Trailblazing Illinois politician Dawn Clark Netsch dies at 86 - FOX 10 News |

Trailblazing Illinois politician Dawn Clark Netsch dies at 86

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Illinois lost former state senator and veteran political powerhouse Dawn Clark Netsch, 86, Tuesday. Lou Gherig's disease took her life, but nothing can take her legacy.

"More than any person in Illinois' history, Dawn Clark Netsch created the modern era of women in Illinois political leadership," Senator Dick Durbin said.

Netsch played her strong suit: integrity. While running for governor in 1994, the first female at the top of the Democrats ticket, she lost to Republican Jim Edgar,

"Her thoughtfulness, her candor, and her blunt honesty about the challenges Illinois faced will always be remembered," Durbin said of Netsch.

Dawn Clark Netsch went from teaching law at Northwestern to helping re-write the Illinois constitution to a long career in the state senate. She then won the race for state comptroller in 1990--becoming the first woman elected to statewide office in Illinois.

Tributes poured in Tuesday from Illinois politicians, including poignant words from female political leaders who said they counted Netsch among their most important mentors and role models.

"Dawn Clark Netsch was a hero of mine since the early 1980s and a friend and mentor ever since," said Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who served with Netsch on the board of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and collaborated with her on many reform issues. "... She was not just a public servant, but a teacher. She will be missed."

Illinois' current comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka, said "Illinois lost a true legend and trailblazer today" and praised Netsch as someone who fought for "good, honest government that rises above politics."

"Dawn always remembered that government exists to serve taxpayers, not the other way around," she said.

"She never lost her fight for the importance of public service, and her determination to see public good in public service," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

Gov. Pat Quinn remembered her as a straight-shooter in both politics and pool.

Despite her health problems, Netsch worked on two state ethics commissions until her death.

Netsch's husband, prominent Chicago architect Walter A. Netsch Jr., died in 2008.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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