgan Park banquet hall earlier this week and restated her claim that she’ll announce whether or not she’ll challenge Rahm Emanuel for mayor next year on her own timetable. Maybe some major campaign donations could change that.

Earlier this week, the American Federation of Teachers pledged a $1 million donation if Lewis decides to take on Emanuel. Union president Randi Weingarten told the Sun-Times Lewis would have the national union’s full backing for a run, making a contribution that large isn’t unprecedented for the AFT and, most important, they would want to help unseat Emanuel because the mayor has “shown a deep disrespect for what public education is all about.” Should Lewis decide to run, the donation wouldn’t hurt, as she would be pressed to keep up with an Emanuel campaign that can raise millions with a single phone call. The mayor’s war chest currently stands at $8 million. Lewis said she would like to raise between $4 million and $10 million if she were to challenge Emanuel.

The Sun-Times reported Thursday efforts are underway to establish a super PAC to funnel contributions to Lewis, if she decides to run. The AFT has the ability to establish an outside super PAC for Lewis. Another group said to be considering setting up one for Lewis is the group, which released a survey showing 85 percent of its Chicago membership wanted a progressive challenger to Emanuel.

Lewis told the crowd at the banquet hall she’s been spending her time studying policy, circulating petitions so she could be added to the ballot, and filed the legal paperwork to form an exploratory committee and accept campaign contributions. Lewis added she’s speaking with business and civic leaders, educators and voters about a possible run.

“I need to see whether people really want a campaign or not,” she said. “The decision is based on what the people want and if they want it.”