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Dawn Clark Netsch dies at 86

Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 11:46 a.m. CST

(MCT) — Former Illinois Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch, a longtime state senator and the first woman to win the Democratic nomination for governor, has died. She was 86.

Netsch died overnight, according to a family friend who answered the phone at Netsch's home in Lincoln Park. Netsch had disclosed in January that she had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease.

The disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control muscle movement. There is no known cure, and the disease can lead to near-total paralysis. The average life expectancy for patients is about three to five years from diagnosis, according to the ALS Association.

Netsch had most recently served on the board overseeing the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a good-government group Canary used to head.

Netsch, an attorney, served as a delegate at the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention and was elected to the state Senate in 1972. She was elected Illinois comptroller in 1990, and she became the first woman to win a major party nomination when Democrats picked her to run for governor in 1994. Netsch was defeated in the general election by Republican Jim Edgar.

Netsch was a professor emeritus at Northwestern University School of Law and was known for her support of the gay and lesbian community. She was married to the late architect Walter Netsch, who died in 2008.

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©2013 the Chicago Tribune

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