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Question of the day: 2023 Golden Horseshoe Awards

Thursday, Dec 7, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2023 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Democratic State Senate Staff Member goes to Selena Gorman

While there are many rockstars that deserve this accolade, this year’s GH should go to Selena Gorman for her 3+ decades of service to the Senate Democratic Caucus. Despite all of the ups and downs, Selena has been steadfast in her commitment to serving the caucus and the legal staff. I do not know how Giovanni will survive without her! She will be missed dearly.

Gorman was most definitely the strongest crowd favorite.

Runner-up is Brandy Renfro. Honorable mention goes to Mary Hanahan.

* The 2023 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Republican State Senate Staff Member goes to Brad Carlson

He manages to stay modest, friendly, and grounded even in the heat of session. He’s been around a long time and seen a lot, but doesn’t expect rose petals thrown at his feet because of it. Knowledgeable but not an egghead…stays practical and pragmatic.

How can you not give him the win after a nomination like that? Solid.

Runner-up is Cheyenne Scaife. Honorable mention goes to Scott Kaiser.

Congratulations to all!

* On to today’s categories…

    Best Democratic State House Staff Member

    Best Republican State House Staff Member

To be clear, this category also includes campaign staff. Please explain your nominations or they won’t count. Also, do your very best to nominate in both categories.

* We raised about $10,000 yesterday to buy Christmas presents for foster children. Amazing. Thank you so very much.

As I write this, contributions have totaled $50,882 since last Tuesday, which is enough to help Lutheran Social Services of Illinois purchase 2,035 gifts.

Think about that for a second. Your generosity means more than 2,000 foster kids will receive a Christmas present this year. I’m just blown away by that and I hope you are, too.

Sometimes, these gifts cost more because some kids need winter coats or boots. So, let’s keep this going. The total LSSI goal is at least $63,250. Please, click here and help make it happen if you possibly can. Thanks!!!


  1. - Give Me A Break - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 9:57 am:

    Best Democratic State House Staff Member: Taylor Howard. She simply gets it and handles appropriations and human service issues without drama.
    Always returns calls, always willing to help and understands member “asks” are not always going to line up with lobbyist and advocates “asks”.

    She has quickly become a go to source in the House on budget matters that impact Medicaid and all of human services. Her skills coupled with a wicked sense of humor make her a asset to the House Dems.

    Best Republican State House Staff Member: Lauren Hund is not the most senior staff member but the House GOP have winner with Lauren.

    She works the bills assigned to her and makes sure her members are well briefed before committees. She knows how to get answers and understands the reality of working for the minority caucus means there are issues and obstacles to face that often have nothing to do with the subject matter of bills but she works.
    She is smart and fast to understand complex issues and is a complete professional and great to work with.

    I hope the House GOP can hang on to her because she is an emerging star of their staff.

  2. - RBG - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 10:45 am:

    Best Dem. House Staffer is Kat Bray. Kat left in September to pursue a job in DC, but before leaving was heavily influential in several large bills in her tenure at the Speaker’s office. Most recently and notably, the ban of sale on automatic weapons that was passed. Kat worked tirelessly each day for months with stakeholders and Rep. Morgan to ensure this bill would pass. Kat works hard and always has an upbeat attitude. There’s nothing she can’t do.

  3. - Val and Dave - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 11:15 am:


  4. - Kelly Cassidy - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 11:51 am:

    Best Hdem staffer is Kendra Piercy, hands down. It felt like she had a hand in nearly everything that went through this year’s absolutely bonkers lame duck session. She has continued to be invaluable to the Dobbs Working Group as we navigate through the ever changing landscape there. It’s enough to be a full time job, but she’s already got one of those that’s demanding enough. She faces all the chaos and mayhem of bills and crises big and small with grace, humor, and serious skill.
    HRep goes to Jen Passwater. I can’t say enough good things about what a joy it is to work with her. She staffs both Jud Crim and Restorative Justice, juggling complex issues and a broad range of opinions on topics among all of the committee members. She’s helpful to all members, goes out of her way to make sure everyone knows what’s happening, and does it all with a great attitude and sense of humor.

  5. - Commenter (Taylor’s Version) - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 11:55 am:

    A straight ticket vote for the Deputy Counsels

    Democrats: Kendra Piercy. It’s an understatement to say that it’s rare to see the Speaker of the House present a bill in committee, but we saw it this year and who was sitting right next to him? Kendra Piercy, Deputy Counsel to the Speaker. She was the legal leader of the House Dobbs / Reproductive Rights Working Group. She was the reason there was a last minute lame duck Cannabis transporter bill. And probably most importantly in the business we are in (and also for an award like this), she is a genuinely kind individual who is beloved by those that get to work with her.

    Republicans: Jen Paswater. First of all, how does she find the time to still staff the Judiciary-Criminal Committee? In addition to being Deputy Counsel, she now also serves as a Senior Advisor to Leader McCombie, so on basically every important or sensitive issue, Jen is there. And despite working on the most divisive and controversial subjects, from the freedom caucus to the Black Caucus, she is liked and respected by everyone. And she does all of this while still staffing 2-hour Jud-Crim hearings!! I don’t get it. Seriously can we do something about this??

  6. - PoliticIL Scientist - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 12:01 pm:

    House Dem Staff: Taylor Howard deserves to be in this conversation. Navigating Human Services and Medicaid is very difficult, but Taylor understands the issues and is trusted by her members. Also, a very hard worker. Bright future ahead here.

    House Republican Staff: Lauren Hund for similar reasons. She is a fast learner in a caucus and chamber that have a steep learning curve and is quickly earning the trust of her members.

  7. - Lakeviewing - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 12:09 pm:

    Best House Dem Staff Member: Kendra Piercy - Kendra handles a nearly unmanageable set of policy areas and responsibilities and does so with practicality, grace, and a great sense of humor.

    Best House GOP Staff Member: Jen Paswater - Jen is a great communicator who is easy to work with, kind, and carries a lot of institutional knowledge.

  8. - Seventh Floor - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 12:14 pm:

    House Dem Staff Member: Kendra Piercy - Not only does Kendra have rizz, she is wicked smart and works tirelessly to serve the House Dems. There is nothing she can’t do.

  9. - PLR - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 12:38 pm:

    House Democrats - Kylie Kelly. It’s hard to find a more dedicated or loyal staff member than Kylie. As this Caucus rebuilds itself, Kylie is the woman behind the curtain. Respected on both sides of the aisle by members and staff alike, she manages Caucus members successfully and remains extremely humble.

    House Republicans - Frank Strauss. Not only is Frank an institution in and around the Capitol, he
    truly shines in his diligent staffing of JCAR. Over the past 2 years he has brought light to overlooked issues within various proposed rules, resulting in exactly the kind of informed oversight JCAR should be conducting.

  10. - JoeMaddon - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 12:59 pm:

    HDEM - Kendra Piercy is amazing. One of my favorite staffers to work with in my too many years doing this work. She’s smart and kind and has an incredible grasp of the wide range of issues she works on, but also has very political instincts about how those policy issues play within the caucus.

    HGOP: Jen Passwater is a smart and thoughtful staffer who navigates a very difficult caucus, and she’s able to support them regardless of (despite?) their… interesting… ideas. She makes a difficult caucus far easier to work with.

  11. - joeburrow - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 1:07 pm:

    House Dem- Kylie Kelly is a the boss lady! There is nothing she can’t handle or get done within minutes. She’s a great leader and I know a lot of members can agree they don’t know what they’d do without her.
    House GOP- not familiar enough with any of them :(

  12. - Why don't you just call Taylor up - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 1:32 pm:

    House Dem- Kylie Kelly. Anything that happens in IL politics or government goes through Kylie. She is the absolute hardest worker I’ve ever met and a fantastic mentor to up and comers in IL politics.

  13. - 49ers - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 1:57 pm:

    House Dems - Taylor Howard. Taylor has really grown into her role as the human services staffer this year. She quickly became an expert on the budget and proved to be a trusted source for lobbyists and members to go to for all things Medicaid. I hope she stays on staff because she is one of the MVPS.

    House GOP - Lauren Hund. Lauren proves to be an excellent new addition to GOP staff. She is very sharp, a quick learner and has managed to take on multiple committee assignments in a short amount of time. She has quickly earned her trust in the Capitol and does so with a smile on her face.

  14. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 2:55 pm:

    I just now deleted one of the more offensive comments of the year.

    Imagine being such a complete and utter moronic jerk that you feel compelled to anonymously denigrate over-worked, under-paid staffers.

    Anyway, back to the question, which is really the only public recognition some of these folks will ever get because of the nature of their jobs.

  15. - Dotnonymous x - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 4:22 pm:

    Without these dedicated public servants…government could not operate in it’s functional capacity…they are all owed our thanks.

  16. - Justin - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 5:29 pm:

    Kylie Kelly has my vote for the HDems. She does her job well.

  17. - sasha fierce - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 5:35 pm:

    Also nominating Taylor Howard, like folks have said before she is incredibly knowledgeable about things that are very much in the weeds. She is willing to chat with people and learn the tiny details about their issues and is funny as all be. Incredibly privileged to work with her last session.

  18. - Pinkerton Detective - Thursday, Dec 7, 23 @ 7:59 pm:

    HGOP - Mark Revis - I know the word was already used once here but he is drippy with the rizz or however else his generation says it. But never the less, he is a gen Z-er and one that already holds elected office. His dedication to his members is unrivaled and is always willing to go out of his way for them 24/7. He looks at the job as a team effort and not just a job that ends at the end of the work day.

    HDems - Brady Burden - Always responsive to any inquiry or request, knowledgeable and dedicated to the caucus. Because of the dedication he has lead the push for staff unionization which would reduce staff turnover and provide a better work product for HDem members. It showed true leadership for him to stand up and bring that to the Speaker’s attention. The HDems are lucky to have him.

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