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Question of the day: 2023 Golden Horseshoe Awards

Friday, Dec 8, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The 2023 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Democratic State House Staff Member is a tie. 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.

* And 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.

Honorable mention is awarded to Taylor Howard.

* The 2023 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Republican State House Staff Member goes to Jen Passwater

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??

Runner-up is Lauren Hund. Honorable mention is awarded to Frank Strauss.

Congratulations to everyone!

* Today’s categories…

    Best Government Spokesperson/Comms

    Best Statehouse-Related Public Relations Spokesperson

That second category is new, but there are a lot of Statehouse types who run or work for PR firms, so let’s give it a try.

As always, make sure to explain your votes or they won’t count. And do your very best to nominate in both categories. Thanks.

* We didn’t raise much yesterday to give Christmas presents to foster kids. Still, every little bit helps. We’ve raised enough so far to buy presents for 2,045 foster kids served by Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, but they have 2,530 children in their program. So, please, click here. Thank you so much.


  1. - Michelle Flaherty - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 10:19 am:

    Whitney Barnes — She brings professionalism and never-ending effort to what is almost always an uphill battle. She is a tremendous asset to the SGOP caucus.

    Monique Garcia — if you thought she was fabulous with the Trib — and she was — you should work with her as a consultant. Her background and skillset is essentially unrivaled.

  2. - Daniel Tell-Three - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 10:27 am:

    Best Government Spokesperson/ Comms- King is Queen! Colleen King stepped into the role of Spokesperson for House Minority Leader McCombie with high expectations and took on a tall messaging task for a caucus that is as easy to keep on message as it is hard to keep bullfrogs in a wheelbarrow. Nobody has better utilized the Blue Room, better worked with the Springfield Press Corps, and gotten the minority’s policy position into statewide media cycles better than Colleen King. Her kindness belies her unflappable persistence. It’s easy to get your message out when you’re in the superminority. To stay relevant while in the superminority is a much tougher task. King owns her role and has an incredible future ahead of her. The House Republicans are lucky to have her on their team!

  3. - George Ryan Reynolds - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 10:42 am:

    I nominate John Patterson, spokesman for Senate President Harmon. John, a former Statehouse reporter, has a wealth of institutional memory and generally is patient with reporters both new and old in explaining How The Process Works. And there are a lot of those questions every week, mostly because John has been known to be accessible over the years to reporters and willing to clue them in.

    He’s also an effective advocate for the Senate president, analyzing how things might play out on an issue and offering advice that takes the long term into account, not just the daily news cycle. Critical thinking skills are super important in that job. Your ally on an issue today might be at odds with you tomorrow, and John knows when to advise using the stick and when to suggest that using the carrot might be better.

  4. - Dakno Thing - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 10:44 am:

    Best Government Spokesperson/Comms - He does a lot of work out of the spotlight, but Jason Rubin is a huge reason that the Governor’s office communications shop functions with such efficiency and competency. Jason works with all the state agencies on everything they release to the press every day. The one two punch of Jordan Abudayyeh and Jason are an unrivaled team in Government comms - Rubin deserves recognition for the quiet and steady work he puts in every day.

    Best Statehouse: John Patterson works hard, is funny on twitter and writes a great speech. He deserves another nomination this year.

  5. - hollytime - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 10:58 am:

    Best government comms: If the past few weeks have taught us anything it’s how important a stellar comms shop is. I have to second a nomination made above. There are a lot of great spokespeople that work in this arena, but Jordan Abudayyeh and Jason Rubin are a team to be reckoned with. There is nothing quite like a Governor’s Office shop… the Gov is out there all the time, the attacks are never ending and the number of crises just depends on the day. For five years now these two have guided the office through some of the toughest challenges and have been so successful that the Governor is frequently named as a presidential contender. That doesn’t happen unless you’ve had resounding success in the comms world. They truly are a superstar team and anyone who has had the pleasure of seeing them work together is usually in awe, and frankly, a little bit of fear– which is how they like it. You won’t find better staffers than them.

    For best statehouse PR I nominate Monique Garcia. She is a professional whose knowledge and experience in the statehouse has made her a real asset to Mac.

  6. - Schmoozer - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:06 am:

    State-house Related. Monique Garcia of Mac Strategies hands down. Calm, cool, collected, knowledgeable, ever-present. Just a few adjectives that describe her. Seamlessly juggles the needs of an impressive list of demanding clients. Overlays her comms knowledge with deep knowledge of the state house and the overlapping political and social environment.

    Best government spokesperson: Annie Thompson at AG Raoul’s office. The AG has is hands in a lot of issues, far more than people realize and many are very technical. Yet, they effectively and clearly express their message across all issues. She also is ALWAYS pleasant and unflappable. A rare commodity.

  7. - Politix - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 11:47 am:

    I will second Jason Rubin for Best Gov Comms.

    I’ve worked in gov for 25 years and under five Gov Comms Teams. Jason is one of the most professional, helpful, and even-keeled comms leaders with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of working. Kamaria Morris is close second.

  8. - Oldtimer - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:08 pm:

    Best Government Spokesperson/Comms: Jacqueline in Speaker Welch’s office. Welch seems to be everywhere and not afraid to share his thoughts. That can be a very difficult position for a press person, particularly when the statehouse has never had a legislative leader so vocal and out front on issues. Jacqueline is always on point and tries to help an overwhelmed caucus focus. Her job ain’t easy, but she does it with grace and poise.

    Best Statehouse-Related Public Relations Spokesperson: Becky Carroll and her team deserve recognition for being the PR strategists behind the scenes of so many things within Illinois’ political arena. They mastermind comms for legislators and advocates and run circles around their competition. As the spokesperson for Protect Illinois Communities, Becky was an unstoppable advocate for gun safety advocates. Without her team’s efforts the assault weapon ban would not have happened.

  9. - Commonsense in Illinois - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:10 pm:

    I’ll also support the nominations of John Patterson and Monique Garcia. Both are top notch professionals who understand the environment in which they operate, and neither places themselves above their clients. That humbleness eludes too many individuals these days.

  10. - Inside - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 12:58 pm:

    Government Comms: no one works harder than Jordan Abudayyeh. She’s honest and doesn’t try to spin you, but will go to the mat when she needs to. She’s a true professional who doesn’t look for the spotlight, she just grinds and gets the work done often without a lot of praise. But I’ll agree with people above. She doesn’t do it alone and her partner Jason Rubin is a whip smart and together they make an unstoppable team. I wouldn’t want them on the other side of an issue from me. Just ask the mayor how that’s going for him.

    Statehouse PR should go to Becky Carroll who works with a lot of advocacy orgs and lawmakers to get press for issues that some may not even pay attention to. She also is a fully woman owned and operated business which is something that should be celebrated.

  11. - ISURedbird - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 1:08 pm:

    Hands down, best government comms person of the last decade is Henry Haupt from the Secretary of State. Though now enjoying the bliss of retirement, he was the consummate professional and the friendliest person on any given day in the Capitol Building. No statement from Henry was ever complete until the 30th draft because he was exceptionally dedicated to accuracy and his craft. He was the Secretary of State Department of Communications and he made his colleagues better at their jobs and they were better people for having him in their lives.

  12. - PrairieCat - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 2:06 pm:

    Best Gov Comms- Jason Rubin is top-notch. He’s accessible, smart and easy to work with. His job is 24/7 and he does the job seamlessly. He and Jordan Abuddayyeh make an impressive duo for Team JB.

    PR- Becky Carroll. Becky has a long, diverse career in Ilinois politics and government. She is thoughtful, heartfelt and passionate. The job she did managing Protect Illinois’s Families on the gun control issue led to major results.

  13. - Mark Denzler - Friday, Dec 8, 23 @ 3:09 pm:

    Statehouse: Henry Haupt from SOS. I know he just retired but can you find a better human being? One of the nicest people and a true professional who has had the ability to work for Secretary Ryan, White and Giannoulias. Not many people that would have been able to do it. This is his last shot at the Horsehoe!!

    PR: Monique Garcia. True professional with a heart of gold. Never a cross word about anybody. Brilliant strategist, great writer and fashionista. She is well deserving.

  14. - Annon'in - Sunday, Dec 10, 23 @ 11:38 am:

    Lots of choices
    Patterson is great, but we think he has won. So we turn to Jacklyn Driscoll w/ Speaker Welch and/or Henry Haupt who handled PIO duties for much of the White Era at SOS. Always prompt and response.

    In the new category we urge support for David Ormsby who has logged many miles for many issues with wit and wisdom that always gets the point across.

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