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The Best State-Based Political Reporters

Calling all nominations for the best political reporter in each state! Photo by istock

One of the Fix's pleasures in life -- yes, we know we are weird -- is reading the work of the best political reporters from across the country to get a on-the-ground sense for what's happening in the states.

A few years ago, we asked Fixistas to offer their thoughts on the best political reporter(s) from each state. With many of those reporters having moved on to greener pastures, we wanted to update our list to make sure we had the best and brightest of the journalistic world represented.

This is where you come in. Have a reporter from your home state (or adopted home state) that you think does a great job getting to the bottom of the political scrum? Offer his or her name in the comment section.

We have a few of our own personal favorites -- Glen Johnson (the reporter, not the soccer player) in Massachusetts, John O'Connor in South Carolina, Jon Ralston in Nevada -- but we want to have EVERY state in the union represented.

When we get all 50, we'll post the names in this space.

Get to it!

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 23, 2009; 3:46 PM ET
Categories:  Fix Notes  
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Next: MA-Senate: Kirk is Frontrunner


California: Shane Goldmacher, LA Times
Shane did great work when he wrote the Sacramento Bee's online Capitol Alert. He continues to provide accurate and insightful reporting for the LA Times.

Posted by: ezitano | September 30, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I hope it's not too late:

AR: Andrew DeMillo, AP
GA: Shannon McCaffrey, Greg Bluestein, AP
KY: Al Cross
TE: Tom Humphrey, Knoxville News Sentinel

Posted by: politicoreader | September 30, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

I hope it's not too late:

AR: Andrew DeMillo, AP
GA: Shannon McCaffrey, Greg Bluestein, AP
KY: Al Cross
TE: Tom Humphrey, Knoxville News Sentinel

Posted by: politicoreader | September 30, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I hope it's not too late.

AR: Andrew DeMillo, AP
GA: Shannon McCaffrey, Greg Bluestein, AP
KY: Al Cross, Louisville Courier-Journal
TE: Tom Humphrey, Knoxville News-Sentinel

Posted by: politicoreader | September 30, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Shane Goldmacher, now of LA Times and formerly of Sacramento Bee. A fair writer, thorough researcher, and good headline punner.

Posted by: ariannasmith | September 30, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse


Jim Sullinger, Kansas City Star
Stan Finger, Wichita Eagle

Posted by: LandOfOz | September 28, 2009 11:56 PM | Report abuse

Shane Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times

A dedicated individual who shows a lot of passion for his work

Posted by: jlee213 | September 28, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Not sure which comments section you are looking at, but I would second Phil Trounstine over at Some of the best coverage of local and state politics.

Posted by: austenlc | September 28, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

DC Metro area so VA DC or MD: I think Gordon Peterson is about as good as it gets.

Posted by: BobbyH1 | September 28, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

definitely phil troustine california who blogs at calbuzz. great resource!

Posted by: crazyfalafel | September 28, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Carla Axtman,

Posted by: cook97203 | September 28, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

For Oregon:

Carla Axtman at Blue Oregon (

Jeff Mapes at The Oregonian (

Posted by: theindyvoter | September 26, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse


Another vote for Shane Goldmacher of the Los Angeles Times.

Shane did a bang up job at the Sacramento Bee prior to working for the LA Times. His reporting through California's unusual budget crisis has been fantastic.

Posted by: ba66 | September 25, 2009 9:59 PM | Report abuse

CALIFORNIA: Shane Goldmacher, Los Angeles Times

Previously ran the Sacramento Bee's must-read Capitol Alert. One of the Capitol's best sourced and well-respected political reporters.

Posted by: sk310 | September 25, 2009 9:13 PM | Report abuse


Michael Cross with KOSU (an NPR station) is on his way to becoming our state's next great political reporter.

Several of the old guard have entered into retirement recently, and it's left a hole in our political reporting that people like Michael will soon fill.

Posted by: valancy | September 25, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

I nominate two reporters from the now (unfortunately) online only Seattle PI in Washington State (just making sure there's no confusion about this with you inside-the-beltway political junkies). Joel Connelly and Chris Grygiel are proactive, sharp, and determined in tracking down the latest political news, trends, and insider gossip from around the Northwest. Bedsides writing regular columns and stories, they blog on a PI site called Strange Bedfellows. They scoop their bigger and still printing rival with more resources -- the Seattle Times.

Also, FWIW: I found it highly ironic and stunning that the registration options for the required type of work do not provide a single choice along the lines of Politics/Public Policy/Issue Advocacy. This from the Post of all papers? Are you kidding me?

Posted by: scarletgraysea | September 25, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

North Dakota: Dale Wetzel, AP

Posted by: frank48 | September 25, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Wyoming--Sam Western. Currently writing for the on line Wyofile. Author of Pushed Off the Mountain, Sold Down the River. Contributor the the Economist mag. Rises to the top, in part, because of an absence of competition.

Posted by: wyobos | September 25, 2009 4:09 AM | Report abuse

Wisconsin--Dick Wheeler. He's not a newspaper, TV, or radio reporter. But he publishes a really good newsletter and has a very good political website at

Posted by: BadgerGuy203824 | September 24, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

CA: Oh! Good call @prosecuter1, Dan Walters is great. Here here.

Apparently I have several favorites, just need to be reminded by those still fortunate enough to live in state.

Dan Walters, the Bee
Pat Morrison, LAT
Marc Cooper, now Annenberg I guess

Posted by: gcdouglas | September 24, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

CA: another vote for Pat Morrison of the LAT, she does rock.

Also, for my current home, IL: Josh Kalven of, watching state politics closer than anybody I've read here or elsewhere.

Posted by: gcdouglas | September 24, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

CALIFORNIA: Dan Walters, syndicated columnist for the Sacramento Bee --- it is not even close --- the Southern California media essentially doesn't even really track state politics.

Posted by: prosecutor1 | September 24, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

Lessenberry an editorialist? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Michigan: Lessenberry unearths more hard (and factual) news and covers events that others ignore because they don't have the connections or the gumption to do the digging necessary to report what's really going on. If others truly outshine him, then how come we have to read Metro Times and listen to Michigan Radio to find out what's really going on in Lansing, Detroit and the rest of the state?

Posted by: fionalowther | September 24, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Arkansas: John Brummett, Arkansas News
Indiana: Lesley Stedman Weidenbener, Courier Journal

Posted by: jobeth0495 | September 24, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

re: WillSeattle's nomination, Paul Constant is the books editor at the Stranger, not a political reporter.
And the part about the papers only taking wire feeds is incq.

Posted by: frank48 | September 24, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Jo Mannies is now with the St. Louis Beacon, but she is just as good as ever.

Posted by: turkeybird | September 24, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

From Minnesota

Bill Salisbury - Saint Paul Pioneer Press

Posted by: Minnesotan602 | September 24, 2009 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Michigan - Peter Luke, hands down.

Lessenberry is an editorialist. Skubick is good, but not as good as Luke at pure reporting.

Runners up: Mark Hornbeck, Chris Christoff, Kathy Barks Hoffman (AP)

Posted by: wizardkitten | September 24, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I "grew up" in Washington state politics on the comm. side and as of a few years ago we had an absolutely fantastic state press corp. Since about 2007 though the state has experienced an utter bloodbath.

Now the best political reporters in the state with some experience are Rachel LaCorte and Curt Woodward at the AP as well as Austin Jenkins from NPR who occasionally writes columns for which are very worth reading (don't bother reading Joel Connelly suggested above, he "graduated" to columnist well over a decade ago and hasn't done any real reporting since; most political folks in the state on either side would run a triathlon to avoid giving him a story).

Even as of 2007 I'd have suggested the following, but all of them have since taken PR jobs for very understandable reasons:

David Postman (Seattle Times, just reading his political blog was enough to be deeply informed about WA politics)
David Ammons (AP reporter & dean of the press corp)
Robert Mak (King 5, the rare true journalist on TV)
Neil Modie (P-I, longtime experienced vet)
Ralph Thomas (Seattle Times, the best political features writer in the state)
Chris Mulick (very solid reporter with a good blog focused on Eastern Washington & Olympia politics)
Chris McGann (P-I, younger but still experienced and intrepid)

Posted by: Anonymous65 | September 24, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse


Tom Suddes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He can be a bit on the cranky side, but seems to have good insight into what is happening in Columbus and statewide.

Posted by: jothomp | September 24, 2009 1:30 PM | Report abuse


By far, hands down, the best political reporter in the state is Robert Gehrke of the Salt Lake Tribune. Formerly with the DC bureau, he's now entrenched as the leading reporter in the state.

Posted by: utpolitics1 | September 24, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Washington State: Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Web edition). Must reading for all.

Posted by: maris9 | September 24, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse


Traditional media: Brad Cain (AP), David Steves (Register-Guard), Jeff Mapes (Oregonian)

Blogs/New media: Carla Axtman (

Posted by: RussKelley | September 24, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Alabama, and in no order:

Dana Beyerle, New York Times Newspaper Group (Tuscaloosa News, Florence Times-Daily and Gadsden Times)

Markeisha Ricks, Montgomery Advertiser

Kim Chandler, Birmingham News

Some of the reporters (other than Chandler) for the Newhouse newspapers (Birmingham News, Huntsville Times, Mobile Press-Register) have a tendency to over-emphasize facts that support the positions taken on the editorial page.

Posted by: PubliusIX | September 24, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I second the nomination of Rich Miller of the Capitol Fax Blog in Illinois.

Posted by: Terkelguy | September 24, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

From New Hampshire:

John Distaso is genuinely over-rated these days and has been slipping in his reporting...

Good political reporting is coming from Kevin Landrigan at the Nashua Telegraph (whose columns regularly appear in other papers around the state). Tom Fahey of the Union Leader. Norma Love of the AP. Grant Bosse who has been working as a reporter for the Josiah Bartlett Center has been doing a great job.

Posted by: NHMuse | September 24, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Michigan: Jack Lessenberry, Jack Lessenberry, Jack Lessenbery. (Michigan Public Radio's senior political reporter; Metro Times and several other newspapers; Wayne State University Journalism prof) To say he is knowledgeable is an understatement. Lessenberry sees it all, knows it all, remembers it all -- and knows what it all means and what it portends. He knows history, he knows politics, he knows human nature, and he knows where the bodies are buried. He is literate, yet writes and speaks simply so the man in the street can understand what's going on.

He is the epitome of what a news reporter should be. Michigan is so lucky to have him.

On WDIV-TV Detroit, anchorman Devin Scillian is top-notch. Watching him host "Flashpoint," one wonders every week why he hasn't been grabbed by a national network. Their loss is Michigan's gain.
He never lets guests get away with weasel-worded responses, but pursues the questions in a gentlemanly but firm way. And it's obvious he does his homework.

Posted by: fionalowther | September 24, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

New Hampshire:
John DiStaso, Union Leader. He has earned a reputation over the decades, but losing his touch.

James Pindell, The former Boston Globe reporter and national editor of the Politicker sites is the aggressive upstart with all the buzz.

Posted by: nhreader | September 24, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse


John Baer, Philadelphia Daily News (while it's still in business)
Cynthia Burton, Philadelphia Inqurer, seems to be covering New Jersey and now the Corzine-Christie bloodbath
But what a tradition they have: Andrea Mitchell covered politics in PHL a long, long time ago.

Posted by: Tony163 | September 24, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Liz Benjamin! NY Daily News. Hardest working reporter in town.

Posted by: adsny | September 24, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Jason Embry of the Austin American-Statesman. He's smart. He remembers what happened in the past, so can call politicians for changing their positions. He puts out a useful news summary (with good analysis) every morning. Jason is young -- I hope he can stay in journalism.

Posted by: DavidSiegel | September 24, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse


Fred Dicker, NY Post

Tough, fearless, street smart, not biased either left or right (a rare attribute in NYS journalism, where a pro-Democrat spin is almost a requisite for getting a newspaper job).

Posted by: barban37 | September 24, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse


I like Sam Hemingway. He is fair and thoughtful and very good. I see him on
Vermont This Week (public television), but I think he is still at Burlington Free Press, which I no longer subscribe to.

Posted by: canaldoc | September 24, 2009 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Pat Morrisson is the best reporter in Los Angeles (America's biggest City, BTW). She covers local, State, National and international topics, always with the utmost substance and grace. She is Amazing!

Posted by: elanmel | September 24, 2009 2:21 AM | Report abuse

FL: undefeated and still champion -- Adam Smith of the St. Petersburg Times.

Posted by: gogators | September 24, 2009 1:20 AM | Report abuse

For CA, here's a vote for Marc Cooper, of the Nation and a bunch of other places and formerly of LA Weekly (when it was at its best)

Posted by: gcdouglas | September 23, 2009 11:35 PM | Report abuse

For Missouri: Tony Messenger from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Chad Livengood from the Springfield News-Leader. These two simplify the complex, tackle difficult stories, and report with an objectivity seldom seen, especially in political journalism.

Posted by: jamesandrew | September 23, 2009 10:49 PM | Report abuse

New York: Danny Hakim, NY Times. Broke the Spitzer story

Posted by: epl0372 | September 23, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

West Virginia: Steven Allen Adams, with WV Watchdog...simply excellent views and coverage.

Posted by: bchadock | September 23, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Because the southwest is their beat, you think of Goodwyn and Burnett as NPR, not Texas. But both of them do TX stories for the TX affiliates that may not get on NPR where you are.

In 2001, Burnett reported and produced a one-hour documentary, "The Oil Century," for KUT-FM in Austin, which won a silver prize at the New York Festivals.

Goodwyn has reported on the siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in Denver, the Olympic Games in Atlanta and the school shootings in Paducah KY., Jonesboro, AR., and Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. But I think his story on the gas fields in the FW city limits and how they are changing life in neighborhoods was TX, only.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 23, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

I forgot NPR - Wade Goodwin and John Burnett, of course!
Their coverage of Katrina was incredibly good. And Burnett plays blues harmonica in a band here.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 23, 2009 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Tom Scheck (Minnesota Public Radio)
Rachel Stassen-Berger (Star Tribune)

They have been noted already, but they are the best of the best.

Mary Lahammer of PBS is also very very good.

Posted by: SpeharFan | September 23, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

IL: Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune
NC: Laura Leslie, NC NPR
DC/VA: Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

Posted by: tjbv1 | September 23, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

MI-Another vote for Tim Skubic

Posted by: myhojda | September 23, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

TX - I enjoy Ken Herman of the Austin American-Statesman. He covered GWB as gov and went to DC with GWB and came home when GWB came home. He is well connected and because of his very sharp wit is well received by pols in both parties. He can get interviews many cannot. He now has a column, as well.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 23, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

A second (or third) vote for Liz Benjamin from the Daily News in New York. Very plugged in, very straight forward.

Posted by: sgcox | September 23, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse


It's gotta be Liz Benjamin (Daily News). She's the best.

Don't even think about putting Fred Dicker on the list. He's scummy, works for a shameful paper, and is frequently wrong about his "scoops".

Posted by: Dan_in_upstate_NY | September 23, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Kentucky - Jacob Payne (

Posted by: derbycityespresso | September 23, 2009 6:37 PM | Report abuse

Ohio: Howard Wilkinson of The Cincinnati Enquirer
Indiana: Mary Beth Schneider of The Indianapolis Star

Posted by: paulmckibben1 | September 23, 2009 6:24 PM | Report abuse


Both Ian Donnis and Scott MacKay from WRNI, Rhode Island's NPR.

They do both radio and a blog:

They are fantastic!

~Kim Ahern

Posted by: kimberlyahern | September 23, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

For Arizona Republic
Best - Linda Valdez, who is a lonely voice providing a view that actually is fair and balanced.

Worst - Robert Robb, who is an uber-conservative wonk making George Will look like a flaming liberal.

Posted by: traveler47 | September 23, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Oregon: Jeff Mapes (Oregonian), David Steves (Register Guard), Brad Cain (AP-Oregon), Nigel Jaquist (Willamette Week)

Posted by: JakeWeigler | September 23, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

The Fix is too kind.

Jim O'Sullivan of the Statehouse News Service in Boston is a multimedia presence, on their subscriber service daily, WBZ-TV weekly and in CommonWealth magazine, the Dorchester Reporter and others regularly.

And he still finds time to root for his BC Eagles.

Posted by: wireglen | September 23, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Betsy Russell works for a Washington state paper (the Spokane-based Spokesman Review) but as its Boise reporter. She is knowledgeable and fair, with a wealth of institutional knowledge since she's been covering the Idaho Legislature longer than most lawmakers have been there. Her Eye on Boise blog is a must-read, especially during the legislative sessions January-April-ish.

Posted by: JulieinBoise | September 23, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

TENNESSEE: A.C. Kleinheider, Nashville Post Politics

Posted by: stackiii | September 23, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

In NJ, Angela Delli Santi at the AP

Posted by: capemayginger | September 23, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Just a few here:

N.C. - Laura Leslie, NC Public Radio
Ga. - Aaron Gould Sheinin, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Ill. - Ray Long, Chicago Tribune
Mich. - Kathy Barks Hoffman, AP; Kyle Melinn, MIRS; Stephanie Cepak, Gongwer
Colo. - Ed Sealover, formerly of Rocky Mtn. News

And she's been mentioned before, but I totally second Rachel S-B in Minnesota. She's fantastic.

Posted by: d_bank | September 23, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

In Seattle, WA, Paul Constant of the Stranger (our daily papers really just do AP wire feeds and don't cover local politics anymore).

Posted by: WillSeattle | September 23, 2009 4:25 PM | Report abuse

New Hampshire:

John DiStaso, NH Union Leader, only statewide newspaper's lead political reporter, also a weekly political columnist, NH Primary expert, Presidential Debate questioner etc... He's been on the beat for more than 25 years.

Posted by: RayBuckley | September 23, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

South Dakota: Kevin Woster, Rapid City Journal

Posted by: nathan8 | September 23, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

From New Mexico Heath Haussamen is doing a great job!

Posted by: arturouribejr | September 23, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Minnesota- Tom Scheck (MPR) and Rachel Stassen-Berger (Mpls Star Tribune)

Posted by: dbroton01 | September 23, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

MO: Chad Livengood (Springfield News-Leader); David Catanese (KYTV)

Posted by: jmdade1 | September 23, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

JOHN MONAHAN, the Telegram & Gazette!

Posted by: SeeTheHumor | September 23, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

From MI: Tim Skubick (wkar public tv), Chris Christoff (Detroit Free Press)

Posted by: kmccree | September 23, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Rich Miller, Capital Fax
Deanna Bellandi, AP Chicago
Abdon Pallasch, Chicago Sun Times

Posted by: kstrand221 | September 23, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

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