Dawn Clark Netsch. Credit: AP/file.
CHICAGO (AP/KSDK) - The nephew of pioneering Illinois politician Dawn Clark Netsch says she remained an active behind-the-scenes political player right up until her death.
The former Illinois comptroller and the first woman to get the Democratic nomination for Illinois governor died early Tuesday at her Chicago home.
Nephew Andy Kerr says the evening before Netsch was at home watching the TV news and surrounded by newspapers.
Kerr says his aunt was always trying to stay up to date and even in her last months was advising political candidates.
Netsch graduated first in her class from Northwestern Law in 1952, yet Kerr says she could not get a job because she was a woman.
He says that experience drove her to fight all types of discrimination, which became a hallmark of her career.
Local lawmakers released statements on the passing of Netsch.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon:
"Dawn Clark Netsch was a hero of mine since the early 1980s and a friend and mentor ever since," Simon said. "We served on the board of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform together and collaborated on reform issues for many years. She was straight forward, a straight shooter and great at explaining state issues. She was not just a public servant, but a teacher. She will be missed."
Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka:
"Illinois lost a true legend and trailblazer today with the passing of Dawn Clark Netsch. Dawn faithfully served Illinois and its residents for more than four decades, fighting for good, honest government that rises above politics. In fact, one of the highlights of my legislative career was partnering with her to co-sponsor the state's Open Meetings Act. She continued her work as State Comptroller, establishing the office as an honest broker and credible source of information when it comes to state finances. And she continued her crusade into retirement, regularly speaking out on the need for government reform and accountability.
"Dawn always remembered that government exists to serve taxpayers, not the other way around. She was a leader who was ahead of her time and our state is better for her service. More than that, she was a consummate professional and a class act. It was my honor to call her a colleague and friend."
Sen. Dick Durbin:
"More than any other person in our state's history, Dawn Clark Netsch created the modern era of women in Illinois political leadership. As always, those who open the doors of opportunity must be extraordinarily gifted, determined and patient. Dawn was all of these and more.
"Early in my life I was a lawyer on the State Senate staff and saw firsthand the many talents of Dawn Netsch. Moving effortlessly from the independence of her Lakeshore Liberal base to alliances with her fellow Senator Richard M. Daley, Dawn proved that a politician can be both principled and effective.
"Her ill-fated run for Governor lacked the political polish of many winning campaigns, but her thoughtfulness, candor and blunt honesty about the challenges we faced will be remembered.
"The Illinois political scene will not be the same without that pool-shooting Sox Fan with a cigarette holder, but generations of Illinois women can thank the indomitable force of Dawn Clark Netsch for blazing their path."
Attorney General Lisa Madigan:
"Dawn Clark Netsch set the standard for integrity in public service. She led by example with relentless honesty, fierce independence and a passionate belief in civil liberty for all. Her unwavering dedication to the People of Illinois will be missed. She blazed a trail for women and worked hard to make sure so many of us could follow her."
Gov. Pat Quinn:
"I join with everyone in Illinois to mourn the passing of a great public servant.
"Dawn Clark Netsch was a strong advocate for education and a pioneer for equal rights for all people. As the first woman elected to a statewide constitutional office in Illinois, Comptroller Netsch blazed a trail for women in public office.
"As an elected delegate to the Illinois constitutional convention in 1970, she spearheaded the movement to modernize our constitution. I witnessed firsthand her dedication to honest government when we served together as state treasurer and comptroller.
"Most importantly, Dawn was a straight shooter, and not just at playing pool. She always told the people of Illinois what they needed to know.
"Throughout her life, Dawn Clark Netsch taught us all about the right way to move forward in our democracy. We are all better off because of her purposeful life."
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