Illinois Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch dies

March 5, 2013 at 9:23 AM
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CHICAGO, March 5 (UPI) -- Illinois Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch, a reformer who became the first woman to win her party's nomination for governor, died Tuesday. She was 86.

Netsche, a longtime state senator who served as Illinois comptroller, died Monday night, a family friend told the Chicago Tribune. A lawyer and delegate to the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention, she had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral scherosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease in January.

ALS is a fatal disease that causes degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control movement.

Netsche, wife of late Chicago architect Walter Netsch who died in 2008, was born in Cincinnati Sept. 16, 1926. She was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Northwestern University in 1948 and finished first in her class at the university's law school in 1952.

She joined the Northwestern School of Law faculty in 1965 and was elected to the state Senate from Illinois' 13th District in 1972 and later in Illinois' 4th District, serving in the state Senate for 18 years.

She won statewide election as comptroller in 1990 and won an upset victory in the Democratic primary for governor in 1994, defeating Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris and Cook County Board President Richard Phelan.

Her campaign slogan was "Not just another pretty face," and one campaign ad showed her playing a game of eight-ball pool, describing her as a "straight shooter."

Despite a spirited campaign, she lost badly to Republican Jim Edgar in the general election, winning only 34 percent of the vote.

A staunch liberal, Netsch was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame as a "friend of the community" in 1995 and remained a professor of law emeritus at Northwestern University.

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