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Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards

Monday, Dec 17, 2012

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Democratic State Representative goes to Rep. Elaine Nekritz

For those of us exasperated by legislators who play it safe and duck tough issues to get re-elected, she shows another way to lead.

Rep. Nekritz has proven that an elected official can boldly make tough choices, stand up as a responsible guardian of the state and be re-elected. Regardless, she just couldn’t be any other way.

She’s immensely loved in her district, and takes on the most pressing issues in the state with grace, intelligence, stamina and the kind of optimism that comes from being capable and reliable.

As evidence, she has taken on: pension reform, led the finding of fact for the Derrick Smith expulsion, and got a bill through the House to allow the recording of on-duty police officers.

She voted to raise taxes because it had to be done, but then also was one of the only legislators to vote for facility closures because it had to be done. (Even the “cut-all-government” Republicans could not bring themselves to do that.) Without blinking an eye, she is openly smart-on-crime and supportive of criminal justice reform.

Her campaign slogan was “She’s honestly different” and it is the honest truth

* Runner-up goes to Rep. Greg Harris

Greg Harris IS a star. Harris understands the Process, can convey that Process to his District Constituents, and to Groups that Greg is advocating, all the while working the “levers” to get the task at hand completed.

Greg Harris is a work horse that has the temperature of the General Assembly clocked like few do. Harris can count noses. Harris knows where “noses” can be had, and works hard to build coalitions, not just voting blocks, to ensure whatever he is advocating has the necessary support to give the votes a valid foundation to withstand scrutiny.

While some may disagree with Greg Harris, they all know it will be difficult to outwork him on an issue, and almost impossible to outmanuever him, as Harris has an exceptional grasp of the workings of the General Assembly and the complete understanding of the interworkings of the politics of Springfield.

Freshman members coming in January would be very wise to talk to this “STAR” who passed “rising” a while back.

Freshman Rep. Kelly Cassidy got a lot of votes and earns an honorable mention.

* The Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Republican State Representative goes to Rep. Jim Durkin

Being in the Minority Party in any legislative body, it is difficult at times to be seen as “shining” or “the best” when you may be shut out of your goals. So, looking for Outstanding state Representative, Republican, you may have to look at different criteria.

Jim Durkin is seen, and known, as the person his Caucus looks to for leadership, be it as a Manager during the Smith removal, or as the touchstone for his Caucus as they advocate the “counter” to the House Majority.

Durkin is known to be a strong advocate for those who need a voice. As a legislator, Jim Durkin has leaned on his Prosecutor’s background to give clarity to muddied issues when emotions run high.

Jim Durkin’s leadership on the policy of the Caucus is seen in the manner the Caucus looks to make the arguement, especially when discussing Criminal Law. And it is not surprising that you will find others sitting across the aisle asking Jim Durkin’s opinion.

Jim Durkin has earned this Golden Horseshoe for the hard work and dedication he has shown. As Jim Durkin sits in the Minority, a vast majority of members, sitting on both sides of the aisle, look to Jim Durkin to get the benefit of his counsel, and his knowledge that has benefitted the entire House, not just the House Republicans.

* Runner-up is Rep. David Harris

Harris has been out front on budget negotiations, and on pension reform, and focuses not on political party loyalty or leadership, but rather on what will work for the state. He used to try to negotiate between Sunni, Shia, and Kurd factions in Baghdad. That’s almost prepared him for dealing in Springfield.

* OK, on to today’s categories…

* Best Democratic State Senator

* Best Republican State Senator

Make sure to fully explain your vote or I won’t even bother to count your nomination. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


30 Comments
  1. - siriusly - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 10:49 am:

    Best Republican State Senator is Kirk Dillard. The guy is not only highly professional in the way he deals with constituents, lobbyists and colleagues he’s genuinely nice and likable. He makes an effort to listen to all parties and respond to their concerns while still moving forward with his agenda. I just like the guy. Oh yeah, he’s extremely smart too, a quality we don’t see enough in Springfield.

    Best Democratic Senator is Dan Kotowski. Who else would volunteer in his caucus’ remap to take a harder district so that another seat could be added? The guy added GOP turf, worked his tail off and proved his value to his caucus and his leader. Politics aside, he’s principled, energetic, intelligent and hard working. Can’t say enough about Kotowski.


  2. - downstate hack - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 11:12 am:

    I would agree with the nominatation of Senator Dillard as the Republican. When he ran for Governor and as a Senator he always maintains a relatively open mind in today’s overly partisan debates and remains one of the few active and knowledgable Republican Senators.

    As for Democrat It think I would vote for Senator Harmon. He is articulate and knowledgable in many areas including energy policy and economic development.


  3. - Curious - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 11:19 am:

    D - Senator Don Harmon is not only the Senate President’s top lieutenant, he is one of the most able legislators in either house. He is a master of procedure, runs one of the most important committees (Executive) and is also an incredibly decent guy. He has earned this award this year.

    R - I voted for Senator Murphy last year, and I’m going to vote for him again. The reason is simple: when your party is irrelevant in the process, you need a tireless and competent spokesperson to advocate on the floor and in the press. This is something that Murphy does better than any other R in the Senate. He is a message bulldog.


  4. - Endangered Moderate Species - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 11:21 am:

    My Best Democratic State Senator nomination is for Mike Frerichs. Mike is well versed on many subjects, just not subjects dealing with State politics. He has a personality that warms up to everyone regardless of political affiliation. His constituency work is top notch. He covers as many events as his Senate schedule allows; this is always a difficult feat for a pol with a young family. He is not afraid to make tough votes and take stands on issues that may not be popular with groups in his home district. He has a great ability articulating his views to his constituency. His height allows him to be easily recognized. He may be the only State legislator who was a Division 1 letterman of a rowing team. I like Mike!


  5. - anon - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 11:22 am:

    Though on his way out, best Republican Senator MUST go to Senator Milner. As a popular member of law enforcement, his common sense approach to the issues of public safety brought the sides together around good policy. He is a great person who, while dealing with great personal adversity, served with distinction. He will be missed in the Illinois State Senate.

    My vote for best Democrat is a tough one. Senator Harmon is incredibly knowledgeable of the issues, and digs in to fight for what is right. Senator Sullivan is a good man who represents his constituents well. However, my vote goes to Senator Kotowski. He is a hard charger who wins tough elections. He advocates for budgetary common sense, and passed the Budgeting For Results law. He has also taken impassioned positions on guns and mental health. In light of recent events, I look to Senator Kotowski to be a leader in the Senate working with colleagues from across the political spectrum to move the state in the right direction. He has a bright future, and I’m proud to call him a friend.


  6. - Boone's is Back - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 11:35 am:

    Best Dem State Senator- Don Harmon- he has really proved his chops in leadership, is fair and straightforward, and is well respected amongst both sides of the aisle.

    Best GOP Senator- Christine Radogno- staved off a challenge as Minority leader and is a moderate in an increasingly right wing party. Has good ties to the Hispanic community through groups like UNO, and a good vision for where the party should be heading.


  7. - CircularFiringSquad - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 12:27 pm:

    This is incredbly hard because of the high level of excellence.
    How about Mike Jacobs..targeted for extinction, sure loser, definite GOP pick-up AND HE WINS GOING AWAY.
    The GOPer award can only go to Senate Minorty Leader who after developing a clever plan to make her caucus smaller goes on to win reelction as leader. Cannot get any better than that

    Still scratching our heads over your failure to give Skip his final award. How unfair.


  8. - WAK - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 12:30 pm:

    Best Democratic State Senator is David Koehler. When it comes to the issues Dave is excellent and his knowledge of various subject matters is impressive. While, my personal experience with the ILGA is short, only a couple years, during that time Dave has appeared to me as a very effective and respected legislator who leads on important issues regarding justice. From supporting sustainable agriculture and local food to civil unions and labor unions Dave is great! I wish I could say he was my State Senator.


  9. - Horseshoe Voter - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 12:50 pm:

    This is a really hard choice. I want to vote for a whole bunch of Senate Dems right now, but given it’s his last year for it, I’m going with Sen. Maloney. He’s a conscientious legislator with a strong work ethic. He doesn’t care about being showy or getting press, he cares about helping his constituents and making higher education more affordable and better performing. He’s so genuine and he will be missed.

    Republican: Sen. Murphy. Smart guy who has a good grasp on complicated issues. And seems to have a whole lot going on, but is also really accessible. And I appreciate that he doesn’t always automatically say no for the sake of it - like when he didn’t jump on the bandwagon trash talking Quinn’s trip to China to boost trade.


  10. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 1:19 pm:

    Best Republican state Senator - Matt Murphy has emerged as someone who is intellegent on the issues but evenly intellegent to the political aspects of the business at hand, and still … Murphy understands that relationships with other members, on both sides of the aisle, is the best way to see progress.

    It is quite easy, especially in the Minority, to take everything so personal. Matt Murphy does not forget that to get something you want done, you will need to work with those who disagree with you on different issues. Common Ground leads to some good solutions.

    It’s about working for good bills, and working together, and Matt Murphy understands the adage, you can disagree, and still not going to be disagreeable.

    Matt Murphy has done a tremendous job working in his Caucus and in the State Senate. I wish him well, next session. I feel better knowing Matt Murphy is in the Republican Caucus.


  11. - Loop Lady - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 1:49 pm:

    Best Dem. Senator is Harmon…a real workhorse, able to work with anyone, and his word is his bond. Quietly effective and shares the successes with others.

    Best Rep. Senator is Dillard. A moderate who isn’t afraid to be independant. A standout in a caucus with mostly go along folks contributing little to the discourse. I’ll never forget the heat he took for speaking up for Obama in ‘08…

    I ditto the comments above about Skip…


  12. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 2:39 pm:

    On the D side, this is a no-brainer. While there are quite a few strong folks - Hutchinson, Steans, Frerichs, Sullivan - there is one standout and that’s Harmon.

    On the R, I’d have to say the most measured, respected member has to be Kyle McCarter…ok, just kidding. Seriously though Luechtefeld is such a solid no-BS, guy, he’s really great to work with, even when you’re on the other side.


  13. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 2:45 pm:

    ===Still scratching our heads over your failure to give Skip his final award. How unfair.===

    Mark Beaubien Lifetime Achievement is still to be decided…


  14. - Dan Bureaucrat - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 2:54 pm:

    Republican:
    The winner has to be Senator Millner.

    He’s more interested in good policy than partisanship. He listens to other people and thinks through arguments and is not afraid to say, to anyone, “You have a good point there.” In fact, he said that a lot in Criminal Law and in SPAC where he used his law enforcement credentials to bring information and analysis to the table. Never, as many other law enforcement folks do, to claim authority and shut-down discussion. He helped create a bipartisan consensus to take a hard look at the impact of sentencing and other policies.

    Most of all he is kind, humble and approachable to anyone on both sides of the aisle, and greatly respected by members of both houses and both parties. I would much rather have a conversation with him where we disagree than talk to less thoughtful people who agree.

    Many, many people are so sorry to see him leave the Senate, and we hope he will consider a return to the General Assembly or another office. We need more people like him in all forms of public service.

    And of course, best wishes to Senator Millner and his family.


  15. - walkinfool - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 2:56 pm:

    D: Kotowski for his unending enthusiasm for fixing the budget process, for fighting for those who need it most in Human Services, for fighting to reform contracts, compensation, and other legislative abuses. He is remarkably ethical, and you’ve got to give credit for that.

    R: Murphy is much better at talking than doing, but the Senate R’s need his PR leadership and electoral insights more than ever.


  16. - reformer - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 3:16 pm:

    Millner won last year. I’d give it to Sen. Chris Lauzen (CPA). While I didn’t always agree with him, I admire a pol who is willing to take on his own party’s bosses, instead of just engaging in the usual partisan finger-pointing.

    Specifically, Lauzen led the drive to give GOP voters the right to elect members of the state GOP central committee, the way Democratic voters have. He’s a rare pol who follows principles, even when it leads to criticism and worse from his own side.

    On the Democratic side,Sen. Dan Kotowski is an energetic and talented guy. I admire him for voting to raise the income tax, even though his vote wasn’t needed (it got 31 votes.) For a suburban legislator to take that vote was courageous in an institution not known for profiles in courage.


  17. - Fantasma - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 4:32 pm:

    D - I have to agree with Sen. Harmon. There are a lot of legislators that can’t find time to squeeze someone in, and Sen. Harmon is not one of them. With so much on his plate, he still manages to find time to meet with people and genuinely cares. Even if he only has a couple of minutes, you never feel rushed and he makes you feel like your one issue is all he is concentrating on at that time.

    He’s also super intelligent, it’s likely that you only need to go over an issue with it once for him to get it.

    Even more important, if he’s not with you on an issue he’s straight forward with you as to why, and he’ll try to find common ground that you can agree on.

    He is a true statesman, and Springfield would be better off with more Senators like Don Harmon.

    R - Pam Althoff. Another straight shooter, Pam will listen to reason and be honest about whether or not she’s with you. In a time where a lot of legislators take the easy way out and say “let me think about it” or “I really need to look at this more” Pam will tell you yes or no, and more importantly why. She’s not a strict partisan legislator and is always willing to listen to your argument. Yet another type of legislator that we need more of in Springfield.


  18. - downhereforyears - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 4:48 pm:

    D- Harmon
    R- Dillard


  19. - John A Logan - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 4:49 pm:

    On the Republican side, hands down David Luectefeld. He is a level head, and would have been minority leader if he had not turned the role down to be able to spend time with his grand children. He has always had a listening ear, and is respected by members on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers. If everyone had his even keel the state would be better off.

    On the democratic side. Gary Forby. The man has survived over 3 million dollars of republican money spent against him. Brings home the bacon to his district, and as much as Ricky Hendon once reflected the people of his district Gary reflects the people of his.


  20. - 1776 - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 5:16 pm:

    John Milner is a class act - a disappearing breed in the Capitol unfortunately. He should win as a going away.

    However, pound for pound, the single best debater in the entire General Assembly is Dale Righter. He is bright, articulate and often the floor leader. He’s a loyal and able assistant leader who also put his money where his mouth was in the election. Name another member (not one of the four tops) in recent memory who gave $200,000 in an election to candidates.

    On the Dem side, I’d say that John Sullivan is at the top. Fights for rural areas effectively and a great leader.


  21. - Dan Bureaucrat - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 6:26 pm:

    I’d like to vote only for the bravest and the brightest, but it wasn’t the year for personal stardom. It was the year for muttering under the breath and doing what you can.

    I can’t disagree with those who voted for Harmon and Kotowski, and although I disagree with Sullivan on important issues, I was actually rooting for his election and urged his constituents to go out and volunteer for him. He must be doing something right.

    Mattie Hunter deserves praise. She is universally known as a truly excellent person and defender of her district. She’s smart and wise, works with everyone and will tell you the God’s honest truth. I have seen her take time that she doesn’t have to come to meetings, learn about issues and talk to her constituents. She holds the office for the right reason. She cares about people and it shows. She’s involved.

    Jacqueline Collins and Toi Hutchinson are both right-minded, strategic and have skin in the game. They are passionate about their work.

    Donne Trotter is a very sharp, talented and funny person. It’s a fact that no unbelievably stupid airport incident can change.

    My vote is Mattie Hunter. I’m glad there are so many good choices and that I’m not Rich Miller.


  22. - Jerry - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 8:40 pm:

    D - Senator Gary Forby. Forby is a loyal, straight shooter who will always give you an honest answer. He works harder for his district than any other legislator and is personally invested in every issue that affects his district.

    R - Pam Althoff. She is great to work with and very helpful with issues that require compromise on both sides.


  23. - circular firing squad - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 9:01 pm:

    only 22 votes….3rd house must have been a hoot


  24. - dave - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 10:08 pm:

    I’ll had another vote for Harmon. It doesn’t get much better than Harmon - he is smart, engaged, principaled. His control over Senate Exec is nothing short of brilliant - no one in the Statehouse chairs a committee as effectively as he does. And his ability to understand an issue is unmatched.

    On the GOP side… I’d have to with Sen. Althoff. She is somewhat of an anomaly in the Senate GOP - a reasonable moderate. She is very approachable, and she is engaged and knowledgeable. She is truly interested in finding the best solution for a problem. Her and I often don’t agree on issues (or at least on her votes), but I will almost always know how she thinks about it, and she won’t lie to me about it.

    Runner up goes to Matt Murphy — I used to think that Murphy was all talk. But he is actually very approachable and knowledgable. He and I may NEVER agree on an issue, but we can always talk about it.


  25. - reformer - Monday, Dec 17, 12 @ 10:26 pm:

    Those who dislike the Smoke-Free IL Act would like Althoff since she was a NO vote.


  26. - Not in the Know - Tuesday, Dec 18, 12 @ 5:18 am:

    Perhaps I’m in the minority but I keep seeing the same old names (GOP side) of those that have been in this game for so long, and IMO, have been part of the problems and less of the solutions this state has faced for many years. I realize no one is perfect and doesn’t always have the answers, but I’m looking for someone who will think outside the box and will lead with actions and not broken promises. I don’t always agree with everything he’s voted on but Sen. Ron Sandack has definitely set the example by turning down pension and health care benefits; pushed legislation to end it for the GA; Term limits; reached out to the other side with the Dream Act, Temp. Drivers Lic., and ending the death penalty (not a fan of that vote). You know what he’s thinking because he’s probably the only member who puts everything on his website, Facebook, and Twitter account…sometimes he talks too much, but at least he’s approachable. Bottom line he approaches everything as a part time legislator and not a career politician, I can’t say the same for the aforementioned names on the GOP side.


  27. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 18, 12 @ 8:33 am:

    I held off as long as I could on the Democratic Senator, because there are many worthy members that should be nominated.

    I am voting for Jeff Schoenberg for the SDems. As a member of the Caucus, Schoenberg has done an outstanding job representing his District, and has been a thoughtful member of the Senate since his arrival. Schoenberg has also been a string advocate on Social Issues, and has been recognized for his hard work on those issues.

    As Jeff Schoenberg leaves the Senate, he should be thanked for his hard work and dedication to the people of Illinois. It is quite easy to be overshadowed by so many talented members in that Caucus, but Jeff Schoenberg and his record in the Illinois Senate should be seen as a job well done, and we should thank Jeff Schoenberg for the dedication, thoughtfulness, and compassion he brought to the Illinois Senate.


  28. - old gray mare - Tuesday, Dec 18, 12 @ 9:06 am:

    Senate Dem: Don Harmon. He is extremely well-versed in the issues and a strong but rational advocate for his positions. He is one of the best of the leaders when it comes to chairing floor action.

    Senate Rep: Pam Althoff. She works hard, and she doesn’t just work in a bipartisan fashion, she avoids the snark on the Senate floor that other nominees here - Murphy, Lauzen, also McCarter and Righter - cannot seem to speak without evoking. Given their super-minority state, she represents better than many of her caucus peers.


  29. - Dizzy Cow - Tuesday, Dec 18, 12 @ 9:16 am:

    The R. has to be Millner. In a building where no one can get anything done the guy is able to constantly pass legislation on a bi-partisan basis. Yup, and he’s in the minority. There are some really principled guys on the republican bench, Lauzen, Murphy, Sandack etc. However, none of them work with the soft touch, personality or good will that Millner commands of his colleagues . Millner has the ability to maintain civility, good humor and above all an open mind even in the most heated discussions. (And I’ve had some with him.) The man is a giant and possibly the last of a dying breed. I know he won last year but a repeat is not even close to unwarranted.

    On the dem side. where’s the love for Cullerton?


  30. - Zoble21 - Tuesday, Dec 18, 12 @ 5:59 pm:

    Cultra R
    Best voting record house and senate…didn’t allow speical interest guide his vote, He will be missed.


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        * Illinois approved for No Child Left Behind waiver
        * Illinois Medicaid paying for dead clients
        * Democrats: Illinois schools could face major cuts
        * State prisons to use costly drug for hepatitis C
        * University: State pension reform had costly mistake
        * DNR mining-oversight official fired
        * Clock ticking for states to adopt health exchanges
        * GOP lawmaker objects to 9-0 vote for Obama library


        * Dunn gets four years for involuntary manslaugther
        * Good Friday marked with Way of the Cross
        * Three Tilden residents face meth charges
        * Sugary drink tax bitter for some
        * Two Pomona residents face meth charges
        * UI-Carle med school partnership urged
        * Who lives here? April 19, 2014
        * Woman kept positive spirit after being hit by drunk driver
        * Nothing wrong with a little 'tree bling'
        * 'Insurgent educator' to talk urban farming


        * The 10th District money race
        * Aurora Democrat calls out IHSA
        * Lawyers: Ill. hazing law vague, unconstitutional
        * Ill. House OKs lower-cost hunting bill for seniors
        * Quinn’s running mate takes new consulting job

        * Aaron Schock selfies from the audience at ...
        * Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure® A...
        * Schock Praises Illinois Counties for Top N...
        * GOP House Dinner boosts Rep. Aaron Schock ...
        * Rep. Aaron Schock in Japan, China, South K...
        * Lewis lauds Dirksen's role in civil rights...
        * Schock opponent Darrel Miller speaks to te...
        * Congressman Wants IRS Official Prosecuted ...
        * Representative Aaron Schock on Tax Reform ...
        * Schock: IRS official should be prosecuted ...

        * 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......

        * ComEd seeks another rate hike to help pay for its "Smart Grid"
        * 1000th same sex couple marries in Cook County
        * East Chicago Blues
        * The Weekend Desk Report
        * Ben Joravsky tells us where the pension money went. And who spent it.
        * Keeping retirement weird. Stopping the Tom Foolery.
        * Three Marquette University fraternities facing sexual misconduct charges
        * Sen. Durbin's e-cig restrictions 'For The Children' could be deadly for adults
        * The [Wednesday] Papers
        * Joel Quenneville's Horse Just May Make It To The Kentucky Derby After All


        * Governor Pat Quinn Takes Clemency Action
        * Proposed Rules for Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act Filed
        * Adopt-A-Highway Spring Cleanup Begins Today - Annual Event Honors Earth Day, Tackles Roadside Litter After Harsh Winter
        * Illinois Schools Win No Child Left Behind Waiver - Federal Government Approves Flexibility Needed for Successful Implementation of State Strategies to Improve Student Learning
        * Illinois filmmakers invited to enter state’s Shortcuts competition - 7th year for Illinois Film Office contest honoring local talent




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