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Mike 'Houli' Houlihan's New Book Details His Work In 2015 Mayoral Election

By Howard Ludwig | August 14, 2017 8:09am | Updated on August 16, 2017 11:45am
Mike "Houli" Houlihan has authored "Nothin's On The Square," which details his involvement in the Chicago's 2015 mayoral campaign. He will have a launch party at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at Cork & Kerry in Beverly.
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DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

BEVERLY — Mike "Houli" Houlihan describes his new book "Nuthin's on the Square" as Gonzo journalism.

Indeed, Houlihan's book provides readers with an insider account of working to rally voters in the 19th Ward to support Jesus "Chuy" Garcia over incumbent Rahm Emanuel in Chicago's 2015 mayoral campaign.

Houlihan, a resident of west suburban Berwyn, pulls few punches in the book ($14.95, Abbyfeale Press), and most of his vitriol is aimed at Emanuel, whom he routinely refers to as a "little, nine-fingered ballerina."

Others criticized in the book include former President Barack Obama, 19 Ward Ald. Matt O'Shea, journalist Phil Ponce as well as countless union leaders and more — mostly for siding with Emanuel.

"If I upset people, that is OK. I am in the right pew," Houlihan said Friday, referencing his Catholic faith.

Houlihan is a former Sun-Times columnist and anchors "The Skinny and Houli Show" with his pal James “Skinny” Sheahan. Their radio show is broadcast weekly from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturdays on WCEV 1450-AM.

Houlihan was raised in Christ the King Parish in North Beverly and attended Mount Carmel High School in Woodlawn. He and his friend Bill Crawford were paid $5,000 by Garcia's campaign to drum up support in the 19th Ward.

The pair also was tasked with earning the support of Irish Catholics elsewhere in the city. The Garcia campaign wasn't given much of a shot, but surprisingly, it forced a runoff election with Emanuel.

Houlihan and Crawford were paid another $3,000 to rally more support after Garcia forced the runoff. Ultimately, Emanuel won the election, which Houlihan largely credits to his deep campaign war chest and campaign tactics.

Houlihan's book offers details of the election that would otherwise only be available to campaign workers, including his strategy to cast Garcia as "a neighborhood guy." And in the 19th Ward, that meant playing up Garcia's alma mater — St. Rita High School in Ashburn.

The book also gives readers a look at the inner workings of events such as the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade, the St. Patrick's Day Parade held Downtown and other campaign events both big and small.

Houlihan welcomed the comparison of his book to that of Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72." Thompson is credited with creating the unique, first-person narrative style known as Gonzo journalism.

"The way I look at it is the book is a grenade, and I am throwing it out there and waiting for it to explode," said Houlihan, who blames Garcia's staff for many of the struggles of the campaign.

The title of the book, "Nothin's On The Square," reflects Houlihan's belief that there's always an angle among those working in Chicago politics and that "everything is rigged." He also fills his book with a ledger of daily violence throughout the city during the 82 days of the campaign.

Houlihan wondered aloud Friday why there wasn't more outrage throughout the city about the violence seen during Emanuel's tenure. And he hopes that the continued violence and Emanuel misdeeds will be his undoing.

"I know I sound jaded, but I am," he said. "What the hell."

Houlihan's book debuted June 30. He will have a launch party at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22 at Cork & Kerry, 10614 S. Western Ave. He will also sign books at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Irish American Heritage Center in Mayfair and Aug. 28 at the Beverly Arts Center.