• Michael Schmidt/Sun-Times Media
  • Karen Lewis took questions Tuesday night at a banquet hall in Beverly.

To get ready for Karen Lewis’s big event yesterday in Beverly, I had lunch in Hyde Park with a friend who loves Mayor Rahm and can’t stand Karen Lewis.

Cause every Reader writer’s got to have at least one friend like that.

He was in rare form, ripping Lewis about this, that, and the other thing. He boldly predicted that when Mayor Rahm’s multimillion-dollar campaign machine finished pummeling her, Lewis’s lead in the polls would have melted like the polar ice caps under the hot global-warming sun.

For the other side of the story, I drove to the 19th Ward . . .

I took King Drive to 95th and shot west to Western, dodging potholes the whole way.

When I got to the Beverly Woods Banquet Hall at 115th and Western the joint was jumping.

There must have been at least 400 people spilling out of the main banquet room. All kinds of people—black, white, firefighters, cops, and teachers. Tons of teachers.

They had a disc jockey spinning Earth, Wind & Fire. By the time they got to Maurice White kalimba solo in Evil, I was ready to start a conga line with a retired special-ed teacher from Brighton Park!

Man, those teachers know how to party.

The night was billed as a “conversation with Karen Lewis.” Part of her “listening tour” of Chicago, as she heads from one end of town to the other, listening to gripes about the state of life under Rahm.

It serves three purposes: One, it enables her to practice her campaign pitch. Two, it allows her to sign up hundreds of volunteers. And, three—publicity! The major TV outlets and both downtown dailies were there.

The moderator was the legendary Walter Jacobson, who showed he still had the jab as he peppered Lewis with questions for an hour or so.

He started with the obvious—when are you going to officially announce your candidacy? And she gave her favorite cat-and-mouse response—I’ll announce when I’m ready to announce, and not a moment too soon.

But just to let everyone know, she said she had filed her campaign papers with the state and had received a $1 million commitment from the American Federation of Teachers and would be sending out petition gatherers real soon.

And, of course, she took a shot or two at the mayor. Like this one . . .

“The good news is that the people who contribute to him won’t be able to vote cause they don’t live here.”

Ooh, treated.

“I’m not like Rahm Emanuel,” she said at another point. “He thinks the people of Chicago are not very bright. He thinks he can bamboozle them.”

Hmm. Considering the mayors we keep electing, I’d have to say I’m with Mayor Rahm on this one.

She also promised to hire more cops, fix the potholes, and think about getting rid of the red-light cameras.

When Walter asked how she intended pay for all of this, Lewis talked about cutting wasteful TIF deals, using money spent on police overtime to hire cops, and looking for new, progressive forms of taxation.

Good luck with that one.

Of course, there’s a time-honored alternative from the Mayor Daley playbook—just say the budget’s balanced, even if it’s not. As Mayor Rahm’s sort of doing right now.

In conclusion, Walter said: “I’d love to see you run. The media would like for you to run. ‘Cause it’s so valuable to the community to debate ideas.”

Hear, hear, Walter!

Afterward a few of the hardcore political junkies gathered in the parking lot to smoke cigarettes and talk politics. As always, the good stuff generally happens after the show in the parking lot.

Everyone agreed that Mayor Rahm’s strength comes from the millions he can raise to saturate the airwaves with commercials that depict Lewis as the second coming of Che Guevara.

And Lewis’s strength? Well, consider this. I very much doubt that Mayor Rahm could fill the Beverly Woods Banquet Hall with 400 or so supporters on a Tuesday night.

Not even with all of his campaign money.

So it comes down to Rahm’s money versus Karen’s troops.

Walter Jacobson was right—it’s time Chicago had itself a real mayoral election.