Rick Pearson | Chicago Tribune As Corinne Wood campaigned to become Illinois’ first female lieutenant governor on the 1998 Republican ticket with George Ryan, her gender and moderate social views were seen as critical toward balancing Ryan’s conservative image. She also was dealing with her recovery from breast cancer surgery. Donning a wig to counter
| Chicago Tribune
As Corinne Wood campaigned to become Illinois’ first female lieutenant governor on the 1998 Republican ticket with George Ryan, her gender and moderate social views were seen as critical toward balancing Ryan’s conservative image.
She also was dealing with her recovery from breast cancer surgery. Donning a wig to counter the effects of chemotherapy treatments that made her hair fall out in 1997, Wood took to the campaign trail and dutifully visited each of the state’s 102 counties. Once in office, she was the force behind an income tax checkoff for breast cancer research.
Wood, 66, of Lake Forest, died Tuesday of complications related to metastatic breast cancer, which resurfaced 15 years ago, her family said. She was surrounded by her immediate family at the time of her death.
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Wood was a freshman House lawmaker when Ryan selected her as his running mate and made her the first woman selected by a leading Republican candidate for governor to run for lieutenant governor.
For Ryan, it was a move aimed at trying to soften his image to the electorate as an abortion-rights foe and opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment during his days as speaker of the Illinois House.
In Wood, Ryan found a social moderate with strong support of women’s issues, including support of abortion rights, and a hard-charging candidate for an office with few defined responsibilities. Her desire was to be part of the decision-making in the governor’s office.
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Wood portrayed herself as an outsider while wanting to become a powerful insider. Her drive provoked criticism and she saw significant staff turnover. She blamed the criticism on what she contended was a double standard for women in public office.
“We are viewed differently,” she said. “We’re evaluated more closely. It’s just the way it is because people aren’t used to seeing women in these positions. … I don’t have white hair, and I don’t smoke a cigar, but I can still do a great job.”
Ryan, facing federal investigation that eventually led to a prison sentence, opted not to seek a second term. Wood launched a bid for the 2002 GOP nomination for governor and finished third. Democrat Rod Blagojevich won the governor’s office that year, only to end up, like his predecessor, in federal prison.
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In the fall of 2017, Wood stood beside then-Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner as he signed controversial legislation that expanded public funding of abortions for low-income women and eliminated a trigger that abortion-rights supporters argued would have made the procedure illegal if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
The nation’s high court recently agreed to hear arguments in a Mississippi abortion case that abortion-rights supporters fear could lead to Roe v. Wade being overturned.
With Rauner, Wood argued that the abortion legislation should be supported by Republicans.
“Historically, Republican candidates have been real Republicans — Republicans who don’t want government interference,” Wood said. “There are very strong opinions on either end of the issue. I know that neither side would compromise. This just exemplifies that our government is broken and made up of extremes instead of made up of in the middle. That’s where most people in Illinois come from, the middle.”
On Wednesday, Democratic Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton credited Wood for having “paved the way for women like me to serve in this role.”
“As the first woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Illinois, she was a trailblazer bringing her authentic self to the office and elevating the issue of women’s health,” Stratton said in a statement.
Wood was an attorney with a background in corporate and legislative law and had been general counsel to the Illinois commissioner of banks and trusts. Prior to her election to public office she was president of the Lake County Republican Federation fundraising organization, a member of the city of Lake Forest Plan Commission and the Lake Forest Senior Housing Commission.
More recently, Wood was a board member for CHANGE Illinois, a group that has promoted an independent redistricting process for the state legislature.
“We have lost a friend, guiding light, and staunch ally. Corrine’s grace and brilliance will be dearly missed,” Deborah Harrington, board co-chair of the group, said in a statement.
Wood is survived by her husband, Paul, and three children, Ashley, Brandon and Courtney.
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