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Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Award

Thursday, Dec 13, 2012

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for best House Democratic campaign staffer is a tie. The obvious crowd favorite is Shaw Decremer

Shaw Decremer should win hands down. Who else has been the quintessential poster-boy of the Big Bad Madigan Political Operative, while continuing to win over the hearts and minds of suburban women for several big wins. He also manages to be respected by nearly everyone in the capitol, which is not easy considering the many big He also manages to be respected by nearly everyone in the capitol, which is no easy task, considering the many big personalities involved. I would say he will be missed when he moves on, but people with reputations like his never really leave…

Shaw is leaving staff after many years of winning campaigns. He’s won the award before, but most of you believed that he ought to win again on his way out the door. The guy is amazing.

* Kristen Bauer was runner-up last year, and she probably would’ve won this year all by herself if Decremer wasn’t leaving staff, so that’s why I declared a tie. Check out this incredible nomination

For the House Dems, Kristen Bauer is simply the best. In 10 years with the HDems, she has NEVER lost a race. Not even Shaw Decremer can say that.

In 2012 specifically, Kristen has proven herself to be invaluable to the HDems.

In the 2012 primary, Speaker Madigan had his first real primary challenger in 40 years - with quite a bit of new territory due to the remap. We all know that the Speaker never takes any chances. Who did he call upon to serve as the lead on his primary campaign? Kristen Bauer. She delivered.

In the 2012 general election, Kristen was sent to Decatur to lead Sue Scherer’s campaign - a campaign that was left licking its wounds after a brutal primary. Bauer was able to repair the relationships that were left strained after the primary and was also able to keep Scherer on the program - not an easy task to say the least. At the end of the day, Kristen led Scherer to a 24 point victory. People claim that this was a district that leaned Democratic, but not 24 points Democratic!

Kristen also took a number of newer staffers under her wing in the last few years. Many of these newer staffers served as leads and won a number of targeted campaigns (Moylan, Willis, etc.). Kristen Bauer is the obvious choice!

Honorable mention goes to Anne Schaeffer for her amazing work on the new map.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for best House Republican campaign staffer goes to Bob Stefanski

My nomination on the GOP side goes to Bob Stefanski who ran Susan Sweeney’s campaign. Stefanski dealt with a trio of unprecedented circumstances: a write-in candidate in a tier 1 race, an opponent with unparalleled union support and an incumbent GOP member who supported a dem. Stefanski turned a newbie candidate into one of the most impressive challengers of the fall. She was one of the top GOP fundraisers and most aggressive campaigners. She outperformed every GOP candidate in her area, but in this year, unfortunately that still wasn’t enough.

* Runner-up is perennial favorite and last year’s winner Nick Bellini

He was thrown into the Saviano race 3 weeks out and expected to fix a tough situation. He did more than any other staffer could’ve done and was 100% invested in Saviano. If he had been put on the race from day one maybe the outcome would have been different.

Honorable mention goes to Nick McNeeley, a crowd favorite.

* OK, let’s move on to today’s categories…

* Best legislative campaign staff director

* The Steve Brown Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Government Spokesperson

It’s all about intensity, folks, so don’t just throw a name out there. Write up something positive and strong for your candidate.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


39 Comments
  1. - Big fan - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 12:46 pm:

    Say what you want about Pat Quinn, but his press secretary Brooke Anderson is phenomenal. Even Carol Marin agreed when she nominated her for the 100 women to watch. Some spokesmen have a boss who understands how to stick to a message, and they can frequently look good as a result of that. Anderson does a great job despite her boss’s message inconsistency.


  2. - reformer - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 12:56 pm:

    For best legislative campaign staff director: It has to be between the House and Senate directors, who both provided their caucuses with veto-proof majorities.

    I vote for Will Cousineau, who had twice as many campaigns as his Senate counterpart. Will picked up seven seats to give Tom Cross a smaller minority than he started with a decade ago. Will also supervised Anne Schaeffer in drawing that helpful map that will keep Democrats in the majority through 2022. He kept Cross on the defensive, making him pour resources in to defend a seat in a solid red area, which McSweeney ultimately won. He took out the assistant minority leader, Skip. He got back Boland’s old seat. In short, it was a dominating performance.


  3. - Curious - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 1:06 pm:

    Brendan O’Sullivan was responsible for picking up 40 seats for the Senate Dems - a truly historic feat in modern Illinois politics. It was only his first cycle in charge of the Senate Dems, and he was able lead his team to win where they never had before, as well as fend off challenges that most thought were foregone conclusions. It wasn’t just the map or the President at the top of the ticket - and it was flat-out hard work. And he did it all with a level-head and easy-going manner. Hands down, he is to be one of the true rising stars in this business.

    The spokesperson question is a tough choice, but few people control the media like Mayor Emanuel, so Sarah Hamilton should win this year. She steadied the ship when she came over from CPD and his press office has consistently dominated the news cycle. She’s a top-notch communicator.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 1:11 pm:

    My vote goes to Will Cousineau. While Will might not be the best cheerleader, therapist, marriage counselor and drinking buddy, what Will is really, really, good at … is winning.

    Will “owned” the HGOP Senoir Staff, threw the “Fire Madigan” back at the HGOP and beat the HGOP Senior staff like a drum. Will had twice as many seats than the SDems to worry about, and Will ran circles around his HGOP counterpart.

    When you are Senior Staff, you don’t get Participatory Trophies , you win Seats.

    Will Cousineau appears to understand that better than some. Not taking anything away from SDems, as a whole or the leadership, but Will Cousineau ran as perfect of a cycle to defeat his oppponents as you can.


  5. - Joe Bidenopoulous - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 1:26 pm:

    On the first, it has to be Cousineau, right? I mean seriously, the man has proven it time and again, from holding the firewall in ‘10 against all odds to the crazy pickups of ‘12. OW said it best, what Will is really, really good at is winning. That’s his job and he does it with aplomb.

    Spokesman? Is Mica Matsoff still eligible? If so, she gets my vote. Professional, good with a quote, doesn’t take bait and does a real service for her principal, which in her case can be a challenge.


  6. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 1:34 pm:

    Gotta go with Will. If the staff wins all the awards then the lead dog should win too. He helped run the table despite the GOP/Media teamwork to trash anyone who ever met the Speaker. Many were left wondering if Will had driven through a couple other disricts(”You know I am a businessman,”Dwight “One Liner King” Kay and GmanJim)? The total rout would have drawn akin to what Cub supporters sometimes see.

    The Brown GH ought to go to Patterson since he got cheated yeaterday. Anyone who can learn to speak Forby that quick has winner written all over him.


  7. - Bruce - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 1:35 pm:

    Best legislative staff leader has to be John Lowder. No one knows the budget better in the entire state. Really, this should be no contest.


  8. - Tickle - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 1:57 pm:

    Will Cousineau - Is this really in question? I’ll limit myself when discussing previous election cycles except to say he held off the wave in 2010. In 2012 he added to the majority, not losing one Democratic race he was involved in. We should consider more than just the results on Election Day. He directs a team that shows no glitches collecting and filing petitions, throwing opponents off, winning primarys and then preparing members for the fall campaign. Lets not forget that Will does a lot more than just politics. He also upholds the same standard of excellence helping members execute their legislative agendas at the Capitol. What could this guy do if he only concentrated on politics?


  9. - Steve Brown - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 2:03 pm:

    Did I ever officially acknowledge my appreciation for being retired from this competition? It is an interesting take on the State of the State, pr, journalism and the dark world of Capt. Fax.

    I for one believe the next state construction plan should contain some cash for the erection of a giant horse shoe with names all winners notched on the sides.

    Merry Christmas to all. Just think how much work we have saved Rich this year — the endless days of polls and now this. Hit the snooze alarm Ethel


  10. - soccermom - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 2:12 pm:

    Patterson! He’s smart, he’s funny, and he has achieved the Vulcan mind meld with his principal.

    And here’s the thing — it’s points off if you nominate a spokesperson “in spite of ” a principal. As a spokescreature, your only job is to make your guy look good.


  11. - IMHO - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 2:13 pm:

    Definitely Brendan. What a perfect season for the Sen Dems, and he deserves a lot of the credit.

    As for best spokesperson, I’m going with John Patterson. He “came over to the dark side” from a successful career in journalism, so he understands how reporters tick. That’s been invaluable for the Sen Dems - and will be even more important with all those new members needing to make a name for themselves with the statehouse press corps. John has a quick wit but is always respectful of other people and their time. He may be paid to put a spin on things, but he still goes out of his way to get the story right and make sure his staff puts out top-quality work.


  12. - Joe Bidenopoulous - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 2:24 pm:

    == it’s points off if you nominate a spokesperson “in spite of ” a principal==

    Couldn’t possibly disagree more. Good principals are easy - they know what their message is, stay on it, and generally make your life better. A undisciplined principal is just difficult, and no spokesperson has the skill to make that principal disciplined - you can fault who they chose to work for, but you can’t fault their work in the role. They work in a more challenging environment and succeeding in that environment is that much more impressive.


  13. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 2:30 pm:

    Sorry, but the SBGH award must go to Squeezy.
    Same suffocating grip as Brown and tells the press about as much, too.


  14. - dave - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 2:33 pm:

    **In 2012 he added to the majority, not losing one Democratic race he was involved in.**

    Wrong… he lost Dee Beaubien’s race.

    I’d have to go with Brendan OSullivan - he ran a really, really impressive operation that just dominated. He didn’t just dominate in total seats won, but he dominated in margin of victories and fundraising as well. You simply cannot argue with his results.


  15. - 10th Indy - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 2:35 pm:

    Winning the Rodney Davis campaign has to put Mike Z in serious contention for leg. campaign lead. He took lesson’s learned from the Kirk 2010 race, along with a group of seasoned campaign staffers, and directed them with a laser focus. His understanding of voter ID and turnout was unique among republican congressional campaigns this year and definately played a critical role in putting Davis over the top. He is an intense, funny little lunatic and nobody sweats (literally) the details like he does.

    Government spokesperson? Gotta go with Brooke Anderson, a difficult boss makes her job harder than any other flack in the state and she does her work with grace.


  16. - Tickle - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 3:01 pm:

    Dave - I said Democratic race. Beaubien was an Independent. It’s all about the nuances.


  17. - Crazy Like A Fox - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 3:19 pm:

    Brendan O’Sullivan created a new program that not only gave candidates campaign managers but fundraisers, field directors, and more. 40 seats pretty much secures a veto proof majority for four years - no one else can say that.

    Aside from the facts and figures that measure the SDems success, Brendan somehow got Mike Jacobs over the hump. That says a lot.


  18. - walkinfool - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 3:36 pm:

    Will Cousineau for remarkable cool under pressure. He doesn’t talk about it, he just wins.

    For spokesperson, got to go with Patterson. He thinks and speaks like a great reporter, and therefore helps the press do their own jobs better.


  19. - Terrio - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 3:54 pm:

    Brendan O’Sullivan should take this one. Will Cousineau is great but he was given a well-oiled machine to run. Brendan O’Sullivan inherited nothing from his predecessor and built a well-oiled machine. The SDems are on top of the pack now.


  20. - Anton - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 3:56 pm:

    Brooke Anderson. C’mon. Her boss is Pat Quinn — pretty much the toughest job a flack in IL (or the U.S.) could ask for. The messaging has real been far more disciplined since she went over and the gov. doesn’t make it easy. Just look at how the Trib editorial board came around (if slightly) since she started.


  21. - SouthernIL - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 4:30 pm:

    Gotta second 10th Indy on Mike Z. In a year when several Republican Congressman lost their jobs - Mike, whose understanding of not only voter i.d. and turnout (as noted by 10th) but also polling and messaging clearly pushed Davis over the top. He led the campaign turning a guy who was virtually unknown into someone who is now called “Congressman Elect.”


  22. - Dewey Decimal - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 4:35 pm:

    Will Cousineau hands down. His boss is constantly under fire and being vilified left and right. Held everything together and exceeded expectations without demanding a lot of accolades. Orchestrated a map that helped bring the big wins and saw it through til the end. What a laser-focused Frenchman.


  23. - ISU86 - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 4:48 pm:

    Gotta go with Will Consineau. His skills are shown again and again, flaking for what has to be an almost daily potential disaster in the making. His abilities on campaings and in the halls of the Capitol showcase his ability to be well rounded and wear dozens of hats.


  24. - migwagin - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 5:13 pm:

    As a member of Brendan’s staff I may seem biased but it just has to be said - Brendan should definitely win this one.

    Brendan was a great leader for the Senate Dems this cycle for many reasons. He always keeps his cool under pressure (no easy feat in a year like this one). Many credit the map for successes Democrats had this year but 40 seats does not happen without careful planning about where and when to spend resources. Brendan developed a great plan and stayed the course. Most importantly he was a great manager of his staff and was always there to answer questions and help when needed.

    Brendan stepped up to the plate this cycle with great results and deserves to be commended for his efforts.


  25. - Nikita - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 5:16 pm:

    Brendan O’Sullivan… let me think, didn’t he coordinate all the campaigns? Oh yeah, thats right, he did. The one guy that is able to keep all the drama under the lid and move a lot of chess pieces moving. Gets my vote


  26. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 5:53 pm:

    Brooke Anderson gets my vote for SBGH. Working for Pat Quinn and still keeping your own sanity and credibility while the flipping and flopping is happening tells a great deal about the messenger.


  27. - bigwillystyle - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 6:05 pm:

    When it comes to campaign staff directors there is no one better than Will Cousineau. The guys lives and breathes his job. His sacrifice for the democratic party and house democrats knows no bounds. He even risks his life to make sure his candidates get priority ballot positions. The weekend before filing Will and his stunningly beautiful wife, Macy, campout at the Board of Elections building. That’s not exactly the safest of neighborhoods at 3am Sunday morning. No offense, but I don’t see Kevin Artl or Brendan O’Sullivan showing that kind of dedication to the cause!


  28. - What's My Name Fool - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 6:28 pm:

    Without a doubt - Will Cousineau. No disrespect to O’Sullivan’s efforts but the Senate already had a super majority - coupled with a new map and a GOP caucus that lagged far behind fundraising - means that while applaudable O’Sullivan’s efforts are yet up to the level of Cousineau’s ability and success.

    Cousineau bounced back from the 2010 elections were he lost a few seats in the Tea Party landslide (but still kept the majority with 64 seats) to pick up a super majority, hold off impending disaster in Southern Illinois where the prison closings and lack of concealed carry was supposed to destroy Dems. Lets not forget that many of his members were new recruits or recent appointees with little name ID.

    I could go on but much of what I wanted to say about Will was written earlier.

    To Rich. Love the horseshoes. You should get one for innovation in interactive journalism.


  29. - Winners Rock - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 7:28 pm:

    Spokesperson should go to Joe Tybor of the Illinois Supreme Court. Cameras in the courtroom is a huge deal and Tybor’s handling of the PR for the rollout was brilliant. Plus he’s a really nice guy.

    For campaign director you got to give it to Will Cousineau. Will accomplished something none of his predecessors could - a supermajority. Granted he may live to regret that, as I imagine it will be a challenge to rustle up all those members and keep them on task.


  30. - George - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 7:29 pm:

    Staff director: Will Cousineau. Madigan remained speaker after 2010 in large part to Will. Will should keep this award until he leaves or the Speaker does.

    Press: Joe Tybor. The Supreme Court finally allowed camera in the courtroom this year and Tybor has been everywhere working with media and judges to make the experiment work. He’s getting good coverage for the court, but also helped develop a working cameras policy in Illinois. No one else has had as much influence as a spokesman.


  31. - P.T. - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 7:32 pm:

    Brooke Anderson and Micah are rock solid, but until we know who came up with Squeezy the Pension Python, we really can’t run the risk of giving the Brown Award to any Quinn staffers.


  32. - The third rail - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 7:34 pm:

    No disrespect to the others, but this award is Patterson’s. Solid political instincts combined with a journalist’s background, Rolodex, and willingness to slay sacred cows and Oxford commas. And, from what I hear from staff in that office, he’s a decent manager as well.


  33. - Anon - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 7:38 pm:

    >And here’s the thing — it’s points off if you >nominate a spokesperson “in spite of ” a principal. >As a spokescreature, your only job is to make your >guy look good.

    So in that case can we give the award to Quinn in recognition of his work on behalf of Edgar’s legacy?


  34. - Judge Judy ain't sheat - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 7:48 pm:

    He won’t get the respect he deserves because most of the readers here probably don’t follow the Supreme Court but best spokesperson goes to Joe Tybor.

    Joe manages to take emotional issues, often contentious amongst the members of the court, and deliver a clear and concise message to the public.

    Maybe the best compliment for Joe is his anonymity. Isn’t a great spokesperson someone who does the job so well that all attention is given to the issue and not the person delivering it?


  35. - Bells - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 9:56 pm:

    Without a doubt Mike Z. In a year when Republicans struggled throughout Illinois, Mike Z put together a winning campaign in under 6 months. His knowledge of voter id, turnout and messaging clearly gave Davis the edge in the race.


  36. - ERB - Thursday, Dec 13, 12 @ 11:42 pm:

    Really should not be a question. Will Cousineau won the most contested seats and made it seam easy. How can you vote against pure domination. After all, what’s the point if you aren’t winning?


  37. - Coach - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 6:12 am:

    The best government spokesman is without question Joe Tybor with the Supreme Court. Joe charges into media relations with the thrust of a bulldozer, yet for more than a decade has delicately navigated the politics of reporting to seven revolving bosses (the justices) while simultaneously working in tandem with the AOIC (with its own agendas) and various other administrative peeps throughout the Illinois court system. Who’s up at 4 in the morning jamming out a breaking news release (all the while complaining about the late arrival of his morning paper)? That would be Joe. He’s a character and a tremendously effective advocate for his clients. He deserves this award.


  38. - 13thone - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 7:37 am:

    Shaw is certainly the “MadiGOONIEST”! He works hard and always follows through. Congratulations.


  39. - Mark It Dude - Friday, Dec 14, 12 @ 7:55 am:

    Will Cousineau and Joe Tybor.
    Couisneau for all the reason above. He does a great job and always delivers.
    Tybor because Cameras in the courtroom is a big deal and it has worked well. But for Tybor working with the media and the Judges, it could have blown up and the Supreme Court might have given up. Instead, cameras are in Court all over the state and all signs are it will continue to expand. Tybor deserves a lot of credit.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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        * The Affordable Care Act's Successful First...
        * Rep. Jan Schakowsky: The Affordable Care A...
        * Rep. Jan Schakowsky: The Republican Ryan B...
        * In immigration news: Republicans for refor...
        * House Republicans Are Stepping Up Efforts ...
        * Heterosexual GOP Congressman Aaron Schock ...
        * Illinois Republicans warm to legal status ...

        * Loading Koch Industries Website Too Many T......
        * Maryland and DC among worst for food aller......
        * Cleveland State University to reestablish ......
        * Convicted political boss Al Sanchez runnin......
        * Candidates make last filings for local, st......

        * Illinois Lt. Gov. Simon opposes pension le......
        * Dillard Odd Man Out on Pension Deal Reaction...
        * Sen. Mark Kirk sides with Rauner on pensio......
        * Governor's race infighting threatens pensi......
        * SCHOONERS - Home of Everyone's Favorite Be......

        * These members of the $20 million a year club paid the same Illinois state income tax rate as you did.
        * CTU’s Karen Lewis on today’s decision by the CPS board to wage war on African-American students, teachers and parents.
        * Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis jokes about Chicago shootings
        * Peoria mayor defends his use of police raid in response to Twitter account
        * Gov. Quinn backs plan to spend tax money for Obama library
        * Illinois Democrats plan organizational meeting
        * Madigan dismisses Illinois re-map effort, citing Republican racism
        * Oberweis offers election year mea culpa for past position on illegal immigration
        * 3-0 ruling by Illinois Appellate Court ruling defending Constitutional protections is an omen for pensions.
        * Uptown/Edgewater Mariano's Opens, And We've Got The Pictures To Prove It


        * Governor Quinn Proclaims “Wrigley Field Day” - Home of the Chicago Cubs Turns 100 Years Old Today
        * Governor Quinn Promotes Welcome Home Illinois Program at Annual Affordable Housing Conference - Addresses Industry Leaders on State’s Improving Housing Market and New Program for First-Time Homebuyers
        * IEMA Encourages Participation in ‘America’s PrepareAthon!’ on April 30 - First National Day of Action Expected to Draw Millions of Participants
        * Redeploy Illinois Program Diverts Thousands of Youth From Prison System, Saves State $60 Million - New analysis of prison diversion initiative shows 54 percent reduction in juvenile incarceration
        * Illinois EPA Recognized for 40 Year of Graduate Public Service Internship Partnership with University of Illinois at Springfield - Agency Internship Programs Help Students Gain Real-World Knowledge of Environmental Protection and Regulations




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