Last Labor Day, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia spent four hours at Karen Lewis’ house, discussing her plan to run against Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Garcia, 58, is a Cook County Board commissioner and a former alderman and state senator; Lewis, 61, is the fiery president of the Chicago Teachers Union. He’s Mexican-American; she’s African-American and Jewish. “We were strategizing her victory path,” Garcia told me recently. “We talked plenty about conditions in the Latino community.”
Lewis hadn’t formally announced that she was running, but she’d begun raising money for the race and was considered a potent challenger to Emanuel. All that changed in early October; she experienced light-headedness and strokelike symptoms, and was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. On October 8, she had emergency surgery, and a spokesman announced she wouldn’t be running for mayor after all.
Soon after Lewis got home from the hospital, she invited Garcia over again. “I went as a well-wisher,” he said. But he quickly learned Lewis had an agenda: she wanted him to run against Emanuel.
Garcia told me he was stunned. “What else did they do to you when you had your surgery?” he asked Lewis. She laughed and gave him a high five. But she persisted: “She said, ‘Seriously, you need to think about this. The communities of Chicago need someone to be their standard-bearer.'”