Pugnacious CTU President Karen Lewis said Thursday morning that despite being a mild-mannered “sweetheart” of a guy, mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia doesn’t need her as a corner man for a series of upcoming debates against incumbent Rahm Emanuel.
“It’s not about style,” Lewis said. “It really is about substance, and I think Chuy can swing with the best of them.”
Lewis acknowledged that Garcia can’t be expected to emulate her trademark pugilistic rhetoric for which she was cast into a national spotlight during the 2012 teacher strike as one of the few people able to stand up to Rahm Emanuel.
“Part of the problem is Chuy is such a nice guy and he’s laid back, he’s a sweetheart, and I think people aren’t used to that, and I think some people want an attack dog immediately and other people want something else.”
Lewis reiterated her faith in Garcia, who will participate in five mayoral debates alongside Emanuel before Feb. 10.
“He’s ready for it . . . everybody finds their space and their time,” she said.
Lewis, who bowed out of the mayoral race in October after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, said she plans to return to work next week.
“You will see me out more,” said Lewis, who used a walker to enter the Ray and Joan Kroc Center in West Pullman Thursday morning for a breakfast honoring Martin Luther King Jr. “But my work schedule will be dictated by my body,” she said. “I’ll be focusing on negotiations, because we have a contract coming up.”
Lewis, who’s undergone surgery and chemotherapy, was in good spirits.
“I’m in no pain or suffering. . . . I told people that when I had my surgery, I felt like I could have gone back to work the next day. So I have been feeling good for a very long time,” she told a group of reporters. “Cancer treatment is no fun, it’s no picnic. . . . I’m way more spiritual about things . . . people come and tell me all the time that they are praying for me, and you can’t help but feel better and buoyed by that. And I’m getting my figure back, you know, so you have to look at it through a variety of lenses,” she said with a smile.
Lewis said she was frustrated when her illness forced her to quit the mayoral race.
“I really wanted to do this. I was completely shocked. I had no symptoms, I didn’t know I was ill.”
She threw her support behind Garcia, a Cook County commissioner.
“We need a change, and it couldn’t be me, so I talked to Chuy and I had to twist his arm a little bit but he was ready for it.”
Lewis said Emanuel should stop running “these silly commercials” and save his money for a runoff.
She said Emanuel’s tenure in office has felt like a “dictatorship” and noted that Rev. James Meeks introduced her to Bruce Rauner, who was sworn in as governor this week. Rauner named Meeks to head the state board of education earlier this week.
Lewis joked that she was surprised she wasn’t invited to Rauner’s inaugural festivities.
“I got left off the list,” she said.
Steve Mayberry, Emanuel’s campaign spokesman, said the mayor was “ready” and “excited to engage his opponents in a spirited debate about how best to move this city forward.”
He added that the campaign, however, won’t discuss how the mayor will prepare for the debate.
Garcia said, “I have almost a 30-year history of being involved the electoral struggle to make life better for American people.”
He added, “I plan to continue that way. The debates will show further what I’m made of.”