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Question of the day: Golden Horseshoe Awards

Friday, Dec 6, 2019

* The 2019 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois House Democratic Staffer - Non-Political goes to Kit Walsh

If you don’t know her, you should make it your business to get to know her. She has quickly garnered a reputation as someone you can go to for advice and help, plus she’s wicked smart. She was part of the dynamic trio of staffers who wrote the marijuana bill (Ashley Jenkins/Marishonta Wilkerson/Kit Walsh).

* The 2019 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois House Republican Staffer - Non-Political is a tie. Jen Paswater

She’s a former prosecutor (not federal and doesn’t shout it in the annoying Drury kind of way) who went to the State Police, then left to help save the shinking ship that was the Rauner administration, only to get her job cut when they “reorganized.” Leader Durkin and Andrew Freiheit were incredibly smart to ask her to join the GOP team. She has more than proven her worth. She’s a mentor to staffers and kind to the swarms of lobbyists who often need her time and attention. All this while raising two adorable little boys.

And Frank Straus

No one knows their issues better than Frank. He is GOP staff point for gaming, among others, during the year we finally passed a “big one” again. Works his tail off and always accessible. Also, his knowledge of history and trivia is top-notch and hilarious.

Congratulations to everyone!

* On to today’s categories…

* Best Illinois Senate Democratic Staffer - Non-Political

* Best Illinois Senate Republican Staffer - Non-Political

Please do your very best to nominate in both categories and make sure to explain your votes or they won’t count. Thanks and have fun.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

25 Comments
  1. - Emmy Oscar - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 2:06 pm:

    With all of the investigations going on, the award has to go to the legal eagles…Giovanni Randazzo and Jo Johnson.

    Investigations aside, there are very few people under the Dome more knowledgeable than them on legislative issues. They can give you background on a bill that passed 20 years ago without hesitation.

    Their caucuses (and the state) are really lucky to have them.


  2. - Cats - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 2:14 pm:

    Senate Dem: Hands down, Giovanni Randazzo. He has more knowledge than anyone, is always incredibly helpful and kind. I don’t think the caucus could survive without him. He’s an absolute work horse and has the greatest socks :)


  3. - Dano - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 2:28 pm:

    I would give a big shout out here to Kristin Richards and Becky Locker from the President’s office. They are a powerful team and are very accessible, receptive and responsive. We are lucky to have them in public service.


  4. - Moderate Repub - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 2:37 pm:

    Senate Dem: Giovanni Randazzo. You got a problem? You go to Gio. If a Member has a problem, they go to Gio. He has his hands in everything. He’s partisan (as he should be), but very fair when he is on the podium. No one stays later or puts in more hours. The time he has spent on the political side gives him the full prospective - which is why most of the members seek his advice.

    Seasoned, old school and professional. That’s Gio.


  5. - theCardinal - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 2:40 pm:

    SGOP Scott Foils The dude knows all there is to know about bills in his committees. Pluse he very thoughtful and accommodating. He call yoiu when he sees something thats in your wheel house.

    SDems Giovani for sure, Cats nailed it. He is the real deal and go to guy.


  6. - Moderate Repub - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 2:44 pm:

    Senate Repubs: Scott Hurrelbrink. Unsung hero of Senate Republican staff. Long time appropriations Director who would absolutely hate being nominated. Its just his way. But if you need to know something as a lobbyist or as a member he always finds the answer. That’s saying something coming from the super minority and the smallest caucus under the dome. His staff love him, and because of his tutelage, they are all sharp and on their toes.
    Affectionately known as Hurl, he’s an institution under the dome.


  7. - House of Cats & kittens - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 2:46 pm:

    Senate Dems — Giovanni Randazzo is the man. He has put together a great team of attorneys and leads them with skill & dedication. He’s knowledgeable on all issues and is always willing to work through the technical details. Working with Gio is a privilege.

    Senate GOP — Bill Schneider knows his stuff. He knows all when it comes to guns and other Criminal Laws. He’s also hard working and dedicated.


  8. - Mjolnir - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 2:47 pm:

    Senate Democratic Staffer- Miles Sodowski was a behind the scenes force for the recreational cannabis bill. He is a hard worker who dives into drives weeds of issues and has a great personality. He will truly go far!

    Senate Republican Staffer- Joshua Horeled is top notch! Josh is a great lawyer who staffs the Executive committee, which is a feat in and of itself. However, Josh is extremely knowledgeable in each subject area that he handles and is always approachable. He is honest, kind, and full of integrity. A true asset to the Statehouse.


  9. - Bill Brasky - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 2:49 pm:

    I second the nomination of Scott Hurrelbrink on SGOP staff. That guy is a wealth of knowledge and is as straight a shooter as they come. Well-respected by his staff and others under the dome.


  10. - Todd & Margo - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 2:55 pm:

    Senate Dem- Danny Fristrom. He’s quite literally shaken up the Senate Transportation Committee since being assigned that committee. He comes in to work everyday with a smile and you won’t find a hard worker around.

    Senate Republican- Kurtis Smith, Kurtis has experienced a lot of change with new caucus leadership and new leadership on the transliteration committee. He hasn’t wavered and is always willing to listen to all sides.


  11. - Commissar Gritty - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 3:23 pm:

    Haha, cracked up at the not so veiled swipe at everyone’s favorite fmr federal prospector. Good, but still not as good as the clock story.


  12. - Commissar Gritty - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 3:23 pm:

    and congrats to Kit & Jen!


  13. - Mashed potatoes - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 3:27 pm:

    Senate Republican- Ellie Leonard. She writes for 4 members and is very smart and is always available when you need her . She is a team player and one of the best senate staffers around the dome .


  14. - Stones - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 3:49 pm:

    Jo Johnson continues to shine working through multiple leadership teams in the Senate Republican side. She’s a partisan but always fair and looking out for Illinois’ best interests. It’s hard to find another individual who has devoted his / her entire career to improving Illinois.


  15. - LizzoFan - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 4:02 pm:

    Senate Republicans: Maddison Harner . Takes amazing photos and is always running around like crazy on a session day and still has time to write for 3 members!


  16. - Shadow Lobby - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 4:07 pm:

    Senate Democratic Staffer- Miles Sodowski who was left out of the cannabis staffer honorable mentions yesterday. Being the first state to legalize marijuana by signing legislation into law, and not by ballot initiative there was not much to work off of. Miles literally got into the weeds on the different regulatory licensing requirements that had to be created from scratch, and sifting through the request of all the different interest groups involved. His knowledge of the legislation is unmatched, and he can tell you exactly what page any small detail of the regulations is at off the top of his head. While the “Ganja Queens” all did a fabulous job getting this bill over the finish line, I don’t think any staffer under the dome quietly put in as many hours as he did those final months.

    Senate Republican- Kyle Foutch- He has done a great job on pensions and local government issues for his caucus. He has a clear understanding that being in the super minority puts him at a severe disadvantage to get his members initiatives passed. Yet he does a great job negotiating with the majority caucus, and pushing to get his members bills at least heard in committee.


  17. - Anon - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 4:18 pm:

    Sen Dems: Ashley Jenkins led the way this session. I don’t think there was a piece of legislation she wasn’t involved in. On top of that- she’s brilliant and very kind and humble.


  18. - Rahm's Middle Finger - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 5:50 pm:

    Without a doubt, Ashley Jenkins. She was the Senate lead on $15, cannabis, and gaming… all at the same time. She worked tirelessly and made edit after edit. Ashley is incredibly bright and is will be a force under the dome for a long time to come.

    Scott Hurrelbrink on the GOP side. Has had an impact a super duper minority caucus.


  19. - Stuck in the suburbs - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 6:37 pm:

    SGOP- Joshua Horeled. It’s hard to find someone who works on the major issues with such grace and integrity while not getting nearly enough credit. It’s gotta be hard to staff his issues in the minority. He’s a pleasure to work with on issues.

    SDems- Ashley Jenkins. She’s off to bigger things but her work on Exec and other issues has always been outstanding. She is known for being kind and helpful to all groups.


  20. - Truthiness - Friday, Dec 6, 19 @ 8:46 pm:

    With 2019 coming to an end, Giovanni Randazzo deserves the Golden Horseshoe for Best Senate Democrat Staffer of the last decade. Mr. Randazzo has an encyclopedic knowledge of the statutes, legislation, and process. Members and staff rely on him daily. He’s the kind of guy who gives everyone else the credit when things go right and will work the hardest to fix something that goes wrong. He is upfront with lobbyists and always fair to the Minority Party. Gio cares about the Senate as an institution and the State of Illinois is better off because of his work.


  21. - Anon - Saturday, Dec 7, 19 @ 8:28 am:

    For the Senate Democrats: Miles Sodowski. Miles ran point on aggregating all ideas, comments, edits, etc., on the cannabis legislation which involved working with folks who are new to the legislative process. Any current or former staffer will tell you this requires a lot of time and patience. Miles handled the task professionally and with an eye for detail. He also sought zero recognition whatsoever which means that this year, no one is more deserving.

    For the SGOP - Joshua Horeled is a total pro. Kind and responsive, he does a good job of keeping his members informed of the goings on, and working with colleagues across the aisle to keep committee proceedings trucking along.


  22. - That’s what she said - Saturday, Dec 7, 19 @ 9:00 am:

    SDems: I agree with the nominations for Miles Sodowski. He was/is an integral part of the rec marijuana drafting team and he worked hard to help Sen. Steans get it to the finish line.

    SGOP: Kyle Foutch. He’s knowledgeable and hard working. A great asset to that caucus.


  23. - Big Anon - Saturday, Dec 7, 19 @ 8:32 pm:

    Senate Dems-Giovanni Randazzo has always gone above and beyond. Not just for members, not just for friends, fellow staff on both sides of the aisle but also as a father. He is a grinder in and out of the Capitol.


  24. - Marcos - Sunday, Dec 8, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    A good leader is a person that has empathy, sincerity, relatability, knowledge, and is open to the ideas of his team.

    I vote for Giovanni Randazzo!


  25. - Just a thought - Monday, Dec 9, 19 @ 9:56 am:

    My vote is for Jo Ellen Johnson. She has great knowledge of the Senate and the law. She’s one of the hardest workers around and is always will to negotiate to make legislation better. On top of all that, she is a personally a kind and funny individual.


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