Sangamon County Democratic Party chairman retires as Durbin’s longtime state director

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Bill Houlihan, Sangamon County Democratic Party chair

After 25 years as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin‘s state director, Sangamon County Democratic Party chairman Bill Houlihan has decided it is time to step away from Durbin’s team. 

“I’ve been doing this for a long time," Houlihan said. "I’ve been in public service for over 40 years and just thought there’s other things I want to do in addition to working all the time.”

Friday will be his last day on Durbin’s staff.

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Houlihan, 67, joined Durbin during his 1996 campaign and spent the next 25 years serving on Durbin’s state director. Prior to that, Houlihan was also on former U.S. Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun’s staff for four years. 

He said the highlight of his career was "just being able to work with Sen. Durbin and do all the things we’ve done in all the communities across Illinois.”

Houlihan’s departure is a big change for Durbin. The two have worked together as Durbin ascended the ladder of the U.S. Senate from being Illinois’ junior senator to the Democrat majority whip — the third-highest ranking Democratic position in the Senate.

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“It hurts to lose a man who has given me such a big part of his life," Durbin said in an emotional speech on the Senate floor Monday. "It’s going to take a toll on my office, my politics and my life, but I can guarantee you I’ll be calling Bill as often as I always have." 

Houlihan worked as a downstate director for Mosely-Braun and Durbin, then took the role of statewide director for Durbin in 2014. He said getting to work with people on federal issues throughout the state will be his best memories, including bringing high-speed rail capabilities to central Illinois. 

What he really will remember, however, are the moments his relationship with Durbin provided for his family. 

“We were celebrating an 80th birthday for my dad and Sen. Durbin and his wife were invited," Houlihan said. "(Durbin) had something on his schedule and the senator took it on himself to have the commandant of the Marine Corps call my dad and wish him a happy birthday. That was a very touching moment in my family.”

Houlihan’s dad was a World War II Marine Corps veteran. Durbin also got then-Vice President Joe Biden to call his mom on her 90th birthday, which lead to a 20-minute conversation he said his mom was very thankful for. 

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"You work hard in this business, you try to help people, you try to do the right thing. The small things (Durbin) did for a lot of people were really big things for a lot of people,” Houlihan said.

Durbin called him "the voice for people whose hopes and needs aren’t heard enough in the halls of the Senate or the halls of power.”

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Houlihan is not done with politics, however. In April, he was elected Sangamon County Democratic Party chairman for a term expiring in April 2022 — a position he previously held from 1988 to 1994. He is also the state central committeeman in Illinois’ 18th Congressional District for the Democratic Party.

Houlihan lives in Springfield with his wife, Cindy. Durbin, also a Springfield resident, said the Houlihans are the “best and dearest friends” to him and his wife, Loretta. 

Durbin got emotional concluding his floor speech on Monday, crediting Houlihan for helping him have a successful Senate career. 

“Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you," Durbin said. 

via The State Journal-Register

May 26, 2021 at 01:16PM

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