Welcome to the club, Commissioner Houlihan | Bleader

Friday, June 29, 2007

Welcome to the club, Commissioner Houlihan

Posted By on 06.29.07 at 07:48 PM

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

The first time I saw Brendan Houlihan (PDF) he was looking like a lamb lost among the wolves.

A rookie politician from the southwest suburbs, he was sitting in a downtown Cook County election board hearing room, fighting to stay on the ballot as a candidate for Cook County Board of Review, the three-person body that oversees property tax appeals. This was back in January 2006.

His opponent, Republican incumbent Maureen Murphy, had challenged the validity of his nomination petitions. Word had it that behind the scenes no less than Democratic Party chair and house speaker Michael Madigan was working for Murphy. Madigan's spokesman denied it, but one thing was certain: no major Democratic leaders from the southwest side were helping Houlihan, despite his coming from a political family (his father was a state rep from the far-south suburbs). With the exception of support from maverick Wheeling Township Democratic committeeman Patrick Botterman, Houlihan was on his own.

Eventually Murphy managed to find enough flaws in Houlihan's petitions to bounce him from the ballot. But Houlihan wasn't done yet. Since there were no other Democrats on the ballot, state law permitted the Democratic committeemen from his district to pick a nominee for the office.

The southwest-side Democrats got behind Bloom Township committeeman Terry Matthews. But Botterman stitched together enough support from north- and northwest-suburban committeeman to push Houlihan over the top, and he went on to defeat Murphy in November's general election.

On June 26 Houlihan held his first big fund-raiser since taking office. And guess who was the honorary host chairman? No, not Madigan -- that would have been too much irony even for Chicago. It was no less than Cook County Board commissioner and 11th Ward Democratic committeeman John Daley, the mayor's brother.

Houlihan didn't return calls for comment. As Botterman explained, Daley, like the mayor, was pretty much neutral in Houlihan's campaign. But Botterman says he's not surprised that Daley signed on after Houlihan won. "You know how it goes," he says. If they can't beat you at the polls, they welcome you into the club.

"Everybody loves a winner," Botterman says.

Tags: , , , ,

Comments (23)

Showing 1-23 of 23

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-23 of 23

Add a comment

More by Ben Joravsky

  • Listen to <em>The Ben&nbsp;Joravsky Show</em>

    Listen to The Ben Joravsky Show

    The Ben Joravsky Show is streamed Tuesdays through Fridays between 1 and 3 PM and airs live on the Chicago Reader and Sun-Times websites. It is also being released as a podcast each day after the live taping.
    • Oct 11, 2019
  • Size matters

    Size matters

    Chicago teachers have almost no relief for overcrowded classrooms.
    • Oct 9, 2019
  • Busted priorities

    Busted priorities

    Even with a teachers’ strike looming, the city is investing in the wrong things.
    • Oct 2, 2019
  • More »

Agenda Teaser

Tegan and Sara Cahn Auditorium, Northwestern University
October 15

Tabbed Event Search

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories