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CTU chief Karen Lewis gets weight-loss surgery, eyes mayor's race

Sneed hears that indomitable Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s nemesis, has decided to tackle a tough personal issue.

Her weight.

Sneed hears the CTU chief underwent weight-loss surgery in March for two reasons: Her health and a possible mayoral bid. That was around the same time Lewis went to Mexico, though it is not clear if she had the surgery while she was there.

It’s now fueling speculation the weight-loss plan is part of an agenda to run against Emanuel, whom she has variously described as a “liar” and a “bully.”

Although Lewis is one tough cookie who does not fear going toe-to-toe with a politico, the weight flak was making it personal.

“She needed to lose the weight, but it’s not fun to be the butt of thoughtless humor and cruel caricatures on the Internet, likening her to [“Star Wars” character] Jabba the Hutt,” a source told Sneed.

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Lewis is telling friends she is now under 300 pounds for the first time in years.

“She feels if she ever decided to run for mayor she’d have to lose the weight anyway,” the source added. “You can already see the weight loss.”

Sneed also is told that Lewis took a fall during the winter, which prompted her to seriously think about a weight-loss plan — in addition to supporters urging her to run against Emanuel.

Sneed’s effort to reach Lewis Wednesday was unsuccessful.

Lewis’ contentious relationship with Emanuel has been loud and vociferous.

◆ In September 2011, Lewis told the press that Emanuel pointed at her and screamed, “F – – – you, Lewis,” during a conversation in his office about his efforts to lengthen the school day. The two didn’t speak again for two years.

◆ When contract negotiations stalled and Lewis led teachers union members in a strike, she said he was a puppet of his billionaire friends.

◆ After Emanuel announced his plan to close more than 50 schools in spring 2013, Lewis took to calling him the “murder mayor.”

◆ The two have battled most recently over possible cuts to teachers’ pensions, and Lewis told a City Club audience on Monday that her members will opt out of a fourth year on their hard-won contract, basically guaranteeing contract negotiations would restart during Emanuel’s re-election campaign.

◆ Although Lewis has said repeatedly that she has no plans to run for mayor — that she is happy with the job she has, and her husband has said no — close associates tell Sneed she is eyeing a possible bid.

Hmmm: Watch for Lewis to get an honorary doctorate from Mount Holyoke College, her alma mater in Massachusetts, on May 16.

Stay tuned.

CONTINUE READING MICHAEL SNEED’S COLUMN ON SUNTIMES.COM