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Pols Weigh Lesssons From Primary, CTU's Impact

By Ted Cox | March 23, 2014 8:10am
 Ald. Joe Moore and Mayor Rahm Emanuel insist they're not concerned with political threats from the Chicago Teachers Union.
Ald. Joe Moore and Mayor Rahm Emanuel insist they're not concerned with political threats from the Chicago Teachers Union.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

CITY HALL — City politicians are looking over their shoulders at Tuesday's Democratic primary with an eye to how it offers hints on how next year's municipal elections will go.

Foremost among concerns is how the Chicago Teachers Union will affect races.

Opinions differed on CTU's impact on Tuesday's primary. The union posted an online press release this week claiming victory on the Ames Middle School referendum and in the state representative primary in which Will Guzzardi beat incumbent Toni Berrios, as well as the strong showing of Jay Travis in her still-contested race against incumbent state Rep. Christian Mitchell.

Yet the group Democrats for Education Reform circulated a memo saying, "The CTU was remarkably ineffective in this cycle" and its "political reputation was dealt a major blow in the city." The group pointed to Mitchell's re-election and the re-election of state Rep. Jaime Andrade, while allowing that CTU did hedge its bets by donating money to him late last year. It also cited how CTU undercut Berrios after she sided with the union against the state pension reform adopted by the General Assembly last year.

CTU and Democrats for Education Reform are in opposition over charter schools, with CTU labeling the group "deformers." Charters are a litmus test for CTU, in that most employ non-union teachers.

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) allowed Friday that he was watching those key races this week after being targeted by CTU when it formed a political organization earlier this year over his support for charters in Rogers Park.

"I'm a political junkie," Moore said, adding that he tended to minimize the impact of union involvement in the primary.

"I think each of the races was governed primarily by the individuals involved and local issues," Moore said. "So it's kind of hard to draw any hard and fast conclusions."

Moore added that he's "not concerned" about CTU, saying, "I certainly welcome their involvement." He said he was working to mend fences on both sides of the charter debate.

Moore said he didn't see CTU having "any real effect" on the 49th Ward race next year.

"We don't have any school closings in my neighborhood, no new charter-school applications," he added. "I don't have any issues with CTU, and hopefully they don't have any issues with me."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has specifically been targeted by CTU President Karen Lewis for school closings. Emanuel has previously dismissed those threats.

"It’s far too early to speculate about next year’s election," said Emanuel political adviser John Kupper. "Mayor Emanuel is focused on making the tough choices and hard decisions that will ensure a better future for Chicago and all its people."

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), who fought for Ames' conversion to a military academy over CTU resistance and the public opposition shown by the referendum, did not return calls for comment.