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Question of the day: 2022 Golden Horseshoe Awards

Friday, Dec 2, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2022 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best State Senate Staffer - Non Political goes to Policy and Budget Analyst Meredith O’Brien

Meredith O’Brien is the gold standard when it comes to staffers who know their issues and how to get things done.

She handles some of the most complex issues in human services, including the sometimes dreaded Behavioral Health and Addiction bills that are never easy to write or pass. She has multiple groups and lobbyist in her ear from the first day of session until adjournment.

Everyone from her members to advocates to other staffers and lobbyist know if you have a human service related bill in the Senate, you had better have had a conservation with Meredith long before you try moving the bill.

Like most staffers, she works ridiculous hours during session but always has time to answer questions or provide input.

* The 2022 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best State House Staffer - Non Political goes to Deputy Legal Counsel Kendra Piercy

She is smart (without being condescending), self-aware, calm and can be counted on to handle many major issues for the House Dems. She was recently promoted to Deputy Counsel and is a strong asset to her caucus.

Congratulations to both winners!

* Let’s move on to today’s categories…

    Best campaign staffer - Illinois House Democrats

    Best campaign staffer - Senate Democrats

Please nominate in both categories if you can. Also, make sure to explain your nominations. Thanks!

* And here’s your friendly reminder to click here and help buy presents for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois foster children. Here’s a holiday greeting from one of those kids


  1. - Some Dem - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 11:57 am:

    I would like to nominate Kevin Romo with the Doris Turner campaign. If anyone deserves the recognition for a job well done is that man to run the meanest field program in the State. He gave Doris Turner the ground game that a turnout election like this one needed.

  2. - Captainfax - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 12:02 pm:

    I’d like to nominate Dana Stoerger for Senate Democratic campaign staffer. Yes, the fearless leader of the Doris Turner campaign. The thing is, no one face a challenge like he did and manage to come on top. To the extent of this nomination Dana Stoerger would always come on top no matter what.

  3. - LandobutnotCalrissian - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 12:13 pm:

    Senate Dems: Hands down Nick Giannini. Although Nick ran Justice Mary Kay O’Brien’s campaign this year and not a Senate race, he was a crucial part of many of the DuPage county victories on both the House and Senate side. Nick was someone any campaign staffer could reach out to for advice, leads on volunteers or other contacts. He led and created a coordinated GOTV plan for the entirety of DuPage that helped secure victories for democrats up and down the ballot. Even while managing the biggest race on the ballot this year, he kept a level head and was always available to help others. Nick’s over 10 years of work for the Senate Dems makes him a trusted source of knowledge, especially in a battleground county like DuPage.

    House Dems: Kylie Kelly. There’s a reason Kylie is now the Political Director for Democrats for the Illinois House. She has had several election cycles of victories and this year was no exception. Kylie helped protect crucial members and was an integral part of getting the Dem’s majority up to 78. No matter what time of day it is, Kylie is available to help any house staffer, even on races where she was not oversight. Kylie has internal knowledge of campaigns that very few others can say they do. She is one of the most hardworking people I have ever met and smartest, but she would never admit it herself due to her humility. She is one of the best resources Illinois Democrats have and to lose her would be a massive loss to the entire state.

  4. - staff - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 12:17 pm:

    I would like to nominate Mike Beatty for Senate Dems. Beatty was the Senate Swiss army knife this year, an absolute grinder. He was the floating fixer who knows how to steer the ship.

    For House Dems, I would like to nominate whoever was the lead for the Dave Vella operation. Best ground game in the state going away.

  5. - Gohawks123 - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 12:20 pm:

    House Dems- Chris Giller

    Senate Dems- Dana Stoerger and Kevin Romo. They figured out how to gut it out and find a win for Senator against all odds. Hats off to them

  6. - Gohawks123 - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 12:22 pm:

    I take back my house statement: I think Alex Campbell who Sharon Chung Race did an amazing job and the duo of Crocket and Campbell really made a difference in McLean county for the dems.

  7. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 12:23 pm:

    ===House Dems- Chris Giller ===

    Thanks, but if you don’t explain, your vote doesn’t count.

  8. - whitehouse - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 12:32 pm:

    Senate Dems: hands down Kevin Romo & Dana Stoerger. They were an incredible team and pulled off an amazing feat for Sen. Turner. I don’t think she could have won without them by her side. They didn’t take no for an answer when things got tough. They made you feel welcome and supported anytime you walked into their offices.

    House Dems: Morri Briel with Rep. Yednock. She is incredibly kind and warm. She wears multiple hats at all times and she got things done for Yednock.

  9. - Snave - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 12:43 pm:

    Senate Dems - Magen Ryan blew my mind this year. She’s always been phenomenal but the groundwork she spent years laying all came together in November to the benefit of Senate Dems.

    I’ve worked with campaign managers who are especially good at certain things but Magen is especially good at everything: strategy, budgeting, member management, staff management and consultant management. To have someone on your team who is empathetic, direct, respectful even in the face of occasional disrespect, collaborative and decisive, and empowers the people around her is a privilege in any industry — especially politics.

  10. - Give Me A Break - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 12:45 pm:

    Senate Dems, Dana Stoerger. Senator Turner owes her political life to Dana. He knew when to respond to the GOP accusations and just how to to do it. The Turner campaign could have gone south in a heartbeat. Dana was the calming voice and a steady hand that kept that campaign from a loss.

  11. - The Opinions Bureau - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 12:54 pm:

    Kylie Kelly and Magen Ryan.

    Kylie because, come on, look at the outcome. The biggest and most diverse caucus in modern history.

    The state side SDem leadership could learn a lesson or two from Magen about how to handle the senator from the 19th District.

  12. - PM - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 1:40 pm:

    Hands-down best House campaign staffer is Chris Lowery. He is a veteran who oversees the entire HDEM operation for downstate Illinois, which has become an increasingly difficult climate. Bottom line, he wins races and is responsible for many of the new HDEMS coming into the Caucus in January.

    Miles Sodowski is a great asset to the SDEMS and also handled downstate races for the Caucus like an absolute pro. He did an incredible job on Senator Belt’s race and almost won the Kris Tharpe race in a very difficult district.

    Both are true assets to their respective caucus’ and are rising stars at the statehouse.

  13. - Norm MacDonald - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 2:18 pm:

    For Senate Dems staffer, I have no idea how to choose between Dana Stoerger and Kevin Romo. Doris Turner’s campaign ended up being *the* Senate race, and they were on the ground early with energy and a plan. A very impressive performance.

  14. - GoTeam - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 2:23 pm:

    Senate Dems: Mike Beatty for holding the team together. The Sen Dems campaign rock stars were full of a lot of new folks who worked their first campaigns. Beatty helped mentor his team members, alleviate crises and keep members happy.

    When the SDEMS needed someone to clean up a mess they would send Beatty in to fix it. He is an all-around good guy and always a pleasure to work with.

    House Dems: Chris Lowery - always a team player and great political mind. The HDEMs are lucky to have him.

  15. - McDem Chair - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 2:27 pm:

    I’ll second Gohawks123 nominations of Alex Campbell for Sharon Chung’s House campaign and Josh Crockett for Sen. Dave Koehler’s campaign. Both Sharon and Dave are notoriously hard workers but Alex and Josh pushed them to new levels here in McLean County. Thanks to their efforts working for their own candidates, we won the county for a Democratic Governor candidate for the first time since 1948, elected a Democratic Congressional Representative, and elected a record number of county board candidates. They focused on young voter turnout which led to record numbers on campus at ISU..1700 election day voters including 1400 same day registrations. Their ground game was superb, their organization was top notch and their GOTV plan and execution was impressive. All Democrats in McLean County benefited from their work. An honorable mention goes to Chris Giller who helped lay the foundation when he managed Sharon Chung’s primary campaign.

  16. - Dawn Shelton - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 2:45 pm:

    I would like to nominate Jake Handley with the Senate Dems. Jake delivered the 36th District! He is an absolute professional, works extremely hard, and avoids campaign drama. He sets the bar very high for himself and has the innate ability to make volunteers and staff want to work for him and do their best for the campaign. No task is too small or too big for Jake. He always goes the extra mile. One of the best I have witnessed in my 34 years in politics.

  17. - PepTalk - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 3:50 pm:

    Senate Dems: Dana Stoerger ran a tight campaign for Sen. Turner. He was beyond helpful and always made volunteers feel welcomed and appreciated. So proud of him and his team!

  18. - TGIF - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 3:57 pm:

    Dana Stoerger did an excellent job managing Doris Turner campaign and undoubtedly gets my vote.

  19. - Four Eyes - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:07 pm:

    Andrew Hoffman with the Senate Dems. Andrew was in district first thing in May after working on a hospital and nursing home assessment during a truncated session. He put together a top notch operation that turned a swingy district on paper into a comfortable win in reality.

  20. - Justin - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:08 pm:

    I nominate Kevin Romo for the Senate Dems, as he helped give Doris Turner a win for the full term.

    As for the House Dems, I nominate Allie McNamara. She joined the Katie Stuart campaign and assisted with Lance Allen to give her a victory in a bright spot for an otherwise dismal election outcome in Madison County.
    [Disclosure: I volunteered for Katie]

  21. - PepTalk - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:09 pm:

    Senate Dems: Dana Stoerger knocked it out of the park for Sen. Turner race.. He always made volunteers feel appreciated and welcomed. He went above and beyond at every turn.

  22. - Joe H. - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:09 pm:

    Senate Dem nominee hs to be Jake Handley. The man comes from good stock, works tirelessly, and understands campaign targeting better than any of his peers. He consistently brings home a winner, did Joyce two years ago, and Halpin this outing. He was taught by some of the best and keeps his nose to the grindstone avoiding the daily drama most campaigns get sucked into. Handley trained Beatty, and while Beatty is exceptional, Handley is more seasoned. As it relates to the House Dems, Kylie Kelly is top-notch. She is poised to take over the operation and was one of the main architects of the recording-breaking caucus. If you don’t know her, you will.

  23. - Four Eyes - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:10 pm:

    ===Andrew Hoffman with the Senate Dems. Andrew was in district first thing in May after working on a hospital and nursing home assessment during a truncated session. He put together a top notch operation that turned a swingy district on paper into a comfortable win in reality.===

    I should have mentioned that Hoffman was managed Suzy Glowiak’s campaign

  24. - Red Line Rambler - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:14 pm:

    Senate: Mike Beatty- One of the nominations compared him to a swiss army knife. Can’t say it better. This guy is an absolute machine and was involved with some tight races all over the Chicagoland area. No one works harder.

    House: Kylie Kelly- 78 Dems. That’s the answer.

  25. - Some Dem 2 - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:17 pm:

    Kevin Romo ( Senate Dems) is the one to nominate for this award. His professionalism in running the field for Senator Dorris Turners campaign was absolutely outstanding.

  26. - Casual Observer - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:19 pm:

    Senate Dems - Magen Ryan - not sure how you can argue with this selection. Calm, cool and collected. Navigated the caucus and her boss through a difficult cycle given what they were up against. They’d be smart to bring her political knowledge over to the government side to balance out some of the shenanigans that goes on in that office. They’re lucky to have her.

  27. - West Sider - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:22 pm:

    How Andrew Hoffmann hasn’t been mentioned more is beyond me. He took what was projected to be “the” Senate race of the cycle with Sen. Glowiak-Hilton and blew the opponent out of the water. He’s also probably the only staffer who could be plausibly nominated for both the state and political side award. My hat’s off to him for another successful campaign and look forward to following his future endeavors.

  28. - beeg yoshi - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:27 pm:

    Senate Dems - Kevin Romo ran a fantastic ground operation and helped flip super-red Macon County for Doris

  29. - Midwest Maven - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:30 pm:

    Kevin Romo: Senate Dems, Kevin is gem. Kevin is a consummate professional and knowledgeable he did a phenomenal job with Senator Turner’s campaign.

    House Dems: Allie McNamara.

  30. - Good Witch Glenda - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:41 pm:

    Hands down I would say Kevin Romo w/the Senate Dems. Sen. Turner was in an incredibly difficult race and the patience, skill, commitment and foresight to field off a narrow defeat is only accomplished by a brilliant strategist. Kevin deserves to be acknowledged for his hard work.

    Allie McNamara gets my vote for House Dems. In a region that is becoming increasingly red and Trumpian, a win for Katie Stuart buys the Dems a bit more time to solidify their ground game for the next election. Allie pulled off a great campaign.

  31. - winners do the work - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:42 pm:

    The two Democratic caucuses dominated the cycle and there are many worthy and impressive staffers that deserve credit, but I think you have to give some love to the two political directors that led the charge and directed the programs - Magen Ryan and Craig Willert.

    Magen is the most influential and predominant legislative campaign operative on the business. She is a pure strategist who knows how to develop and execute a plan, all while encouraging and uplifting the staff around her. She approaches the job with a level of integrity and honesty that’s often lacking in this business. She’s wildly respected by her peers and those who work with her. The President and the Senate Dems are lucky to have her.

    Craig Willert developed a strategy to win 78 seats. He’s the Republican slayer. People questioned the Dems decision to go on broadcast and to focus solely on abortion issues, but that gamble paid off. Craig knows how to develop and execute a winning plan. He also knows his limitations and has always given his trusted sidekick, Kylie Kelly, the opportunity to grow and show her real talents. I feel sorry for the GOP in 2024 because Kylie is going to crush it. This is his last cycle as political director and should finally receive some recognition for his talents and the many years of service to the House Democrats political operation.

  32. - BearDown1 - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:44 pm:

    I nominate Kevin Romo for Senate House Democrats

  33. - BearDown1 - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:53 pm:

    I nominate Kevin Romo and Dana Stoerger for the Senate House Democrats, they did a remarkable job during Senator Doris Turners campaign.

  34. - Downstate Diva - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 4:59 pm:

    This was a tough one:
    House Dems: Kylie Kelly well deserved in my opinion.

    House Senate: Kevin Romo: Great strategizing and phenomenal work.

  35. - The Capitol Observer - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 5:05 pm:

    I cannot personally speak for the Illinois House Dems, but I find that one individual is the most deserving of the title “Best Campaign Staffer” within the Senate Democrats. This person is Dana Stoerger. He put forward his very best and pulled through with one of the most noteworthy wins this campaign cycle.
    His ability to remain calm in the most unexpected situations continues to be one of his excellent qualities. Doris Turner’s race was tight, and she secured that win not only because of her excellent team but because of Dana’s leadership and direction.

    Kudos to Turner’s team for creating such an inviting atmosphere

  36. - Close Observer - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 6:03 pm:

    Kevin and Dana. Any other answer is wrong considering most thought it was a lost cause.

  37. - JLI - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 8:20 pm:

    Dana Stoerger for the Senate Dems. In spite of all the odds, he pulled off an incredible win.

  38. - Shoeszko - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 8:44 pm:

    Dana Stoerger was the best campaign manager and it is because of his leadership that Doris was able to secure a win. Dana’s competent and calm leadership in the face of adversity is a remarkable feat few can claim. Dana’s classic policy if there’s a solution somewhere kept the team focused and motivated throughout the entire campaign, despite the hurdles the Sandy team threw. Dana turned his team from a rag tag group of kids into a determined group of leaders now with promising careers with the state of Illinois.

  39. - Capitol Observer - Friday, Dec 2, 22 @ 8:54 pm:

    Although I can’t personally speak for the Illinois House Dems, I will say that the individual who deserves the recognition of “Best Campaign Staffer” from the Illinois Senate Dems is Dana Stoerger. His ability to remain calm during the most intense and unexpected situations is one of his exceptional qualities. He secured the most noteworthy win this campaign cycle. Dana led a successful and effective team. The Democratic Caucus is lucky to have an individual passionate about his work on both the state and political side.

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