Gash and Houlihan to Receive Democratic Party Builder Awards
by Art Friedson, @artfri
The Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association is pleased to announce that it will be honoring two outstanding Illinois Democrats, Hon. Lauren Beth Gash and Hon. Bill Houlihan, with Democratic Party Builder Awards at the ILDCCA’s Chairmen’s Brunch on August 17, 2017.
Both honorees have long records of distinguished service and significant accomplishments building grassroots support for progressive issues and Democratic candidates in Illinois.
Lauren Beth Gash, of Highland Park, Lake County, is a life-long community organizer who has served as an Illinois State Representative, a Commissioner with the Illinois Human Rights Commission, a member of the Electoral College on behalf of President Obama in 2008 and 2012 and on behalf of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and currently serves on the State Central Committee representing the 10th Congressional District. She also has served on numerous not-for-profit boards, including the League of Women Voters, PTA, and the Anti-Defamation League, and served as a volunteer attorney at Prairie State Legal Services.
In addition to her direct service as an elected official and volunteer, she has created a lasting legacy through her tireless work as the Founding Chair of the Tenth Congressional Democrats (Tenth Dems), a grassroots organization dedicated to building a strong Democratic infrastructure in Chicago’s north and northwestern suburbs. Howard Dean has called Tenth Dems “one of the most impressive grassroots groups I’ve seen anywhere in the country.”
Tenth Dems works in many ways to build community and promote Democratic politics. The group’s Tenth Dems University regularly hosts nationally recognized speakers, and other committees help local residents through such efforts as Tenth Dems’ Job Interview Workshops, Expungement and Sealing Events with volunteer attorneys, and Annual Student Poetry and Prose Contests. The Tenth Dems Election Protection Team put 125 lawyers at polling places throughout the 10th District in November, working to make sure that everyone who is entitled to vote is actually allowed to vote. Volunteers put into action the group’s motto that “Politics should be about more than just elections; it should be about working together to build stronger communities.”
Lauren holds a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center, where she served as Associate Editor of the American Criminal Law Review. As an undergrad at Clark University, she majored in Psychology. Lauren lives in Highland Park and is married to Gregg Garmisa. They have two adult children: Sarah, who holds an MBA and a Masters in Public Policy, works to promote social justice with not-for-profit organizations; and Ben, who serves as the Communications Director for U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth.
If you are a Democrat living in Illinois, you almost certainly know Bill Houlihan, of Springfield, Sangaman County, who is currently the State Director for U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, overseeing the Senator’s four district offices.
Bill is an Illinois Democrat through and through. Born and raised in Chicago, the fourth of eight children, Bill began his political year in 1964 at the age of 9, passing out literature during his father’s successful campaign for Illinois State Representative. Later, Bill attended Eastern Illinois University, where he served as Student Council President and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. His first job out of school was as an organizer for the Illinois Educational Association in Springfield, directing local membership drives, assisting the Director of Public Affairs and consulting and developing strategies for numerous legislative races.
From the IEA, Bill went on to be Director of the Legislative Services staff and Administrative Assistant to Illinois Senate President Phil Rock. He honed many of his nuts-and-bolts political skills there, initiating annual district office conferences and working collaboratively while developing legislative issues, directing a legislative services staff, supervising district offices, developing and coordinating conferences and hearings, and developing legislative and communications strategies.
In 1993, Bill became the Director of the Downstate Offices of U.S. Senator Carol Mosely-Braun, coordinating her downstate activities and supervising constituent casework. When U.S. Senator Dick Durbin was elected in 1996, Bill brought his expertise in local, state and federal government to his current position as State Director.
At the grassroots level, Bill was elected to three two-year terms as Sangamon County Democratic Chairman, served as a Springfield Public Building Commissioner, Springfield Sanitary District Trustee and Springfield Housing Authority Commissioner. In March, 2014, he was elected the State Central Committeeman of the 18th District for the Democratic Party of Illinois, a position he still serves with distinction.
Bill lives in Springfield with his wife, Cindy Winans Houlihan. They are the parents of four children – Mariah, Grant and John (triplets!) and Neil – as well as five grandchildren.
Lauren and Bill have much in common. Each has lived a life of distinguished public service, but neither of them were content to leave it there. Both have reached deep into their communities to stimulate enthusiasm for issues and candidates that inspire Democrats. Both of them know the value of community organizing, working tirelessly to motivate and drive people to show up for a cause or candidate, contribute time, effort and money, and to reach out on a personal basis, one-on-one, to bring about some good in the world. No matter what they were doing in their work lives, both Lauren and Bill have continued to speak to community groups, train upcoming leaders and candidates, identify and recruit new Democratic players, and relentlessly pursue the values and ideals of the Democratic Party. They are Democratic Party Builders in the truest sense of the phrase, accomplished professionals who are never reluctant to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work of building effective grassroots organizations that are the fundamental building blocks of our democracy.
The ILDCCA will be proud to bestow upon them the honor of the Party Builder Award at the Chairmen’s Brunch on August 17th, 2017, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield.