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Golden Horseshoe Awards

Tuesday, Dec 17, 2013

* The 2013 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois State Representative - Democrat was almost unanimous. Rep. Greg Harris

Have to go with Greg Harris. He not only passed landmark legislation like the marriage bill, but what is not so known is his work as an Appropriation Chair and the headaches and demands that go along with that.

He spent countless hours working with the state human services agencies crafting a budget that protected vital services at a time many were calling for more cuts. He also crafted legislation which made key changes in how abuse and neglect of those with disabilities is reported. When he was done crafting the bill, he moved it through the process quickly and without asking for any credit.

The work on human services issues is not flashy and is at times gut wrenching when dealing with issues that have profound impact on people’s lives yet Harris still does it, does it well and does it without drawing attention to his work.

Harris had a year many lawmakers can only dream about.

* Several folks also nominated Speaker Madigan, and not for the usual “he controls everything anyway” reasons, so he’s our runner-up…

Madigan is a closer. He made sure that SSM and pension reform passed. He voted for MMJ. He proved his worth as a leader. He took a stand against corporate welfare and has the quote of the year, to me. When he was told that ADM wants an answer on tax breaks by the end of the year, he said: “Okay, well that’s nice.” Brusque.

* The 2013 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois State Representative - Republican is a tie…

Rep. Ed Sullivan. While most floor leaders historically just drone on, both sides of the aisle actually listen to Sullivan because he is to-the-point and has a thoughtful perspective. Furthermore, as seen with the death penalty, marriage equality, and pension reform, he is not afraid of a tough vote.


For Republican, I vote for Ron Sandack, who stood against his party, which is falling out of favor with voters in many ways. Mr. Sandack has good sense enough to see that being on the losing side of issues risks harming the future of the party.

Congrats to all. You really deserved it in a way crazy year.

* OK, on to today’s category

* Best Illinois State Senator - Democrat

* Best Illinois State Senator - Republican

Don Harmon and Matt Murphy won last year, in case you have trouble remembering these things.

Remember, it’s absolutely necessary to explain your vote. A simple name or a quick drive-by won’t be counted. Thanks!

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 10:06 am:

    Using the House winners as a template lets go with Jason Barickman as the GOPie and Andy Manar for the Ds
    Both tld local whackjobs to pound sand and voted Yes for Marriage Equality
    Second place for the GOPies should be Bill Brady who supported pension reform while FarmerBrucey was spreading around some “support” for opponents.

  2. - 10th ward - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 10:25 am:

    Kwame. Pension reform was harder than SSM to pass and he did it! Nuff said

  3. - Loop Lady - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 10:56 am:

    Agree with the 10th…Kwame was on the hotseat for the pension issue and kept his cool and never lost his head…

    Bill Brady was THE grown up on the other side of the aisle on this issue…he has learned alot about being in the public eye from his campaign for Governor…I think he is very much needed in the IL Senate…

  4. - Curious - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:00 am:

    Dem - Sen Raoul. Pension reform was a mammoth task and he was able to quietly check every box needed to cobble together a sustainable coalition. He also did the same thing with concealed carry. His already impressive legislative portfolio continues to grow. Makes you wonder what the political landscape would look like today if he had jumped in to the Gov’s race.

    R - Sen. Radogno. She was as much a force in passing pension reform in that chamber as anybody, and probably had the quote of the year when she said the that vote would separate the leaders from the pretenders.

  5. - Down to Clown - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:09 am:

    Dem - Kwame Raoul. Impressive work on pension reform, as well as conceal carry.

    GOP - Bill Brady. Hard work on pension reform and only candidate to stand up for the issue.

  6. - Senate - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:14 am:

    Heather Steans got the job done early on Marriage and is a solid voice in the Senate. Radogno is doing a good job leading an interesting caucus.

  7. - Anon - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:16 am:

    Kwame Raoul is a star in the Senate Dems Caucus and is becoming the go-to guy, just look at his recent accomplishments. He shouldered the burden of redistricting. He worked tirelessly to abolish the death penalty. Then he took on guns and pensions. All while being the voice of reason and balance on criminal law issues and a variety of other bills.

  8. - Louis G. Atsaves - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:18 am:

    I’ve watched Rep. Ed Sullivan blossom and grow in his job. The honor is well deserved.

  9. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:19 am:

    While I appreciate the role that Kwame played in pension reform, day in day out, the best Senator is Don Harmon. When it comes time to handle the hard stuff, or to broker difficult deals, Cullerton turns to Harmon. There’s a reason for that.

    For Republicans, it’s a bit tougher, though I’d probably say Jason Barickman. Smart and willing to buck the party line.

  10. - Eve - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:22 am:

    Add my vote for Kwame Raoul. Principled and effective and shows he can negotiate a tough bill. Twice in a year.

    And for Republican, Bill Brady: the only adult in the GOP gov’s race who gets it that if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

  11. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:25 am:

    Best Illinois State Senator - Democrat

    The Illinois Senate can, at times, be best describeed as the “place for the hatching of statewide dreams”. You can’t throw a cat in the chamber without possibly hitting a member looking to “better” their postiton in politics.

    This member is no “Vote Countula”. He works incredibly hard, and understands that working to get the votes necessary is far harder than wishing you had the votes. This member handled pressure well, and handled the soptlight even better. While others in his Caucus are using Great America ride signs to measure their success, this member was being courted, and “asked”, and positioned to run statewide, and never did you feel that he was forcing himself into the discussion. A very rare trait coming from that side of the Rotunda.

    Sen. Kwame Rauol did the hard work, ansered the tough questions, and handled the noteriety with such class and politcal skill it will be a “no brainer” to see Sen. Raoul run for something bigger and “better” on his timetable and with many on board for the ride.

    Sen. Raoul lives and works by the mantra I had thought was the best way to get a promotion; do your current job best. This year, Sen. Raoul did that and then some.

    The Illinois Senate has many wanting to move “up”, but it is more telling how many want Sen. Raoul to move up, and that is what makes him my choice.

    I vote for Senator Kwame Raoul.

  12. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:42 am:

    Best Illinois State Senator - Republican

    Politics is a game of numbers. Numbers dictate many things. Running with a large number is safer in politcs, and sometimes being insulated by numbers feels warmer than a nice flannel blanket.

    When one is forced to stand alone, when others feel “safety” is better than courage, I would want this member with me. You could feel the island around him, as he sttod up and spoke for what he believed was the right thing to do.

    This member did not change numbers on IDOT signs and list them as a “major accomplishmet”, nor sis this member base moderation or leadership on a gender. Sen. Jason Barickman stood up and spoke up, and that is by far the best moment in the SGOP Caucus this year.

    Sen. Barickman should be proud to be “singled out” of this Caucus of 19. Leadership is made from tough decisions made, not tough decisions avoided. Fear hangs over the SGOP like a gray cloud that none can shake, but sunshine always scares the clouds away, and Jason Barickman is the “bright light”, and by going about this solo, speaks more to how the SGOP Caucus just doesn’t get “it” and Jason Barickman totally understands “it”

    Sen. Barickman you deserve my vote for not for your courage, but for being Jason Barickman.

    I vote for Senator Jason Barickman.

  13. - Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:46 am:

    Senate President John Cullerton for the Dems. Pension reform, marriage equality and lots of other stuff wouldn’t have happened without him. He doesn’t take a lot of credit, letting senators like Raoul, Steans, and Manar be out front on stuff. But he’s the guy who’s moving things.

  14. - walkinfool - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:52 am:

    Kwame Raoul soldiered on with Concealed Carry, and with pensions, and showed he is a person with bi-partisan chops.

    For Republican Senator:

    Brady stood up and fully embraced his responsibilities as a member of the Conference Committee on pensions, defended their compromise, and didn’t take the politicians’ way out of glossing over the issue as a statewide candidate.

    Bravo Brady

  15. - Grandson of Man - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 11:57 am:

    For senator I vote for Mr. President, John Cullerton. He worked with unions to create a pension reform bill, SB 2404, whose ideas may be called upon in the future, if the the constitutional diminishment clause prevails in an upcoming court case.

    For Republican senator, I will second CircularFiringSqaud’s vote and go with Sen. Barickman, for courageously voting against the direction of his party on SB 10, the SSM bill.

  16. - A guy... - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 12:00 pm:

    Very hard to argue with Senator Raoul on the Dem side for all of the reasons already listed. Therefore, I concur and vote for Raoul. Honorable mention to Senator Biss.

    On the GOP side, I vote for the Leader Christine Radogno. She corralled her votes for Pension Reform, despite having one of them leave the reservation. Getting 10 of 19 was a huge accomplishment after Dillard switched. She did proportionately much better than the House GOP on this vote. Being in the Super anything can be difficult. She did the job. I realize many will vote against her for this, but I for one appreciate her leadership. She held the title before, now she wears it.

  17. - dave - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 12:19 pm:

    Dems: I have to go with Sen. Steans. She, relatively quietly, took on some of the biggest and most controversial bills this past session, and had a great year. Not only did she carry the marriage equality legislation to victory in the Senate, but she also took on Medicaid expansion and comprehensive sex education. But on top of those huge bills, she also was of the two Senate Dem approp chairs that shepherded the best budget that we have seen in years, and the first budget in years that the Senate Dems actually won on.

    Republicans: Sen. Barickman wasn’t as out front in his support of marriage equality as Reps Sandack and Sullivan, but he arguably took a much tougher vote than they did when you consider their districts. His courage on marriage equality alone deserves the win.

  18. - Chavez-respecting Obamist - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 12:23 pm:

    I’ll be another vote for my Senator John Cullerton. I agree with what everyone else said, plus he’s a responsible dog owner.

    It’s rare I vote for a Republican for anything, but I heard Christine Radogno on “At Issue” the Sunday before the SSM vote and she was the voice of reason. She has my vote.

  19. - anon - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 12:29 pm:

    For the Democrats - Linda Holmes. She is always accessible, she is reasonable and very practical when weighing an issue and she does not buckle under pressure from leadership on difficult issues - she stands by what she believes.

    Republicans - Sen. Barickman. He took a tough vote on marriage equality because he believed that was the right thing to do knowing he could have a political fight on his hands.

  20. - Soccermom - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 1:13 pm:

    I gotta say — as I tried to cast my vote, I realized there are a number of awesome senators on the D side. Dan Biss, Kwame Raoul, Heather Steans, John Cullerton, Don Harmon — all very worthy. Nice deep bench over there.

  21. - Soccermom - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 1:14 pm:

    Oooooh — and I vote that the next time somebody says, “All politicians are alike,” all CapFax commenters get together and stage an intervention — with optional punching.

    We’ve had some messed-up elected officials in Illinois, heaven knows, but we’ve also had some smart, dedicated people who spend untold hours trying to make this a better state. And they deserve real praise.

  22. - Jimmy Baseball - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 1:22 pm:

    Senate Dems- There are many great choices this year, but Senator Andy Manar has had a stellar year. It’s easy to forget he’s a freshman, but in his short time in the Senate he has already proven himself as a leader. Instead of being at home Christmas shopping, Sen. Manar is currently hosting a hearing on education funding disparity, one of the most overlooked issues in the state. The ADM legislation he passed in the Senate a few weeks ago could not only keep ADM’s headquarters in Illinois, but also save the entire Decatur economy-one of the worst in the state. His tireless work in district has turned what should be one of the most competitive districts in the state into a safe seat for as long as he wants it.

    Senate GOP-Continued congratulations to Sen. Barickman for taking a tough vote for something he believes in. In a caucus without much leadership, he stands out for being able to make the hard decisions.

  23. - Still haven't found...a decent handle - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 1:28 pm:

    This is hard. So many good options.

    SDem: Honorable mention to Sens. Raoul, Manar, and Pres. Cullerton for reasons listed above, but my vote has to go to Biss. [Disclaimer: I vehemently disagree with his position on pension reform (cue the “pension is a promise” talking points that we’ve already all heard), but I think, if it’s possible, that he was on the wrong side for the right reasons.] To my argument: it takes guts for a freshman senator to stand up to the rest of his caucus (and his leader) on one of the biggest issues of the session (if not several sessions). His approach to public policy is smart, thoughtful, and conscientious. Furthermore, to cynics determined to write off all public officials as self-interested opportunists rather than genuine public servants, let me pose this question: “Have you considered Senator Biss?”

    SGOP: Again, this is hard–even given the much smaller set of possible choices in that caucus (sorry! couldn’t resist). But I’m going to go with Senator Righter. Again, I seldom agree with him on actual policy questions, but often the questions he poses on more technical issues are valid concerns that should already have been fixed (or at least addressed). I think the laws passed by the GA are probably better products on account of his work.

  24. - John A Logan - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 1:29 pm:

    Best Illinois State Senator Democrat. Has to go to Gary Forby. Gary is much maligned within his own party and even in his own district. His style of speech is often looked upon with disdain, but he gets things done for his district. He funds more funerals and does more charitable donations without fanfare then anyone I know. Forby is one helluva campaigner as well. Republicans have spent over 3 million dollars trying to beat him, and to no avail. I implore you to nominate a downstate Senator who gets little to no accolades for this very prestigious award.

    Best State Senator Republican

    I am going downstate again and nominating David Leuchtefeld. Coach is one of the most respected state senators in all of Springfield. When he speaks people listen. He could have been minority leader, but turned the job down. When he says something he means it, and he knows how to cut through the red tape for his constituents.

  25. - Soccermom - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 1:37 pm:

    Yeah, I’m voting for Dan Biss. I forgot that he’s a freshman — which says something. He’s really smart, and he put incredible hours into understanding the pension issues.

  26. - Under Influenced - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 2:47 pm:

    Congrats to the upper chamber for pushing the agenda on a lot of major issues this past spring. The Senate is a pretty diverse group, yet was still able to accomplish a lot – not as many shrooms in the Senate.

    Dems: Manar – Not only has he taken on the challenge of several touchy issues (ed funding, DCEO – or better known as the Lavin slush fund), but he took some tough, principled votes including SSM, med cannabis and sex-ed. Works his tail off to stay active in the district, politically astute and can clearly raise funds with the best of them. All around impressive.

    Overall, pretty decent class of freshman lawmakers in the Senate.

    Repubs: Barickman – Took some real guts to take that SSM vote. Tip of the hat, sir. Also, Barickman usually takes the role of listener rather than mouthpiece (something that caucus could use more of).

    Dems: Manar – Not only has he taken on the challenge of several touchy issues (ed funding, DCEO – or better known as the Lavin slush fund), but he took some tough, principled votes including SSM, med cannabis and sex-ed. Not many members work harder to stay active in the district and I think Dillard and Brady could borrow some fundraising tips from him.

    Overall, pretty decent class of freshman lawmakers in the Senate.

    Repubs: Barickman – Took some real guts to take that SSM vote. Tip of the hat, sir. Also, Barickman usually takes the role of listener rather than mouthpiece (something that caucus could use more of).

  27. - Jerry2 - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 2:56 pm:

    Democrat - Gary Forby
    Say what you want about Forby, but he’s severely underestimated. He’s an entrepreneur, businessman and one of the smartest members of the GA. Forby may not give the best speech, but he’s got the biggest heart and uses it to do whatever he can to help the constituents of the 59th district. And above all, he’s a man of his word. If Forby gives you his word you can be sure he will follow through. Not to mention what an amazing campaigner he is. The senate republicans pull out all the stops to beat him, but they just can’t get the job done. He’s got my vote.

  28. - Rahm'sMiddleFinger - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 3:38 pm:

    I echo Oswego Willy’s votes. Kwame Raoul did a great job with pension reform and conceal carry. Put in a lot of time and effort. He also get’s a lot of credit for focusing on his job as a Senator and not getting swept away by the calls for him to run for Governor.

    On the Republican side Jason Barickman is a deserving winner. He voted for SSM because he believed it was the right thing to do. Despite the fact that he has a largely rural district. Despite the fact that he was Bill Brady’s attorney in 2010. He has also kept his head down and worked hard. He is clearly smart and a bright future ahead.

    I also appreciate that he is willing to take risks. People forget that he was an appointed State Rep when he decided to challenge a sitting State Senator without a net. Granted it was Shane Cultra, but that takes a lot of guts. Something in short supply in Springfield.

  29. - Fred - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 4:31 pm:

    Dem — Agree that the bench is deep here…it should be with so many members! I’ll go with Kwame for all of the reasons mentioned above and because he was arguably the most prominent legislator outside of the Four Tops this year.

    Allow me to mention Bill Haine as a runner up. An absolute gentleman and true old wiseman. Also has a great sense of humor. Despite being one of the GA most prominent law-and-order guys he carried the medical marijuana bill, showing he’s no idealogue. Watching him ask questions in committee is a case study in how to be a deliberative legislator.

    GOP - I like Jason Barickman and admire his guts in taking the SSM vote just like everyone else, but winning the Golden Horseshoe requires a much more in the way of legislative accomplishments. I’ll go with Radogno. She overcame some deep divisions in her caucus to deliver a majority for pension reform…something Cross couldn’t do despite all his bluster. And her COLA idea was really the glue that put the compromise together.

  30. - Getting Their Dues - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 6:26 pm:

    Senate Democrats: It has to be Kwame Raoul. The man ate crow on concealed carry and pension reform after his Leader spent all of his time trashing previous proposals, and he did it in order to get important pieces of legislation passed. And he did it with class. That’s a statesman.

    Senate Republicans: I see some votes for Jason Barickman, and the only reason given is his vote on marriage equality. Is this the marriage equality golden horseshoe, or the Best Republican Senator? It was an impressive vote, but I feel there should be more there in order to win the award. Barickman seemed to rationalize his way into a No vote on pension reform, a very disappointing vote for the future of Illinois.

    I’m voting for Radogno. She leads that caucus in the right direction more often than not, and does it with more than her fair share of misfit toys. Pension reform doesn’t happen without her efforts. She beat back Madigan & Cullerton’s push for the pension cost shift, even while business interests and IPI supported it. She’s having more impact than she should be having under this map with 19 members. And like, Raoul, she does it with class.

  31. - Another Dave - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 6:45 pm:

    My vote is for Steans. I can’t remember the last time the Senate’s budget was the one that was passed. That’s the chief reason as well as marriage equality, Medicaid expansion and sex ed. Some of those happened so early in the Senate that it feels like I’m voting for last year.

  32. - A modest proposal - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 7:49 pm:

    Republican - You have to look at all the republicans and what they have accomplished. Many people are going to disagree with this, but here we go… My nomination goes to Sen. Jim “the dairyman” Oberweis. Here is why. He successfully brought higher speed limits to Illinois. Everyone who regularly makes the drive from Chi-town to Springfield knows that this will be more than welcome. Not only that but he also bucked his party in supporting the legalization of medical marijuana. I assume there will be dairywanna coming to a dispensary near you.

    Dem - Kwame Raoul. Pensions. Concealed Carry. If only every senator worked as hard as him to actually find bipartisan agreeable solutions to the problems we are facing as a state.

  33. - Here's my deal - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 8:00 pm:

    I vote for Forby. No one will ever outwork him. He is a man of his word and a great Chairman. If you have a bill up in his committee, you better make a point to see him or your bill is going to subcommittee and it foesn’t matter who you are.

    He speaks his mind and represents his constituents. People underestimated him and over the years I have I watched him fight for southern Illinois - from saving Franklin Hospital, introducing the 1st meth bill and fighting the state facilities closures in his district.

    If you have ever witnessed Forby in his district, he always makes time for his constituents and he has a great in district constituent service, something that is often overlooked.

    Since 2000 the republicans have tried to beat him and had no luck. Gary speaks his mind and I wish my senator was as connected to his district as Forby is!!!!

  34. - ToughGuy - Tuesday, Dec 17, 13 @ 9:04 pm:

    Democrat Andy Manar. Senator Manar has a very diverse and geographically large district but manages to cover it from north to south and east to west with his town hall meetings. I have attended two of these meetings and still have not seen the Senator fail to answer a question thoroughly and responsibly. His depth of knowledge of issues (especially downstate) and how to get things done are true assets to his district. The new water line for Stonington and his hearings on equitable education funding are prime examples. Downstate is fortunate to have an experienced and strong voice.

    Republican Kirk Dillard. Senator Dillard’s experience and knowledge is invaluable to his caucus since the influence of the Senate Republicans is pretty much on life support for the near future. While his is currently trying to vie for the conservative vote, he does show signs of moderation and compromise.

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