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updated: 3/6/2013 1:46 PM

A reporter's remembrance: Straight shooter Netsch will be missed

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I had the pleasure of covering Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch of Chicago when she was a state senator, a comptroller and the state's first woman major-party nominee for governor in 1994.

Most people probably will remember her most for her breakthrough ad of that campaign.

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It showed Netsch nailing an amazing trick shot at a billiards table. The spot won national acclaim and certainly got people talking about her back then.

The ad's tag line was that Netsch was a straight shooter. Ironic, of course, because there was nothing straight about the pool shot. To remember Netsch only as an incredible pool player would be a terrible disservice.

Indeed, it is more fully accurate to remember her as a straight shooter.

As a pioneer. She broke ground as a woman in law and in politics, but never focused on the fact that she happened to be a woman.

She never quit serving, most recently working as a board member for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. Netsch always worked for what she believed in and did so with honor and dignity.

Some of Netsch's fans might not appreciate the observation, but as a journalist, I valued politicians like liberal Netsch and conservative former state Senate President James "Pate" Philip, a suburban Republican.

They both frequently said what they believed, sometimes to their detriment, often when it wasn't politically smart to do so.

In her campaign, Netsch proposed a major shift in the way we fund schools in Illinois.

Her opponent, Republican former Gov. Jim Edgar, noted it amounted to a major tax increase. Edgar used that tax increase to pummel her candidacy into defeat.

Having won re-election, he then, in essence, endorsed Netsch's school funding shift toward using income taxes rather than a property tax system that means some children suffer simply because they grow up in property-poor parts of the state.

The shift never won approval. And that education funding inequity remains a challenge that vexes us to this day.

In the Chicago Sun Times, Netsch's nephew, Andrew D. Kerr, says of his aunt: "She had a laugh that was infectious," describing her as "slight in stature, towering in intellect and commanding in her presence."

A straight shooter. A pioneer. A reformer who always made herself available to the press.

Dawn Clark Netsch will be missed.

Madeleine Doubek, formerly executive editor of the Daily Herald, was the newspaper's political editor in the 1990s. She currently is COO of Reboot Illinois, http://rebootillinois.com, an organization devoted to reform in Illinois government. This remembrance is reprinted from the Reboot website with permission.

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