Union election heads to runoff; Stewart to face challenger from CORE

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Four caucuses challenged incumbent Chicago Teachers Union president
Marilyn Stewart in Friday’s election. Stewart won the most votes, but runner-up Karen Lewis from
the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) will also advance to a
June 11 runoff election.

Four caucuses challenged incumbent Chicago Teachers Union president
Marilyn Stewart in Friday’s election. Stewart won the most votes, but
Karen Lewis from the runner-up Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) will also advance
to a June 11 runoff election.

“It was absolutely an emotional vote,” Stewart said this morning. “Our members are afraid for their jobs, and they are threatened with increased class sizes.”

Perhaps for those reasons, election results favored the groups that took the strongest positions against budget cuts and Chicago Public Schools policies – and against Stewart herself, who opponents accused of not taking a tough enough stance.

“Sixty-five percent of the electorate said no to the incumbent,” CORE presidential candidate Karen Lewis said after the preliminary results were posted. “It’s pretty clear that this is a game-changing kind of moment.”

Her caucus is best known for protests and legal complaints against Renaissance 2010, school closings, and turnarounds. Third-place finisher Deborah Lynch of ProActive Chicago Teachers and School Employees (PACT), a former CTU president and longtime Stewart rival, also used harsh rhetoric. In the weeks before the election, she called schools CEO Ron Huberman’s administration a “reign of terror.”

The one caucus willing to renegotiate teachers’ raises – School Employees Alliance, which pledged to build unity – finished last.

“We could beat the board… without the aggressive militancy, the marches,” says SEA presidential candidate Ted Hajharis. “But it seems the majority of members want that kind of leadership… willing to fight, willing to organize to defend them.”

Stewart says she is confident that her experience will garner votes in the runoff.

“When you are going through the middle of a crisis you do not make any radical changes,” Stewart says. “[People outside the union] are waiting to eat this organization alive, and they will be able to, if they have [leadership] with no experience.”


Results not final

Preliminary election results show Stewart in first place, at 32.3 percent. Her lead over Lewis is 313 votes, less than two percentage points.

The union had planned to post results online around 2 or 3 a.m. Saturday, but the count is still not finished. Ballots from 36 schools – which employ around 1,200 teachers – still have to be counted, union spokeswoman Rosemaria Genova says.

The uncounted votes could change the gap between Lewis and Stewart, but would not be enough to put Lynch in the running. Her caucus, PACT, garnered just 16 percent of the votes.

Weather and traffic prevented couriers for the American Arbitration Association, the group running the election, from picking up all the ballots on Friday, Genova says. In addition, delayed flights from New York City prevented election administrators from arriving on time.

Preliminary results

19,477 votes counted

Marilyn Stewart (United Progressive Caucus): 6,283 (32.3%)

Karen Lewis (Caucus of Rank and File Educators): 5,970 (30.7%)

Deborah Lynch (ProActive Chicago Teachers and School Employees): 3,144 (16.1%)

Linda Porter (Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union): 1,273 (6.5%)

Ted Hajiharis (School Employees Alliance): 1,127 (5.8%)