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Our View: Netsch’s influence continues

Published: Saturday, March 9, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Dawn Clark Netsch, a Democrat from Chicago, a former state comptroller, and a longtime state senator, was a generation ahead of her time.

Netsch, who died Tuesday at age 86, won the Democratic nomination for governor in 1994, the first woman to do so for a major party in Illinois.

She campaigned hard against incumbent Republican Gov. Jim Edgar.

When the Nov. 8, 1994, election rolled around, however, Netsch was soundly defeated by Edgar. She received only 34 percent of the vote.

Things looked rosy for the GOP then. Republicans captured the U.S. House for the first time in 40 years, harnessing voter backlash against efforts by President Bill Clinton to approve a national health care bill.

Republicans also captured the Illinois House of Representatives. Steve Brown, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s spokesman, said at the time: “We’re obviously surprised by the overall outcome. [Republicans] are all out of excuses now. They’ll have to produce.”

Having Netsch lead the Democratic ticket did not help Democrats that year, but her party, and her ideas, eventually prevailed.

National health care was approved in 2010.

A state income-tax increase was approved in 2011.

Netsch, a supporter of the gay and lesbian community, witnessed the granting of expanded rights, including civil unions, and a current movement to approve gay marriage.

And state government is dominated by Democrats who think a lot like Netsch did.

In January, Netsch gave an interviewer her take on what Illinois needs to do to fix its problems.

“No. 1, we really need to restructure how we raise money so that it is fair and adequate. And then, obviously ... we do have to address the pension problem.”

Netsch was known for her directness, so she would not mind us pointing out that her party has controlled the Illinois governor’s mansion, House and Senate for 10 years now.

Paraphrasing the 1994 words of Speaker Madigan’s spokesman, Democrats are all out of excuses now. They’ll have to produce.

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