A shock poll conducted by the Chicago Tribune last month showed Mayor Rahm Emanuel's fiercest critic and likely Democratic primary opponent next February, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, edging Emanuel 43-39% as his approval rating among Chicagoans sank to just 35%. Lewis recently fell ill and was hospitalized on Sunday for an unknown health condition. Today, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey revealed at a press conference that Lewis had undergone surgery yesterday and "has a serious illness." Sharkey declined to discuss the nature of her illness, only saying that he was assuming her responsibility's for the time being. Naturally, the lack of information is sparking the media's curiosity. From the Tribune:
The continued lack of information on Lewis’ health figures to only raise more questions about Lewis’ potential bid to challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the Feb. 24 election.
“I understand that many people in this room, and many people in this city, want to know about Karen Lewis’ health status because they care about the mayoral election in this city,” Sharkey said. “I think that’s fair enough. But please be aware that’s a question that I can’t answer.”
The news conference followed days of speculation on what’s wrong with Lewis, 61, who was hospitalized Sunday night after becoming ill at her South Side home. Until Thursday, there was no official word on her condition or even what hospital she was at.
Lewis, a fierce critic of Mayor Rahm Emanuel who led her union on a contentious seven day strike in September 2012, has started raising money and formed an exploratory committee for a possible challenge to the mayor. She has yet to declare her candidacy, however.A source told NBC5 that Lewis' condition is much more "serious and worrisome" than many had earlier been led to believe. She reportedly entered Northwestern Memorial Hospital with stroke-like symptoms, although she supposedly did not suffer a stroke. According to NBC5, Lewis went to Mexico earlier this year to have bariatric surgery to aid her in weight loss. She reportedly went to Mexico because her health insurance policy wouldn't cover the surgery and the procedure was much less costly there. Friends say she has lost about 100 pounds since the surgery, but they also say that her current health condition is totally unrelated to her weight loss surgery or any heart-related problems.
A little more than two years ago, Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk (R), who narrowly defeated a close friend and ally of Obama and Emanuel, Alexi Giannoulias, to win the seat formerly held by Obama, entered Northwestern Memorial Hospital complaining of stroke-like symptoms, the same hospital now treating Lewis. He underwent emergency surgery to correct a dissected carotid artery discovered by doctors. Kirk narrowly survived the emergency surgery but has had to undergo lengthy rehabilitation and remains partially disabled. If Kirk had not survived, Illinois' Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn would have gotten to replace him with a Democrat.
Emanuel just days ago had to distance himself from controversial comments his brother, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, made about 75 being an ideal age for people's lives to be terminated to avoid problems caused by declining health. Dr. Emanuel is a key architect of President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Mayor Emanuel jokingly said his brother was entitled to his opinion, but he couldn't die at 75. Rahm's father, Benjamin, is also a physician. Benjamin was part of a an infamous Israeli assassination team in the early days of the founding of the Israeli state before he later immigrated to the U.S. His specialty was blowing up buses and sending British troops back home in body bags. Rahm, who also holds dual citizenship with Israel like his father, served in the Israeli Army during the first Gulf War.