CHAMPAIGN — Habeeb Habeeb, the president and CEO of Benefit Planning Consultants in Champaign and currently the treasurer of the Champaign County Republican Party, says he wants to be the party's new chairman.
The current chair, state Rep. Jason Barickman of Champaign, already has announced that he intends to step down when his term ends in order to devote more time to his legislative duties. Barickman also is challenging state Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, for the GOP nomination in the new 53rd Senate District.
The new Republican chairman won't be chosen until next spring, after the March 20 primary election. But Habeeb said he already has been delegated leadership duties by Barickman.
"I don't want our people to think that the party is languishing," he said. "We're operating at a high level right now."
Habeeb, 54, is a native of Lebanon who moved to the United States in 1973 to attend Olivet Nazarene University. After working for Franchise Management Systems he earned an MBA and then joined Benefit Planning Consultants. He became its president and CEO five years ago, he said.
He has been active in the local Republican Party for about three years, he said, and is its appointed treasurer.
Asked if he expects any opposition for county chairman, he said, "I don't think so."
His website (http://www.habeebhabeeb.com/habeeb-for-champaign-gop-chairman) says that supporters include Barickman; U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson; state Reps. Chapin Rose and Chad Hays; Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten; former County Clerk Mark Shelden; Champaign City Council members Karen Foster, Deborah Frank Feinen and Kyle Harrison; Urbana Alderwoman Heather Stevenson; and Champaign County Board members Alan Nudo and Stephanie Holderfield.
Habeeb said he's optimistic about the future of the Champaign County GOP.
"We have great volunteers. We just need leaders," he said. "We're going to be working now to get good candidates."
About half of the 12 Republican county board members have indicated they will not run for re-election next year.