The American Federation of Teachers has contributed $30,000 to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis — the first installment toward a promised $1 million to help defeat Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
The Sept. 30 contribution from the AFT’s Committee on Political Education (C.O.P.E) comes just one month after AFT President Randi Weingarten told the Chicago Sun-Times the national union was “all in” if Lewis enters the mayor’s race.
“In a race like this, spending $1 million would not be unprecedented for the AFT,” Weingarten said then.
Lewis is circulating nominating petitions and conducting a “listening tour” with residents across the city. She has also lent her campaign $40,000 of her own money. But, she has not yet formally declared her candidacy for mayor.
Even with the AFT’s contribution, she has raised only about $80,000.
Mayoral candidates are bound by law to follow the state’s fundraising limits of $5,300 from individuals; $10,500 from corporations, labor organizations or associations and $52,600 from candidate political action committees or PAC’s.
They can exceed those limits, only if they’re willing to break the caps for all candidates. That would be a risky proposition for Lewis, since Emanuel is the one with the most access to big bucks donors.
As of June 30, the mayor had $8.3 million in his primary campaign fund. He has reportedly raised $1.12 million more in the third quarter, bringing the total to nearly $9.5 million.
The new super PAC created to re-elect Emanuel and his City Council allies has raked in nearly $2.4 million since its June launch, thanks to a new round of donations from business titans, philanthropists and organized labor.
Chicago Forward can raise unlimited funds, but is barred by law from coordinating with the Emanuel campaign.
By opening charter schools, closing a record 50 public schools, and instigating Chicago’s first teachers strike in 25 years, Weingarten has argued that Emanuel has shown a “disdain” toward public schools.
“He has not made choices in favor of neighborhood kids who want to go to neighborhood public schools,” Weingarten told the Sun-Times in late August.
“African-Americans and Hispanics have been disproportionately hurt by his choices.”
Weingarten has also compared the Chicago mayoral race to the recent election of progressive Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City.
In New York, Chicago and many other cities, Democrats have split sharply over education issues including teacher tenure, pensions and privately run, publicly funded charter schools.
“Rahm is a particular kind of Democrat, but there are lots of Democrats who want to invest in public schools,” Weingarten has said.
“To run now takes a great amount of money, and too many Democrats are focused on what rich donors are saying, not what the working people are saying. I would have never called Rahm a friend of working people, not even 20 years ago.”
Emanuel has taken a series of recent steps to counter the “Mayor One Percent” label and chip away at the progressive political base of Lewis and Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), the highest-profile candidate to declare his candidacy for mayor.
They include championing immigration reform, affordable housing, a Chicago-only increase in the minimum wage to $13-an-hour by 2018 and urging the Il. General Assembly to reduce penalties for minor drug offenses.
The Emanuel campaign has argued that those positions and others have paved the way for the mayor to attract support from a “broad number of unions,” including those that opposed him four years ago.