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Question of the day: 2022 Golden Horseshoe Awards

Thursday, Dec 8, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2022 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Best Illinois State Representative - Democrat goes to Rep. Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside)

His bipartisanship, consensus building, common sense, attention to detail, and collegiality are rare in the Capitol. His experience and institutional knowledge will be missed more than others. Hate to see you go, Z.


* The 2022 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Best Illinois State Representative - Republican goes to Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City)

One of the best human beings you will ever meet. Conservative but reasonable. Works his district like a pro. Plow horse mentality. Did I mention he is just an incredible and decent man?

As subscribers know, Rep. Bennett is hoping for an appointment to the Senate, so he could eventually wind up with an exacta one day.

Congratulations to both!

* Today’s categories

    Best Illinois State Senator - Democrat

    Best Illinois State Senator - Republican

Please vote in both categories and make sure to explain your votes or they won’t count. Thanks.

* And, after you vote, please click here and help raise money to buy presents for foster kids. Lutheran Social Services of Illinois does a great job with these kids, but it costs money to buy them presents every year and we’re a big part of that. Actually, we’re a bigger part of that than at any time except when I threw a 50th birthday party and helped raise a bunch of dough for LSSI…



  1. - walker - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 11:35 am:

    Z more than deserves this award. One of the most respected, liked, and fair-dealing members.

    I found it tragic that he lost his Primary partly due to an attack on his family, not on him.

  2. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 11:42 am:

    Congratulations to Mike Z, Golden Horseshoe winner for the House Dems.

    I will be interested what his “next” will be, he will be missed in the House.

  3. - vern - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 11:50 am:

    Republicans: John Curran. I liked the choice of McConchie for leader. He seemed to be one of the few who could bridge the moderate-conservative divide. But his district just isn’t safe enough anymore. Curran moved impressively fast to make his case and line up support. He deposed McConchie from a more moderate position without excessive drama or conflict. His elevation is one of the few hopeful signs for the future of the ILGOP.

    Dems: Ram Villivalam. His ability to assemble coalitions shows in how he serves his district, turning former opponents into allies through generosity and hard work. It also shows in the statewide voting bloc he and a few others have built essentially from scratch. The rise of Asian-Americans is one of the biggest Illinois organizing successes in memory, and he made it look effortless. The breadth and solidarity of the Asian American coalition was not inevitable, it was forged. Ram’s ability to balance legislative work, constituent service, and an ambitious statewide organizing project makes him one of a kind. He deserves a Golden Horseshoe, a round of applause, and anything else his bright future promises.

  4. - Tood Aloo - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 11:51 am:

    Best dem senator is Dave Koehler. He’s honest as the day is long, and he has a genuine heart that believes that government is an instrument for good they should help people live better lives. He’s just an all around good guy.

    Best Republican senator is don Dewitte. Smart, funny, and well informed. A great guy and very easy to work with.

  5. - Todd & Margo - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 11:58 am:

    Dems: Senator Joyce. He is able to not only work all the different factions in his caucus, he also works across the aisle to build support on his initiatives. He works his district hard, and has one of the best and jolliest laughs.

    Republicans: Senator DeWitte. He brings a good perspective to things as a former Mayor and RTA board member. Even when he disagrees with your position he is willing to listen and engage.

  6. - Give Me A Break - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 12:11 pm:

    Best Dem Senator. Dave Koehler, not a grandstander, not looking for a fight on every bill, doesn’t just follow the party line. He just comes through for his district. He goes out of his way to treat staffers and legislative liaisons with respect and values their work. Always has time for a chat with lobbyist and advocates and willing to listen to all points of view. And makes sure he understands both sides of legislation.

    And, he can explain even the most hot button issues in a way that invites dialog.

  7. - Boone's is Back - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 12:58 pm:

    Wow, hats off to Rich, Speaker Welch, and everyone who donated to LSSI. That is awesome, cheery news.

  8. - Proud Sucker - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:22 pm:

    Ds: Sen. Holmes. She is responsive to her constituents and very honest to her beliefs. This can be off-putting to those at a distance but, when talking with her, you can understand her passion.

    Rs: Sen. DeWitte. Always remembers his roots as a Mayor and works his district. Does his best to keep the hyper-partisans at more than arm’s length.

  9. - CollarCounty - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:32 pm:

    Best Dem Senator: Cristina Castro. She is highly connected to and respected by her district. She is definitely a workhorse and not a showhorse. Senator Castro has helped successfully negotiate legislation on a wide range of issues such as addressing Maternal Mortality, Clean Energy, and Immigrant Protections. Her work to organize and grow the IL Legislative Latino Caucus is commendable as well

    Best GOP Senator: Dewitte. Easy to talk to, and as a former mayor, he is very knowledgeable on local governmental issues

  10. - Anonymoose - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:34 pm:

    Democrat: Senator Dave Koehler. There’s a reason he’s been in office so long, and it’s because he’s an honest, kind, dedicated public servant. He cares deeply about the community and state he serves, and he meets Illinoisans where they are and does his level best to do right by them. He’s willing to have the difficult conversations and do hard work with people on both sides of the aisle, and is unfailingly kind to staffers and lobbyists alike. There’s no one more deserving in the IL Senate Dems Caucus.

    Republican: Senator Don DeWitte. He is known both in and out of his caucus as agreeable and easy to work with. Even in situations where an agreement can’t be reached, he’s able to make his point and hear yours with mutual respect. He engages in hard conversations for the good of his constituents and the state as a whole.

  11. - Snave - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:34 pm:

    D - Senator Peters. There’d be no safe t act without him and, if there were, the trailer bill would’ve entirely dismantled it if it weren’t for him. He takes the time to explain in detail to get support from members who aren’t as progressive as him. (He’s a Bernie bro who’s hosting a fundraiser with Laura Murphy if that’s tells you anything about his ability to work with people.) He’s also smart about prioritizing. He focuses on what needs to get done first and goes from there.

  12. - Jimmy Baseball - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:36 pm:

    Senate Dems - Scott Bennett. A thoughtful, respected legislator that represents a district with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. His opinion is valued by many on a variety of issues. Plus, even though you may disagree with him, he always has a joke to make you laugh. He is genuinely one of the best people in the Capitol.

    Senate GOP - John Curran is a rising star in the Republican Party. Looking forward to him playing a larger role in their caucus.

  13. - Captain, Oh Captain - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:46 pm:

    Democrats: Sen. Bill Cunningham. He is a great representative of the south side and south suburbs. There is a reason why the first responder community in his district loves him. He is a calm voice in a loud environment.

    Republicans: Sen. Don DeWitte. Easily one of the best members of the Chamber. He is hard-working, savvy, bipartisan, and a solutions-first Senator. No one is more deserving.

  14. - Justin - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 1:47 pm:

    Best State Senate Dem: Christopher Belt. He won his largely St. Clair County-dominated district by fairly easy margins despite having one of his State Representative seats nested in within it losing in an upset.

    Best State Senate Republican: John Curran. He is a relative moderate by today’s ILGOP standards.

  15. - Mimo - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 2:03 pm:

    I nominate Senator Cristina Castro for the Senate Dem Golden Horseshoe award. Senator Castro is strategic in getting high profile bills to pass. Her community loves her and you can see her go the distant to fight for them. She also has an amazing team in district and in her campaign side. This year the senator was all around the suburbs and IL supporting democrats up and down the ballot with her team.

  16. - Anti-Hero - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 2:14 pm:

    Republicans: Senator John Curran. Seeing the expertise and rationale Leader Curran brings to State Government is one of the main reasons Illinois is desperate for his leadership. His selflessness recognizes the importance of working together with people regardless of party lines. He fought hard on ethics reform because he sincerely believes in an ethical government. I could write a book about why he is the best Senator.

    Democrats: Senator Dave Koehler. The few times I’ve had the opportunity to work with him, he has always shown dedication in his work and is always willing to talk about different viewpoints on issues. He truly understands that there is more than just one way to see issues.

  17. - Suburban Operative - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 2:17 pm:

    Senate Democrats: Don Harmon. Harmon is easily the smartest person in the entire Senate. Back home, he represents former Phil Rock’s district of Oak Park/Austin and surrounding areas. Chairman of DPOP - Dem Party of Oak Park - he’s the leader of the machine back home that works precincts and districts all across the area. A master tactician, Harmon always looks out 5-6 steps ahead of everyone else. Calm, cool, collective. Admirable. I hope he uses his power for good, and I think he’s done a great job to date.

    Senate Republicans: John Curran. I think if you can play that delicate balancing act to represent a suburban Cook/DuPage district well, while maintaining being a Republican and working across the aisle, you’ll be destined to do great things. Not just politically, but also to govern.

    I will be very interested to see how well Harmon and Curran work together this upcoming legislative session.

  18. - The Copper Bucket - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 2:29 pm:

    Democrat: Senator Patrick Joyce. Senator Joyce represents one of the most diverse districts in the the state and he works tirelessly to ensure that all communities in his district are represented and does not get caught up in the back and forth political games. He is authentic and focused on making his district and the state a better place for everyone. Take the Pembroke Natural Gas Pipeline. He took a lot of heat from certain environmental groups and others for passing that bill, but he knew that it was disingenuous for individuals who lived in homes heated by gas to tell others, who were not as fortunate, that they could not do the same and stood with the people of his district. Not to mention he is just a good guy

    Republican: Senator Sue Rezin is a necessary voice in the IL Senate. She is willing to work with all members of the GA to achieve common sense solutions to our State’s issues, evidenced by her playing a key role in the passage of CEJA. We need more people like Senator Rezin in the GA, who are focused on fixing problems and not playing political games all of the time.

  19. - TheRealSlimShady - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 2:54 pm:

    For Best Senate Dem, I nominate Senator Cristina Castro, she fights hard to bring funding for her district. Senator Castro is highly respected and liked by her community. She is a fierce advocate for her diverse suburban district, and works in a bipartisan manor to deliver for her constituents

  20. - gallifrey - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 3:43 pm:

    For me it’s Senator Gillespie. She is smart as hell and really knows her stuff, but she’s also pragmatic and a good negotiator. As a sponsor she’s responsive but not a micromanager. If I could give every bill I had to Sen. Gillespie, I would

  21. - Red Ketcher - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 3:47 pm:

    D- Sen Patrick Joyce - Common Guy, a True Family Farmer seeking Common Ground with Common Sense, and an understanding of Common Folks for the Common Good.

  22. - T Rex - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 4:41 pm:

    Dem: Sen Castro. She gets works hard things done rather than pretend to care. She also remembers to put the people first and can broker pragmatic deals.

    Sen: Curran. He should serve the Senate repubs better than we have seen to date.

  23. - Rosie - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 5:12 pm:

    Best Dem: Robert Peters. He was instrumental in ending cash bail and holding the line against the millions of dollars Dan Proft launched against the PFA. He’s also done a great job shifting the conversation away from public safety being all about the police.

    Best R: Curran. Here’s to new leadership!

  24. - staffing shortage - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 5:49 pm:

    Dem - Senator Patrick Joyce. The 40th District is one of the toughest environments to be democrat for both the general and primary. He started off a little conservative, but he’s moved towards that blue dog moderate that i think all dems can appreciate

    R - Senator Dale Fowler - Fowler could easily vote however he wants, throw bombs and get nothing done - and his district would love him for it. But Fowler actually works to find common ground with dems on some issues if he can get something out of it. Good legislator that tries hard to bring actual results to the district, not just angry words

  25. - TGIF - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 6:19 pm:

    Senator Koehler is the kindest person under the dome. True Statesman.

    Senator Stewart. Also a very nice person. Sad to see him go.

  26. - SpringfieldWestSide - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 6:49 pm:

    Dem - Senator Patrick Joyce. Easily one of the most hard working members who works hard for his district. He has a great relationship with almost every mayor in the district and when legislation affects them - he calls. When you represent part of Cook County and Kankakee County you have to listen to constituents and he puts in the effort to. All around great guy.

    GOP - Senator John Curran. One of the nicest guys. He puts politics aside and does what he’s elected to do. Excited to see where he takes the caucus.

  27. - Leslie K - Thursday, Dec 8, 22 @ 8:42 pm:

    Happy to see Mike Z win. He was always measured, willing to take in new information, and looked to build consensus. Also never took himself too seriously, even when serious matters were being debated. I hope he stays in public service in some capacity.

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