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Springfield Ward 7 : Houlihan vs. Carlson

Local coverage of the current contested campaigns for Springfield City Council seem to have relied mostly on short interviews and candidate-submitted bios and talking points. This series will look a little deeper into the candidates through Internet searches, viewing of the candidates’ social media, and cursory searches of local court records.

Ward 7

The open seat contest to fill the seat being vacated by term-limited incumbent Joe McMenamin is between Brad Carlson and John Houlihan.

Springfield Ward 7

Carlson has considerable government experience, currently working as a policy analyst on the Illinois Senate Republican issues staff, where he staffs the Environment and Natural Resources Committee. He’s also currently an elected Capital Township Trustee, a former Illinois Department of Natural Resources Chief of Staff, former Sangamon County Deputy Clerk, and a former member of the Springfield Civil Service Commission. Houlihan is an assistant to policy and budget staff for Illinois Senate Democrats. This is his first run for public office.

Houlihan is a near-life-long resident of Springfield and Ward 7, and Carlson has lived in Springfield for over 30 years, 27 of that in Ward 7. Carlson graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in economics and political science, where he also met Deana, to whom he is still married. They have two grown children. Houlihan attended Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and is single with a twelve-year-old son.

While Carlson has virtually no court record other than a couple of administrative cases involving the Springfield Civil Service Commission on which he served, Houlihan has a bit of a record, which, surprisingly, has not come up in the race. From some minor offenses of driving without a license and driving without insurance along with speeding 26 to 30 mph over the speed limit, he also has DUIs from 2009 and 2013 in Sangamon County.

Brad Carlson

So Carlson’s endorsement by the Police Officers Union PBPA Unit #5 is no surprise. Carlson also has received endorsements from Fire Fighters Local #37, and unions representing Laborers, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 157, Operating Engineers, Central Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council, and the Illinois Realtors.

Houlihan has received endorsements from AFSCME and Springfield and Central Illinois Trades and Labor Council AFL-CIO, as well as out-of-state environmentalist advocates Climate Cabinet Action.

John Houlihan

Houlihan has also received the support of his father Bill Houlihan’s Sangamon County Democrat Party as well as his father’s former boss, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and State Senator Doris Turner. Carlson has noted endorsements from Sheriff Jack Campbell, former Mayor Karen Hasara, former State Rep. Avery Bourne, and County Treasurer Joe Aiello, along with a long list of sponsors for several local fundraising events.

On the fundraising side, according to State Board of Elections records, Houlihan has raised more money, although most of it has come from outside the Springfield area, while Carlson has raised 85% of his campaigns funds locally. Further, 65% of his donations have been $100 or less. Also of interest are several thousand donated to Houlihan from a donor in Puerto Rico, along with thousands from St. Louis and Washington, D.C. That seems unusual for a Ward 7 race.

While Carlson has played up his experience with his slogan “Let My Experience Work For You”, and he has emphasized a platform of Safe Neighborhoods, Reliable Infrastructure, and Fiscal Responsibility, Houlihan has run mostly on a platform of being accessible and communicating with residents.


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