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Karen Lewis For Chicago Mayor? Union Leader Forms Exploratory Committee

Looks like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel could face a challenge from Chicago Teachers' Union boss Karen Lewis, according to news reports emerging from the Windy City.

Word is that Lewis has an unofficial exploratory committee in the works, looking at the possibility of taking on Emanuel in next year's mayoral race.

Lewis is riding high from an Early & Often poll published Sunday that puts her 9 percentage points over Emanuel in a head-to-head match-up. The poll showed Lewis leading 45 percent to 36 percent. About eighteen percent of the likely voters surveyed were undecided.

The outspoken union president who has not been shy about taking on Emanuel and shepherded the 2012 teachers' union strike— the first in a quarter century—said that she has a committee chairperson in mind, and that the camp is aiming to put a representative in each of Chicago's 77 neighborhoods, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Lewis said she had not really made a final decision about whether to run, but her popularity is high, especially among African-Americans. And her vociferous criticism of the Chicago Public Schools' decision last year to close nearly 50 schools garnered her a lot of support in the neighborhoods.

According to the Early & Often Poll, Lewis is not even Emanuel's most formidable potential challenger. That would be Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle—who has also not said whether she is running. Preckwinkle is beating Emanuel 55 percent to 31 percent in the poll.

But Emanuel, President Obama's former chief of staff, does beat out other potential challengers, including former Alderman Robert Shaw, over whom he leads 47.66 percent  to 29.55 percent.

Emanuel's spokesperson first referred to the polling as "laughable," giving Lewis' nascent effort the opportunity to return a pretty wicked volley.

"They can laugh," said Stephanie Gadlin, Lewis' spokeswoman, "laugh themselves out of office."

Let the campaign begin.

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