Should Karen Lewis rule out a run for Mayor of Chicago, she could easily qualify for Heckler-in-Chief.
The Chicago Teachers Union firebrand and Rahm Emanuel archnemesis gleefully needled the mayor at a recent panel discussion with the Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky, joking that even Bozo the Clown could defeat Emanuel in the upcoming mayoral election.
(You're wrong, Karen: anybody who has slept with the light on after watching Stephen King's horrific mini-series It will most certainly NOT vote for Bozo. So basically Bozo has zero chance.)
Since Emanuel took office in 2011, the CTU president has made a second career out of smack-talking his education policies -- and practically everything else -- in the public arena. Last year, when he presided over a record number of Chicago Public School closings, Lewis taunted Emanuel as the "murder mayor." She makes the allegedly mellowed-out hothead see red -- once, during a heated meeting over lengthening the school day, Emanuel unleashed his infamous temper at Lewis, screaming "F--- you!"
Making the interview rounds last week, Lewis said she'd consider extending an olive branch to City Hall and negotiate a compromise on teacher pensions -- namely, a reduction in benefits for current members but not retirees.
She presented alternative strategies for shoring up underfunded pensions including a tax on financial transactions at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Emanuel, dead-set on his plan to raise property taxes, promptly squashed that idea, arguing that taxing the Merc would drive business out of the city.
While Emanuel would look like a jerk for issuing low blows at Lewis during a press tour, Lewis -- buoyed by declining voter approval for the mayor -- seems to fully embrace her role as human megaphone of anti-Rahm resentment. It's made her a local media darling, even at the uber-conservative, union-hating Chicago Tribune, which might just loathe Emanuel more than she does.
Like any shrewd operator with charisma to spare, Lewis instinctively knows that launching verbal grenades at "Rahmfather" will draw more attention to her cause. Besides, who doesn't love a juicy public feud?
Meanwhile, the Sun-Times appears to be sounding the alarm for Emanuel's demise. Its weekend edition headline: "RAHM ON THE ROPES." Inside the paper reported the results of a poll revealing that only one out of five Chicago voters think Emanuel's doing a better job of running the city than former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
On top of that, 29 percent of voters would cast a ballot for Emanuel's re-election in February 2015 if he were in a hypothetical race with Lewis, Cook County County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and aldermen Bob Fioretti and Robert Shaw, the lone contender who has publicly declared his candidacy.
According to the survey, Preckwinkle grabbed the 26 percent of the vote followed by Lewis (10 percent), Fioretti (five percent) and Shaw (three percent). Twenty-seven percent of voters were undecided.
Which begs the question: How would you vote in this scenario? Would Bozo make a better, if not more frightening, leader than Rahm? Should Karen Lewis try stand-up, or Second City? She's got no shortage of fodder for laughs, though she would have to get used to getting heckled herself.