I was thinking about doing a story on some of the amazing people behind the amazing races we've seen in the last two years, but the Sun-Times' Steve Brown beat me to the punch, naming two of the most respected campaign managers in Illinois politics these days: Mike Noonan and Pat Botterman.
From Brown's column:
Steering [Alderman Bernie] Stone to victory was Mike Noonan, who emerged as one of the premiere local political consultants for Regular Democrats by piloting Lisa Madigan's first campaign for attorney general.
Directing Waguespack's historic upset of Ald. Ted Matlak was Patrick Botterman, who has made his mark in Illinois politics by running the campaigns of independent-minded candidates willing to take on the Democratic establishment.
In essence, Noonan is Mr. Inside in Cook County Democratic circles while Botterman is Mr. Outside.
What they share is a nuts-and bolts knowledge of winning elections, knowledge that each gained while working in the trenches.
You should read the whole thing. Brown provides good insight, although a couple of key points are overlooked. First he leaves out the race where Mike Noonan really first distinguished himself, helping elect a longshot Democrat in McHenry County in 1998, that no one thought could win: State Rep. Jack Franks. Franks remains an independent-minded, anti-machine tour de force in the statehouse, calling out Governor Blagojevich for his ethical lapses and supporting anti-machine candidates like alderman-elect Brendan Reilly.
More recently, Brown skips over Noonan's 2004 involvement in the U.S. Senate Primary, working on behalf of Dan Hynes and against Barack Obama. While Noonan wasn't brought into that race until very late, and certainly no one can fault him for Obama's victory, it's important to remember that as good as Noonan is at what he does, even he can't walk on water or stop bullets with his bare hands. I hear he makes one hell of a fajita though.
I'd be interested to hear other folks thoughts on who they think the really distinguished campaigners are out there in Illinois, Democratic and Republican.