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Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards

Thursday, Dec 18, 2014

* The 2014 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best “Do-Gooder” lobbyist goes to Jen Walling at the Illinois Environmental Council…

Smart, hardworking, personable, responsive. Very tough to lead such a diverse group of advocates in the same direction, but she does an amazing job time and time again. Open and creative, she is always assessing how to make improvements in her organization, build relationships across the aisle, and increase the leverage of the environmental community in Springfield. She has managed to strike the very difficult balance between passionate and practical advocacy…a big challenge but a very necessary step as the environmental advocates increase their influence in Springfield each year.

* The 2014 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Congresscritter goes to Luis Gutierrez on the strength of this nomination…

As much as it pains me to nominate a person I disagree with on many issues, Luis Gutierrez is the rare Democratic Congressman who has made a real difference. On immigration, he’s probably been the major force who pushed the President to take action. Had the President listened to Luis a year ago, the results of the November elections may have been very different.

* OK, here are today’s categories, with last year’s winners in parentheses…

* Best Contract Lobbyist (Dave Sullivan)

* Best In-House Lobbyist (Todd Vandermyde and Rob Karr)

Please nominate in both categories and explain your votes or they won’t count. Thanks!

- Posted by Rich Miller        

40 Comments
  1. - Watcher - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 9:18 am:

    I have to go with Local 150 on this. I watched the Rail at the end of Session and who seemed to be the only one there getting something done at the end?…Local 150 and their road construction bill. So I vote for Dave Sullivan contract and Mark Poulos for in house. Mark is about as smart as they come and Dave is a pro.


  2. - Sportsfans - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 9:31 am:

    My vote for bet contract lobbyist goes to Matt O’Shea. He is among the smartest and hardest working of all the contract lobbyists. he has been involved in every major legislative issue since leaving his post as CoS to former Leader Cross. He understands the members of the House Republican caucus very well, but has earned the respect of those across the aisle. He has earned the respect of his peers and would be a great pick of this year’s best contract lobbyist.

    For in house, I think Mark Denzler is solid. Another individual who gets along with members from both sides of the aisle. He represents the manufacturers well, and genuinely cares about the state of Illinois.


  3. - Golden Horseshoe is Best Horseshoe - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 9:40 am:

    Best Contract Lobbyist - Ryan Taylor…he’s so dreamy!

    Best In-House Lobbyist - Sarah Hartwick (Advance Illinois) because she’s just damn committed to wearing high heels.


  4. - Eastside - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 9:40 am:

    Best In-House lobbyist this year has to be Derek Blaida. He worked relentlessly regardless of whether those employing him listened to his sage advice or not. He is respectful of everyone inside and outside of the Capitol community and conducts himself in the right way. There was not a more honorable or gracious In-House lobbyist this year given what Derek had to deal with. He deserves recognition not only for his efforts but for his good heart in a business that sometimes is lacking in that department.


  5. - Give Me A Break - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 9:55 am:

    Best Contract Lobbyist: Phil Milsk. The man has been involved in every bill or policy decesion around Special Education or Human Servicesfor last 25 years. Phil is not there just to pick up a check from his clients, he works their issues and can explain even the most complex issues in terms anyone can understand. And he does it in a way that does not turn people off.

    In House Lobbyist: Mary Dixon from the ACLU. Yep, she is married to Phil but don’t hold that against her. She knows how to work with those with opposing views to reach a compromise and has the respect of the members, staffers and lobbyist.


  6. - I prefer Darcy's when it comes to horsehoes - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 10:09 am:

    Best Contract Lobbyist- Ed Peck
    Contract lobbying is hard work- specifically in the session months (summer months maybe not so much). Long hours and long days wearing the many different hats of your clients. You have to give each client %110 of your time and attention, and be able to switch issues at the drop of a hat. Ed Peck has a wide variety of clients, but takes care of them all. He is a hard worker and takes the extra effort to get along with legislators, staff and other lobbyists under the Dome (and at Browns).

    Best In-House Lobbyist-Mark Denzler
    While most are partaking at JP’s by 5- take a look across the tracks at the IMA, and you can see Mark’s office light on until 10 or 11 most nights (even non session nights). Then he goes home and works a couple more hours. I have honestly never met someone who works harder. He is incredibly honest and smart. Most importantly- he truly believes in what he does, and it shows.


  7. - walker - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 10:11 am:

    Mark Denzler is informing without being pushy. He is clear on his goals. He gains trust and he gets most of his agenda done. His word is good.

    As an aside:

    It occurs that Speaker Madigan effectively utilizes his most trusted lobbyist contacts as part of his communications network. Gov-elect Rauner would be extremely well-served to do the same with someone as generally trusted, practical, and ethical, as Dave Sullivan.


  8. - Sine Die - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 10:19 am:

    Mark Denzler is the gold standard, in-house lobbyist, by which all others should be judged. Informed on the issues, tenacious, and great instincts.

    Courtney Nottage has established himself as a “go-to’ person in the contract lobbying world. His vast array of contacts through working both sides of the aisle and every caucus is invaluable to the clients that are luck enough to retain him!


  9. - Peanut Gallery - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    Best Contract Lobbyist- Pete Baroni- He also is ” dreamy”. Highly professional in and out of the capitol. Smart dresser and never afraid to speak his mind - in or out of the capitol.

    In House Lobbyist- Scott Humbard at Exelon. Really tough industry but can translate the highly technical aspects of an energy/nuke bill with great ease.

    In House Lobbyist:


  10. - STL - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 10:40 am:

    Mark Denzler. Fracking. Enough said. In addition to keeping industry aligned, he had to navigate organized labor, AG, Governor, and environmentalists to pass a bill. And then he had to work for a year to get rules done in the face of a hostile Governor.

    Nick Yelverton is a close second. Does a fantastic job.


  11. - Staffer - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 10:46 am:

    Dave Sullivan best contract lobbyist! He has never forgotten he was once a staffer. Treats everyone with respect! Ethically top notch and still gets things done!

    Scott Humbard best in house basically for the same reason as above. Always pleasant!


  12. - NotMe - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 10:52 am:

    I’ll second Matt O’Shea. He is always thorough and clear, respectful in disagreement and uses his sense of humor to great advantage. He works hard at maintaining solid relationships on both sides of the aisle.

    For In-House - Mary Dixon can’t be beat for her dedication and ability to face long odds year after year without ever seeming to lose faith. She is the go to “grown up in the room” among some of the most diverse and fragile coalition efforts. She has the respect of friends and foes alike because she is quite simply a good person doing good work she believes in.


  13. - Just Saying - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    In my book, Mark Denzler is absolutely the best. He’s the only lobbyist I know who could put the wildly diverse interest groups together involved in fracking and not only get a deal don, but also walk away with the admiration of all involved. It was a case study in how to get things accomplished in Springfield.


  14. - Jerry Garcia's finger - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    Denzler-Fracking/Work Comp/Enterprise Zones, big complicated issues he pulls the right groups together to get things done.

    For Contract-Mark Stawn quietly represents his gold standard clients very effectively.


  15. - Rollo Tomasi - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 11:08 am:

    Sullivan gets my vote. Track record speaks for itself.


  16. - Down the Middle - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 11:15 am:

    Denzler. Always one of the best, and had a kick-butt 2014.


  17. - Fan - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 11:42 am:

    I think Mark Denzler is tops. The fracking effort was great. In general he is solid. Dave Sullivan is one of the nicest guys around and very successful. That’s a great and rare combo. And he co-hosts the best party of the year!


  18. - 1776 - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 11:46 am:

    Rob Karr. I believe he’s a two-time winner and made such a smooth transition that people forget that Dave Vite retired!! He helped execute a strategy on minimum wage that constantly evolved with House, Senate & Chicago politics. He should win even though he’s “protected” by the Speaker. LOL!!

    Contractual - hard to argue with Dave Sullivan or Ed Peck. Both hard workers and extremely committed to clients. Rauner will need Sullivan to help navigate the unions but that’s in 2015. Peck was involved in fracking & petcoke and won on each.


  19. - demgov - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 12:18 pm:

    I vote for Denzler, as well. Smart, honorable, and hard working. He really is the best.


  20. - Lobo Y Olla - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 12:48 pm:

    Best In-House must be Derek Blaida. Publicly executed for failing to pass an arguably unconstitutional bill for Preckwinkle was shameful. On the day he was fired, the sun-times quoted him as saying “the president was my friend yesterday, and she is my friend today.” Who says that? A stand-up guy does. I’ve never seen him angry even when given ample cause to do so. After Madair, Derek is probably the best mind on pensions in Springfield. Bet you didn’t know that. Anyone who still covers for his principal after an unexpected and undeserved termination is tops in my book.


  21. - DuPage Bard - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 1:02 pm:

    In-house Pat Devaney, his entire crew down there crushed every issue the past two years with big bipartisan role calls. He leads a team that goes against the Trib editorial board consistently and ends up winning.

    Best contract lobbyist- Pete Baroni is a great lobbyist, all over the issues. Has support from both sides of the aisle and is generally well liked.


  22. - Tom - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 1:21 pm:

    There is no better and smarter go to person in the building than Mona Martin. She knows her topics, had great connections and most people couldn’t tell you if she is a dem or rep. She has my vote.

    Mark Denzler is a beast. He understands the game, plays it well and does it in a fashion that you respect his positions even if you don’t agree with him. It is only a matter of time before he runs the entire IMA.


  23. - E town - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 1:46 pm:

    Hard to argue with votes for Denzler or Dirty as we used to call him in his younger more carefree days.

    Also hard to argue with Sully for contract, but since he won last year I second the nomination of Courtney Nottage. Client list and his integrity and reputation speak for themselves.


  24. - Rail Side Chat - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 1:59 pm:

    Sue Clark (Contractual Nursing) has always been a dynamite well rounded contractual lobbyist. It can take a lot to be professional, knowledgeable, and at the same time be personable and Sue pulls it off well. Sue has great communication skills and professionalism which makes her very effective.

    Brad Babcook (In House Chemical Council) can bird dog a bill like no other. Brad puts together a great roll call and will sit down with anyone.. He has plenty of tough issues but always remembers the relationship is the valuable part.


  25. - LilLebowskiUrbanAchiever - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 2:19 pm:

    In-House: Derek Blaida. Derek has been one of the most underrated lobbyists in the capitol for a long time. Like his mentor, Bill Luking, you won’t find him just passing time on the rail. He’s always working. Incredibly effective. Highly professional. Always courteous. Derek is a real class act and deserves to be recognized.

    As an example of his effectiveness, he got Bill Brady to vote for the expansion of Medicaid in Cook County… while Sen. Brady was still thinking of running for Governor. How many lobbyists could do that? Not many.

    (As an aside, firing Derek will remain a black spot on Toni’s record and, she will soon find, cause her a lot of problems in Springfield)

    Best Contract Lobbyist: Mike Thomson. Mike has built a real top notch client list and is very well respected. Like Derek, he just works.

    Anheuser Busch had a significant issue before the GA a few years ago and lobbied up big time. When they wound down, they kept just one firm, Thomson Weir. Same with Sears. Same with the Cubs. His client list speaks on his behalf.


  26. - Secretariat - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 2:28 pm:

    Contract: O’Shea.. Works hard, delivers results.
    In House: Denzler.. Respected by everyone


  27. - Man with a plan - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 2:48 pm:

    Todd Vandermyde is a total package attack dog lobbyist. He’s got quirks, but he knows the rules of the game as well as anyone.


  28. - Eddy - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 2:54 pm:

    Pat Devaney, Richard Martin and Chuck Sullivan are, not only very effective advocates for professional firefighters, are personable, professional, and meet and talk to everyone. They are gifted lobbyists, and deserve high praise and recognition as human beings


  29. - North Shore Joe - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 2:58 pm:

    Real talk, Pat Devaney is a great guy but he has the easiest job in Springfield.

    No legislator wants to get in the way of police/firefighters.


  30. - Anonymous - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 3:30 pm:

    Hey, if I nominate my boss, a relative, an associate, or even my own client and then I let them know about it….then I’m the real winner, right?!?!


  31. - Work - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 3:41 pm:

    Mark Denzler is an obvious choice. Great guy. Lots of good choices for contract but I go with Dave Sullivan. Most veteran lobsters aren’t as gracious with their time as he is and if it’s a big issue you want him on your side. He is knowledgeable and we all look forward to the Sullivan Caucus every year!


  32. - Lindy - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 3:49 pm:

    One of a kind, top notch, sincere, honest, hard worker and as you can tell just an awesome guy! I nominate Dave Sullivan!

    Steve Selcke efficient, quiet, pleasant to work and very hard working.


  33. - F.T. - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 3:57 pm:

    I have to go with Pat Devaney for in-house, too. He added that minimum manning bill to a long list of legislative victories this year, despite a full court push back from every mayor and local trustee in the state. Firefighters are the envy of every public employee union thanks to some truly unprecedented collective bargaining rights they now have. And those who argue the firefighters roll up these legislative victories simply because fireman are politically popular and make lots of political donations are underestimating Devaney. He knows Springfield and knows how to work legislators…being a real likable guy helps too.

    For contract lobbyist, I’ll go with Bill Filan. A gentleman and an old pro who never b.s.’s anyone. He understands the political risks individual legislators face on different votes and is careful never to push them in a direction they shouldn’t go…that earns him respect and pays dividends for his clients down the road. And for a “House” guy, he works the Senate well.


  34. - F.T. - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 4:00 pm:

    – North Shore Joe — Firefighters have collect bargaining rights the cops can only dream about…Devaney is one of the reasons why.


  35. - Fanof150 - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 4:01 pm:

    In house: Mark Poulos with Local 150 is top notch–smart, knows his industry and is easy to work with. He brought home a $1.1 billion capital bill and fought like hell for Illiana. He is worthy of a nod his year.

    Contract: Dave Sullivan - if you don’t know him, get to know him. He is a wealth of knowledge and one of the nicest people.


  36. - sideline watcher - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 6:20 pm:

    Derek Blaida. Hands down. Politics is rough. Sometimes the right argument is not the one that wins. Those of us who are in Springfield understand all too well what it can mean when the political winds don’t blow your way. No matter how smart you are. No matter how well you know your subject matter. Derek Blaida is a class act through and through. He was trained by one of the most prolific lobbyists we’ve seen…Bill Luking… and has a memory that rivals folks that are 20 years his senior. He gets it. He meets you where you are, knows his subject and is loyal to a fault. Respect on both sides of the aisle when you play the lobbying game is rare and hard won. Derek has it. He’s earned it. That’s why he’s one of the best and will only get better.


  37. - Amalia - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 6:20 pm:

    In House: Derek Blaida. Ever the gentleman. Smart but not smarmy. Insider without seeming to be exclusive. Classy. Toni Preckwinkle you really screwed up.

    Contract: Gone but clearly not forgotten, Bill Luking. You want information? Luking read every bill and could tell you about your bills even if he was not working on them. You want history? He knew the ins and outs of all the deals and reasons for decades of legislation, some that he was clearly behind, and the rest just because he knew it all. Bill seemed old but he was not that old. It’s just that he’d been there so long and knew so much that he seemed he would go on forever. And his helpfulness and kindness is legendary. How we miss him right now when there are such constitutional and legislative issues. He would be a big help to the powers that be. but don’t take it from me, just recall the comments made at the funeral. the legacy of the man will go years into the future with all those who worked with and for him. the award should be named after him. god, I miss that guy.


  38. - Rocket - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 8:38 pm:

    Matt O’Shea best lobbyist in Springfield!


  39. - I'll Never Tell - Thursday, Dec 18, 14 @ 10:08 pm:

    Contract– Bill Luking. He completed the 2014 session and did more in those 5 months than most of us get done in our careers. Finishing the session totally makes him eligible for this nom. He left us all too soon, but there’s no comparing to him. When you have information readily in your mind like Google, there’s no rival. He was admired, treated everyone like his best friend. And was always willing to teach the technical aspects of this craft in addition to the social musts. Unforgettable.

    In-House–Derek Blaida. He’s all class and knows the legislature in and out. He put up with a lot this year and in the past, but you’d never know it. Beyond being a nice guy, Derek has great relationships with Members and peers. His strategic skills are pretty darn sharp.


  40. - Man with a Beard - Friday, Dec 19, 14 @ 12:37 am:

    Matt O’Shea is the greatest lobbyist who lobbies people who lobby!


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