- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - The president of the Chicago Teachers Union, who is also a potential challenger to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has “a serious illness” that required surgery and will need time to recover, a union official told reporters Thursday.

Karen Lewis tangled with Emanuel during a 2012 teacher strike, and she has been circulating petitions and raising money for a possible challenge of the mayor next year. She hasn’t said, however, if she will actually run in the February election.

Union vice president Jesse Sharkey said Thursday that he had taken over Lewis’ tasks as union president. Appearing at the union’s downtown headquarters, he acknowledged there is high interest in Lewis’ health because of her possible run for mayor, but he said he couldn’t answer any questions about how her health could affect her plans.

“Karen Lewis has a serious illness,” he said. “She underwent surgery yesterday and that was successful. She is recovering well. … She’s both alert and comfortable.”

Lewis was admitted to an undisclosed hospital after experiencing discomfort Sunday, though the union had released few details. Sharkey also declined to elaborate, citing Lewis’ and her family’s request for privacy.

“Karen will need time to recover,” he said.

Later Thursday, Emanuel’s office released a statement from the mayor.

“Karen Lewis is a passionate advocate for her beliefs and has always been willing to speak up for her view of what’s best - not only for the teachers that she represents, but also for issues critical to the future of our city,” the statement said.

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