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Teachers Union Head Won’t Challenge Rahm

The head of Chicago’s teachers union will not mount a challenge against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the head of her exploratory committee announced Monday evening.

Karen Lewis, the 61-year-old head of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), was seen as the most viable potential challenger to the increasingly unpopular Emanuel, and a poll by the Chicago Tribune in September showed her with a small lead over the incumbent.

She had started to raise funds and had also embarked on a “listening tour” around the city to familiarize herself with voters. A run seemed nearly inevitable until last week it was announced that she had undergone surgery for a “serious illness” that remains undisclosed. (RELATED: Fresh Off Weight Reduction Surgery In Mexico, Karen Lewis May Run Against Mayor Rahm)

At the time, her exploratory committee said a run was still under consideration, but it apparently took a single weekend to scuttle that possibility for good, though her final announcement contained no reference to her ailing health. (RELATED: Illness Could Derail Teacher Challenge To Rahm Emanuel)

“Karen Lewis has decided to not pursue a mayoral bid. Yet she charges us to continue fighting for strong neighborhood schools, safe communities, and good jobs for everyone,” said committee head Jhatayn Travis in a statement.

Chicago’s mayoral election is next February, and the deadline to enter the race is November 24.

Lewis has had a sharply combative relationship with Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff who became mayor in 2011. Lewis led the CTU in a fierce battle against consolidation and the rapid expansion of the city’s charter school network. Her biggest clash with the mayor was in 2012, however, when she led the union in a week-long strike that drew national attention. Lewis ultimately won a significant victory over Emanuel, successfully weakening the city’s teacher evaluation system and preventing the institution of merit pay for teachers.

Had Lewis mounted a successful run, it would have represented a huge success by organized labor in their effort to turn the tide on Democrats who have forsaken their traditional ties to teachers unions in favor of adopting a reformist approach to education that favors charter schools, merit pay and strong teacher accountability.

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