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Question of the Day - Golden Horseshoes, Round 3

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* Here are your categories…

* Best Statehouse lobbyist - Contract (the “hired guns” in the building)

* Best Statehouse lobbyist - In-house (Business/corporate, labor, major association, etc.)

* Best Statehouse lobbyist - Do-gooder

* Best Statehouse “insider”

I broke the lobsters up into categories at your request. As always, remember that I look at intensity of the responses a whole lot more than I look at actual vote tallies. So, explain your votes or your favorites may not win.

Also, please do your best to nominate people in all four categories. Thanks.

* Yesterday’s commenters were so adamantly and numerically in favor of Shaw Decremer for best legislative campaign staffer that it was a pretty easy decision on my part. Decremer works for House Democratic staff…

Best legislative campaign staffer has to be Shaw Decremer - pulling Mike Smith from the brink in ‘06, McAsey in ‘08 blew out Hassert, and Mussman against the wave in ‘10. Everyone else is a pretender to the throne. Best=wins. Show me anyone else with that track record in seriously competitive races.


He often tells DPI and those “above him” to take a hike when he feels they are moving in the wrong direction. He is, without a doubt, the best campaign manager in Illinois.

Decremer also had a lot to do with the House Dems’ other suburban wins. He’s the hands-down winner. Honorable mention goes to Heather Weir Vaught, who worked with Decremer on the Michelle Mussman campaign.

* Best staffer for the constitutional and congressional campaigns goes to Eric Elk, who ran the Kirk for Senate effort. Eric was one of my personal choices, but others chimed in as well…

He steered the Kirk campaign to victory in spite of some serious crises within the campaign. Yes, Alexi was less than perfect, but Elk won a top tier US Senate race in a blue state with a favorite son president. Elk managed the money well, managed the candidate as well as anyone could, assembled a devoted staff and laughed the whole time.

Mary Morrissey, who ran Lisa Madigan’s campaign, gets the honorable mention. Mary won a gimme race, but commenters love her and admire her abilities.

* Opinion was somewhat divided on best campaign spokesperson, but I’m giving it to Aaron Chambers because he helped win a campaign that many thought was a dead duck…

Justice Kilbride got the Tribune endorsement and Crain’s wrote an editorial calling Justpac’s attacks a stain on the business community. That those two publications went for Kilbride is nothing less than amazing. It’s not a coincidence Chambers was the spokesperson.

Honorable mention goes to Patty Schuh. Bill Brady didn’t win, but commenters rightly pointed out that Patty was instrumental at honing his message.

* And even though he’s won it before, Steve Brown was the almost universal choice of commenters yesterday…

He’s ubiquitous and has the institutional knowledge and discipline to stay perfectly on message. Beyond that, though, he’s exceptionally quotable and while that’s one of the more desirable traits in a spokesman, it’s one that more and more spokesfolk are lacking.

Adam Smith’s comment suggests that we may have to just give him a permanent award…

Steve Brown will win this award for best gov’t spokesperson until further notice.

Ashley Cross at Gov. Quinn’s office wins honorable mention for this single nomination…

The woman declared war on Wisconsin - you can’t beat that with a stick.


Many congratulations to all our winners.

posted by Rich Miller
Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 9:17 am


  1. Contract Lobbyist - There are a lot of good choices, but the nod goes to Mike McClain. Connected, personable and knows where all the bodies are buried. Honorable mention to Mike Kasper, Neil Flynn, John Nicolay, and Jim Morphew.

    Business Lobbyist - Jim Monk with the Illinois Energy Association. Jim keeps a low profile, but is one of the smartest guys in the building and one of the reasons the utilities stay successful under the dome.

    Do-Gooder Lobbyist - Jonathan Goldman has been around for a long time and has been able to consistently get stuff done for the environment, education, and consumers without making waves.

    Insider - The consummate insider is the one and only Big Jim Thompson. When he walks into the building everyone around takes notice, and you know the deal is going down, whatever the deal might be.

    Comment by Don't Worry, Be Happy Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 9:36 am

  2. I haven’t commented on the awards because I just don’t know enough of the players, but I do know Steve Brown, which may be an indication of his ubiquity. Perhaps that award should be named in his honor (ie. “the Steve Brown Golden Horseshoe for Best Gov’t Spokesperson”) and then opened up to others of the craft in future years.

    Comment by Pot calling kettle Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 9:41 am

  3. One of the reasons that Steve Brown is so ubiquitous is that his boss has been so long-lived in his position as Speaker. Brown has had the time to perfect his craft, though that is in no way meant to diminish his abilities.

    Comment by Anonymous Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 9:46 am

  4. OK, enough with Brownie. We had tons of talk about him yesterday. Let’s move on to today’s contest, please.

    Comment by Rich Miller Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 9:50 am

  5. Best Statehouse lobbyist: Tom Cullen – Members lover him, staff loves him and he has access to the Speaker.
    Best Statehouse lobbyist, business.corporate: Eileen Mitchell for AT&T. They passed a major deregulation bill in a blue state during an election year with a unanimous vote.
    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Do-gooder – Dick Lockhart. His years of service alone should give him the award.

    Comment by Anonymous Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 9:51 am

  6. Best contract lobbyists: Dems, Tom Cullen and Mike McClain. Both get job done very well. GOP, Carter Hendren and Dave Sullivan. Both are key in helping their clients.
    Best In House: Eileen Mitchell without question. She knows how to deal with many big egos and get the job done.
    Best do gooder: Dick Lockhart

    Comment by Fan Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:06 am

  7. There are four categories, so please try to answer them all.

    Comment by Rich Miller Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:11 am

  8. Best hired gun- Bill Filan. A staple at the Capitol. Has the experience to get the job done. Honorable mention to Liz Brown. Hard worker, I get tired just watching her work during Veto.

    Best business lobbyist- Rob Karr, IRMA. Always on the rail and delivers for the business community.

    Best do-gooder- the crew at the IELPC (Ilinois Enviromental Law Policy Center)

    Insider- Mike McClain- Has the ear of all the leaders.

    Comment by lobbyistwithpicks Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:12 am

  9. * Best Statehouse lobbyist -Jim Morphew. He’s unassuming and does his work with “class”
    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Mike Horstman, Illinois Optometric Association. Been battling with ISMS and IAO for years and has held his own against the big boys with some impressive results

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Dick Lockart, agree with Anonymous 9:51

    * Best Statehouse “insider”-Jim Thompson

    Comment by Eddie V Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:18 am

  10. Enough with all the MJM guys, yeah we get it, there are only a choosen few but does that make them the best?

    Best hired gun- John Nicolay a true worker for a hired gun.

    Best business lobbyist- Mark Denzler with IMA solid to the core and knows the issues inside and out.

    Best Labor Lobbyist- Sean Stott all that agenda so little time
    Best do-gooder- Jennifer Kottler always on the move

    Insider- Rich Miller hands down

    Comment by Anonymous Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:23 am

  11. Contract Lobbyist: Mike McClain & Mike Kasper make things happen. You know if they are involved something is moving.

    Lobbyist Business/Labor: A couple….the union firefighters seem to have a great team that covers a lot of ground and is well respected. The Illinois Energy Assoc. with Jim Monk does a real nice and effective job.

    Lobbyist-Do-Gooder: Dave Sullivan….personable, likeable, knows the system very well and clients know they are in good hands.

    Insider- Rich Miller….intelligent, hard working and very well known. There is only one reason the political junkies read him everyday…..for INSIDE information. The man has set the standard as the ultimate insider.

    Comment by I-80 North Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:31 am

  12. Contract Lobbyist: Mike McClain. All the Big Guns are heavy hitters, but I give McClain the edge for Sportsmanship. McClain understands that the guy on the other side of the table today could be a client or atleast an ally tomorrow, so he treats everyone fairly, honestly, and with respect.

    In-house: Julie Sullivan. Who loves realtors? Nobody, really, except everyone in the statehouse, thanks to Julie’s personality and hard work. But don’t let her smile fool you: she’s tough as nails and rarely loses.

    Do-Gooder: Tough call, but I still have to give the edge to Dave Kolata. Kolata doesn’t spend as much time in the Capitol since he became ED of Citizens Utility Board - primarily because he’s too busy touring the state, talking to the media, and kicking the crap out of the energy industry. There’s an army of Big Guns lined up against Kolata, yet he more than holds his own.

    Runner up goes to Sean Noble with Voices for Illinois Children.

    Insider: Collectively, ALL the legislative secretaries.

    Comment by Yellow Dog Democrat Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:31 am

  13. I am not eligible for any award, so move along, please. Thanks.

    Comment by Rich Miller Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:34 am

  14. Contract Lobbyist: Have to go with Mike McClain with Carter Hendren a close second.

    Association/Biz/Labor: Mark Denzler at the IMA has earned respect from both sides of the aisle and labor. On the labor side, the Laborer’s Sean Stott has no equal when it comes to knowledge, ability and respect.

    Do-gooder: When Dick Lockhart shows up, everyone listens…as well they should. Dick is an institution and treats everyone with dignity and respect. Even when you disagree with Dick, you really want to try to compromise with him.

    Insider: Again…even if he isn’t lobbying the issue, Mike McClain knows more about how things are shaking out that the next 10 guys combined.

    Comment by Commonsense in Illinois Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:41 am

  15. * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Kasper
    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - In-house - Eileen Mitchell; you can’t argue with results. Not a single no vote.
    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - do-gooder - Jack Darin, Sierra Club
    * Best Statehouse “insider” - Miller, of course

    Comment by Other Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:42 am

  16. Gosh I love to talk about Brownie…but.

    Let me thank the academy….

    Seriously, let me accept on behalf of all who ply these waters.

    It is no easy task. It is complicated by reduced media resources and sagging editor/news director interest — unless it involves name calling or setting folks on fire.

    The task is also complicated by the new trend to pre-report the news ( i.e. slam a few unverified comments on the ‘net and call for the other side) and the uprising of websites that parrot published material with less than well thought out opinion. Since it is opinion it does not need to well thought out.

    There is no one spot to get a point across. No take Steve Neal to lunch or drop a call to INC. Without trying to dis anyone, no one commands that attention in this day and age.

    Rich is an unique oasis in the midst of today’s biz. We do not always agree. I am not as ‘net savvy as I probably should be. But it is what it is.

    There are many others around Illinois who do this job very well. Their bosses should appreciate them.
    Thanx and Happy Holidays

    Comment by Steve Brown Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 10:53 am

  17. Contract Lobbyist: Steve Zahn. I appreciate contract lobbyists who really know what they’re talking about.

    In-House Lobbyist: Pat Devaney is extremely effective. Got his guys pulled out of the original two-tier bill. Everyone on the labor side of the debate followed Pat’s lead in negotitaing their reform bill and it was quite reasonable in the end.

    Do-Gooder Lobbyist: Sean Noble at Voices for IL Children is great - personable, informed, eloquent, and strikes a practical balance between asking for funding and recognizing the budget crisis.

    Comment by Horseshoe Voter Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 11:15 am

  18. Best Statehouse lobbyist — Liz Brown. She is consistently making some of the older hands look good with efforts
    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Dave of the biz guys
    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Lindsay Hansen (PQ)

    * Best Statehouse “insider” Mike McClain trying to define him as a “lobbyist” is like saying Superman is an o.k. flyer.

    Comment by CircularFiringSquad Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 11:25 am

  19. Once again, here are my personal preferences…

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Contract - Dave Sullivan. What other former Republican legislator/staffer do you know who was working the civil unions bill this year? He was an unsung hero of that effort.

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - In-house - Year in, year out, Dave Vite is the best. But I think I have to go with others above and say Eileen Mitchell. That was, indeed, quite a feat.

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Do-gooder - Daria Mueller. Brought together a large cadre of fellow do-gooders to do good for the homeless and the poor.

    * Best Statehouse “insider” - Mike McClain. He won it last year, which was the first year we did it, so maybe we should make this the “Mike McClain Award for Best Insider” or something next year. Consistently the best insider, year after year. Nobody does it better.

    Comment by Rich Miller Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 11:52 am

  20. * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Contract - Tom Cullen

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - In-house - Mark Biel - knows his industry & the members as well as anyone

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Do-gooder - Darin & the enviros aren’t bad picks - look at the boom in clean energy jobs

    * Best Statehouse “insider” - Mike McClain. Rich, of course. How do you do it and not burn bridges?

    Comment by Suburbs Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 12:41 pm

  21. Contract: Dave Sullivan manages with grace and courtesy to use his former legislator clout.
    In-house: Mark Denzler has been in the middle on issues like workers comp reform.
    Do-gooder: Jonathan Goldman played a key role this year in keeping education funding level while everything else was getting cut.
    Insider: Bill Luking knows more about what is happening day-to-day than anyone, including the leaders themselves.

    Comment by ace Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 12:43 pm

  22. Rich, you have a great list! My nominations:

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist (contract) - Rich said it best. Sullivan is a class act and proved that he can get the job done.

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist (Business/corporate, labor, major association, etc.) - Dave Vite is always at the top of the list (maybe it should be named after him), but this year it has to go to Eileen Mitchell. Getting the telecom bill approved was no small feat, particularly given that all of the leaders had a hand in it. She somehow got the leaders, the Governor, and the Attorney General’s office to agree on this monsterous package. That right there is enough to claim the prize.

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist (Do-gooder): Barry Matchett routinely goes up against some of the meanest SOBS, but always pulls through with some type of victory.

    * Best Statehouse “insider” - If you look up “insider” you’ll see a photo of McClain.

    Comment by umm Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 12:46 pm

  23. Best contract is definately Dave Sullivan he definately knows how to get the job done! But he gets it done by always treating legislators, lobbyist and staff members with respect!!

    Best business I feel Matt Davidson has always got things done for whichever group he is working with!

    Best do-gooder Betsy Mitchell always working hard but doing it with grace and a smile on her face.

    Best Insider- Bill Luking always around knowing what’s going on even in the dark tunnels!

    Comment by Tired Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 1:36 pm

  24. I really like Neil Flynn. I’m more so around federal and county/municipal politics, but Neil is a nice guy who works hard and many people I know and respect speak of him in a glowing manner. And Jim Morphew spoke to a couple of my college classes, so I’ll throw him in for good measure. :)

    Anyone with AFSCME, SEIU and the two teacher unions (IEA and IFT) deserve the nod. For cripe’s sakes - they helped stave off massive layoffs in the worst budget year on record.

    Dr. Joseph Nyre is my best do-gooder. The Hope School is a wonderful place and they are ably led by Dr. Nyre, who has shown himself to be a good advocate on his school’s and other autism cause behalves.

    I’ll decline on the insider portion. Sorry, Rich.

    Comment by Team Sleep Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 2:54 pm

  25. * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Contract - Kip Kolkmeier. May not be seen as a heavy hitter, but is a workhorse getting the job done.

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - In-house - Eileen Mitchell. That was some heavy lifting she did.

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Do-gooder - Jonathan Goldman. He’s well respected and routinely has big wins.

    * Best Statehouse “insider” - Mike McClain. As Rich said, nobody does it better.

    Comment by Anonymous Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 3:12 pm

  26. Contract - Kasper or McClain

    In-House - John Hooker, ComEd. Is there really any other candidate? What ComEd wants they get primarily because Hooker’s relationships are deep and he plays them very, very well.

    Do-Gooder - Agree with the Dick Lockhart nominations.

    Insider - Bill Luking.

    Comment by NL Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 3:41 pm

  27. * Best Statehouse lobbyist “Contract” - Mike Kasper - Has he ever not delivered for a client? And he does his job without most people even knowing he is working a bill. To me, that is what every client wants, success and anonymity.

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist “In-house” - Eileen Mitchell - College professors rewrite text books year in and year out with more notice from the public than Mitchell did with AT&T this year - and then the cherry on top - yes votes galore.

    * Best Statehouse lobbyist “Do-gooder” - Barry Matchett - In this tough political season its not easy to push an agenda that oftens conflicts with entrenched special interests.

    * Best Statehouse “insider” - Mike Kasper - What is an insider? I think it is someone who can sit in the room of Illinois’ most powerful politicians or walk up to just about any secretary/staffer and ask “can you give me a hand?” and have the knowledge, relationships, charm and chutzpah to get want he needs to get the job done, no matter how big or small the bill.

    Comment by If Darcy's only had a Golden Horseshoe Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 4:13 pm

  28. Contract Lobbyist - Tom Cullen with special mention to up and comer Mike Thomson. Both are
    smart, hard working and true professionals.

    In-house lobbyist - Eileen Mitchell 59-0 and 118-0 for the biggest telecommunications bill in Il
    since 85 - in an election year, and in a Demcratic
    state speaks for itself.

    Do-gooder - Kappy Laing, repositioning the U of I
    and trying to find $$$ in this environment is a
    major challenge.

    Insider - Mike McClain - no one is more plugged in.

    Comment by FDR Democrat Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 4:15 pm

  29. On the do gooder - J. Goldman
    He kept the enviros in the game for years while at the Environmental Council, and since going solo has gotten significant cash for electric plug in cars.

    Comment by cleanairguy Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 5:02 pm

  30. I didn’t vote yesterday because I don’t too many of the people involved, so it’s hard to judge them fairly. I know more lobbyists and statehouse folks, so I’ll add my two cents here.

    Contract: Bill Filan. He keeps his own counsel, almost to a fault. I’ve known him for years and still can’t get a good story out of him. He just does his job and keeps his mouth shut. A rare quality in a town where the opposite is more common.

    In-House: Eileen Mitchell for reasons stated above which are more eloquent than anything I can offer. Honorable mention for Paul Frank of FIICU, just because he hasn’t been mentioned yet and I know he’s reading this. Also because he orchestrated the grass roots campaign that flooded the capitol wiht 4,000 college students last fall and got the MAP cuts reversed. Good job Paul.

    Do-gooder: Daria Mueller. What Rich said, plus if you’ve ever met her, you won’t forget her. She’s got brains and looks to go with a big heart.

    Insider: Jim Reilly. Who else can get a bill like the McPier legislation written in such a way as to get himself the top job?

    Comment by 47th Ward Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 5:12 pm

  31. * Best Statehouse lobbyist - Al “the Pal” Ronan
    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - In-house - Pat Comstock, Healthcare Assn
    * Best Statehouse lobbyist - do-gooder - Dan Johnson Weinberger
    * Best Statehouse “insider” - Vandermyde: he’s a master at frustrating the Daleyites.

    Comment by reformer Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 5:22 pm

  32. For reasons stated above:

    Best Hired gun - Sullivan

    Best In-House - Mitchell

    Best Do-gooder - Goldman

    Best Insider - McClain

    Comment by Anonymous Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 5:53 pm

  33. Best lobbyist- Tom Cullen
    Best lobbyist, In-house- Eileen Mitchell
    Best lobbyist, Do-gooder- Jack Darin
    Best “insider”- Mike McClain

    Comment by Former Downstater Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 8:48 pm

  34. Contract lobbyist: There are many contenders, but the winner should be Mike Kasper. He tirelessly works to benefit his clients by building relationships with members..and his ties with madigan aren’t exactly hurting him either. I would love to know how many petitions he reviews before filing and how many he objects to in a single election cycle. If his client needs something, he gets it done.

    InHouse: Mitchell for many of the reasons above and because she’s a class act. If only all lobbyist had her character and demeanor.

    DoGooder: Daria, without a doubt.

    Insider: I’d go with Kasper again. He’s the whole package.

    Comment by my opinion Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 9:01 pm

  35. Luking
    he does it all

    Comment by amalia Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 9:03 pm

  36. Best Hired Gun- Dave Sullivan. He’s been representing Equality Illinois for many years. Well before the public polling finally reflected the changing attitude. Won with only one vote in the house and 1 in senate to spare. Dave also played a large role in AT&T deregulation.

    Best In House- Dave Vite. Relentless. He got a sales tax holiday last year and its amazing how well he protects retailers.

    Best Do-Gooder- Not much good happens in Springfield but this year it definitely has to go to Rick Garcia for his tireless work on behalf of fairness and equality.

    Best Insider- Bill Luking. He won best lobbyist last year but he should definitely also be considered for Best Insider. All information flows through Bill. The first question he asks anyone he runs in to is “What do you know?”. All he does is collect information.

    Comment by Wizzard of Ozzie Thursday, Dec 9, 10 @ 9:42 pm

  37. Best Hired Gun - Bill Luking, Al Ronen or Neil Flynn (All three men have very different styles but get the job done.)
    Best In House - Mike Carrigan (Mostly for being smart enough to keep his members engaged so that when they do need something many members know they should listen.)

    Best Do-Gooder - Jack Darin (The Illinois Environmental Community has been well served by Jack. Not a show boat and able to broaden typical environmental coalitions, this team player is uncommon and effective.)

    Best Insider - Bill Luking (He just knows it all….)

    Comment by anon Friday, Dec 10, 10 @ 6:48 am

  38. Best Contract AND “insider”-Mike McClain - Just throw in the towel on this one.

    Best in-house - I second the notion of giving Paul Frank a little love, go higher ed!

    Best Do-gooder - Jonathan Goldman led push in Springfield for education funding. Outside though, he tipped public and legislator opinion on TIF reform, which is pretty significant and did not go unnoticed in the capitol.

    Comment by Anonymous Friday, Dec 10, 10 @ 7:27 am

  39. Best contract & insider - Mike McClain
    Best in-house - not quite agreeing with above for mitchell - good job, but how about someone who is good and well-liked like Tim Drea or Margaret Houlihan
    Best do-gooder - Emily Miller

    Comment by kudos Friday, Dec 10, 10 @ 8:59 am

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