CHICAGO — Rosemary Mulligan, a longtime former Illinois Republican lawmaker, has died after a monthslong decline in health, her brother said Wednesday. She was 73.
Stephen Granzyk said his older sister died Tuesday, shortly after she moved into a retirement community in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines.
Mulligan represented that city and other Northwestern Chicago suburbs in the Illinois House from 1993 to 2013. She was considered a social moderate with expertise in the state’s human services budget, particularly on issues concerning the disabled.
Mulligan was remembered by family and friends Wednesday for her feisty demeanor and her ability to speak her mind and unabashedly make waves within her own party.
Memories included a 2007 discussion about a program for senior citizens where Mulligan called then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich a “blithering idiot.” She stood by her description but apologized for uttering it into a microphone.
Longtime friend and abortion rights activist Terry Cosgrove noted that Mulligan was the sponsor of what he called “trailblazing legislation” — including a bill requiring emergency rooms to give rape victims information about emergency contraception.
She also was a fierce advocate of expanding rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, which Cosgrove credits with helping pave the way for the state’s approval of same-sex marriage in 2013.
Granzyk described his older sister as “sort of being on the margin of a new generation.” Mulligan left college to marry and have children, becoming involved in local politics later in life.
“She really was a self-made woman. Had she been born five or 10 years later she might have gone to school, gotten a law degree and gone even further,” he said.
Mulligan defeated GOP Rep. Penny Pullen in a 1992 primary race so close that a recount was called.
In subsequent elections, House Democrats spent considerably to defeat her. But Mulligan fiercely held on to her seat cycle after cycle, once purchasing another home across town in Des Plaines after Democratic mapmakers drew her residence outside of legislative boundaries.
Mulligan left the House in 2013 after missing a filing deadline to get her name on the primary ballot, though she continued to stay active in local politics until shortly before her death, including serving as a Cook County Republican Party committeewoman.
In a statement, outgoing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn described Mulligan as “an energetic bridge-builder who made Illinois a better place.”
In addition to her brother, Mulligan is survived by two sons.
Services were pending.
KERRY LESTER, Associated Press