Republicans pick Habeeb as party chairman

URBANA — Habeeb Habeeb, a 55-year-old immigrant from Lebanon, was elected Wednesday night as the party chairman of the Champaign County Republican Party, replacing state Rep. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign, who did not run for another term.

Habeeb was unopposed for the position.

Barickman, who has served as party chairman for six years, last month was nominated to run in a state Senate district that does not include any part of Champaign County. Barickman is planning to move to McLean County later this year.

Habeeb has served as the party's treasurer for the last two years and has been a de facto chairman for much of the last year after Barickman was appointed to the Illinois House and later announced his candidacy for the Senate.

The 59 GOP precinct committeemen at Wednesday's party convention (out of 76 elected last month) also chose Kristin Williamson of Urbana as vice chairman, Ross Richards of Champaign as treasurer and Jim Rusk of Rantoul as secretary.

Habeeb, a partner in Benefit Planning Consultants Inc. in Champaign, arrived in the United States in 1973 at the age of 17 to attend Olivet Nazarene University in Kankakee.

"I wanted to be a doctor and go back. I didn't intend to stay here," he said. "And 16 months afterward a civil war started in Lebanon. I didn't know where my parents were. I didn't have a penny, and I was stuck here.

"I started working at Arby's for a buck-65 an hour. I'm like the great American success story. I didn't know any different. Failure was not an option. I had no choice. I cleaned bathrooms. I did dishes. And I was happy doing it because it was better than the alternative. They were fighting over there."

He met his future wife, Joy, at Olivet, and continued to work for Arby's. The couple moved to Champaign in 1985, he earned an MBA at Eastern Illinois University and they had two children, one of whom has graduated from the University of Illinois and the other is attending Illinois. Habeeb became a United States citizen around 1990, he said.

"That's part of my enthusiam because I just appreciate everything that has happened to me," he said. "We know the alternative so we don't take anything for granted. The good and the bad, it's still good to me."

Barickman said he was "thrilled to see where our party is going. We are a very strong party here locally. You can say what you want about the state party, the national party and otherwise, but I've always felt that here in Champaign County we've got a great organization with great people who do great things."

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rsp wrote on April 19, 2012 at 1:04 am

Barickman was nominated in a county he doesn't live in? So no real ties to the community, huh. Makes it kind of hard to know what is really going on there. 

Dann001 wrote on April 19, 2012 at 2:04 am

Habeeb Habeeb, what a joke! He definately learned one thing in his studies here, how to get in good with the party of absolute corruption. Trust me Champaign County, there will be a Federal Investigation involing the political shenagens going on in your neck of the woods, very soon! 

bluegrass wrote on April 19, 2012 at 11:04 am

Which federal agency is in charge of investigating of shenanigans?  They may take our lives, but they'll never take, our freedom to shenanigan!!!!

Qualified00 wrote on April 19, 2012 at 7:04 am

Habeeb says:

"I wanted to be a doctor and go back. I didn't intend to stay here," he said. "And 16 months afterward a civil war started in Lebanon. I didn't know where my parents were. I didn't have a penny, and I was stuck here".

One has to ask themselves, "How did Habeeb pay for his college education"?  "Stuck here"!  How nice!  Habeeb makes the best of it and learned quickly how to "work the system".  Habeeb, you are "Moving on up", how one can do so is only a guess.

Barickman says:

"but I've always felt that here in Champaign County we've got a great organization with great people who do great things."

What great things are you talking about?  Would that be how the Republican Party keeps appointing candidates, rather than give the voters the opportunity to pick our own?  This party is an embarrassment to the entire word "Republic".  How about that challenge to sitting Senator Cultra?  I guess it was perfectly acceptable that YOU challenge an established incumbant, no problem, but no one else has "permission" to do the same thing.  No nod for them, right?  Wink, wink!



ericbussell wrote on April 19, 2012 at 9:04 am

With so many conspiracy theories making their way around way around the comment section, how about this...

I'm pretty sure that Habeeb is a robot spy.  Think about it -- nobody can be that positive and enthusiastic all time!  Clearly, he was programmed and sent by foreigners to exploit what we refer to as "the American dream".  He has infiltrated our local political infrastructure and quickly developed close connections with the future Vice President of the United States of America, Mitch Daniels.

Don't be surprised if the Secret Service steps in soon.   

millbo368 wrote on April 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm

When I read some of these comments, I really wonder what planet some of you are on. I mean seriously, I really do. 

I know all of these people personally that were mentioned in the article and comments except Bambenek.  This person may have some baggage but I couldn't tell you nor really care.  All of these comments about conspiracy theory is literally crazy. 

You can say what you want about Mr. Habeeb, but he is truly a self-made success story.  You wonder how he did it?  I'll tell you how:  Hard work, dedication, getting educated, taking personal and financial risks, loans, etc.  I get so tired of people knocking those down who are successful thinking they had a free-ride or were just handed their success.  I completely admire this man and you would too if you personally knew him. 

rsp wrote on April 20, 2012 at 1:04 am

I think Habeeb's problem is most of his public attention has been written quotes where enthusiasm doesn't translate well. Instead of doing a profile piece say that had comments from others. Speaking as someone who has been involved in PR, if I were him, I would do something about it.