CHICAGO (AP) — Former Illinois Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch, who spent 18 years serving in the state senate and was the first woman to run on a major ticket for governor in Illinois, died Tuesday. She was 86.
Netsch's former chief of staff and longtime friend Wendy Cohen said Netsch died early Tuesday. Netsch said in January that she had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, a fatal nerve disorder.
"It's a tough one," the 86-year-old Democrat said at the time. But she said she revealed her diagnosis to draw attention to the disease.
"Might get more people thinking about what is ALS," she said. "I'm going to be straight about this also."
Netsch spent 18 years serving in the state senate and was the first woman to run on a major ticket for governor in Illinois. The Democrat was known for her directness during her more than six decades in Illinois politics. She served as an adviser to Illinois Gov. Otto Kerner Jr., helped rewrite the Illinois Constitution in 1970 and was elected state comptroller in 1990.
During her tenure in the Illinois Senate, she was known as an expert in state finances, argued against the death penalty and sponsored the Equal Rights Amendment.
She ran for governor in 1994, losing to Republican incumbent Gov. Jim Edgar.
ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a degenerative disorder that weakens the nerves and makes it difficult to walk, swallow and speak, eventually leading to paralysis and death. Near the end of her life Netsch needed assistance to walk.
Regardless she continued her work on two state ethics commissions.
Netsch's husband, prominent Chicago architect Walter A. Netsch Jr., died in 2008.