If you heard nothing else Tuesday evening from Greg Habeeb at his Salem headquarters, you heard him say with conviction to his supporters, “It’s not about me – it’s never been about me – it’s been about the valley, the community and the voters.”
Habeeb won handily over his Democratic challenger Ginger Mumpower, sweeping all precincts with 63.75 percent of the vote. Twenty percent of registered voters in the 8th district turned out for the special election. Mumpower received 36.2 percent of the vote.
Habeeb immediately took Morgan Griffith’s place in Richmond on Wednesday, the first day of the 2011 session. Former 8th district delegate and majority leader Morgan Griffith is now a Congressional freshman who is incidentally sleeping in the half-bath of his office in Washington, DC. His wife Hilary said “he’s still there and it’s a little noisy in the hallowed halls at night, but he’s still toughing it out.”
Habeeb has big shoes to fill and Hilary has no doubt he’ll be able to do just that. When asked if her Congressman husband might be able to give Habeeb some direction from afar, Mrs. Griffith quickly responded, “I don’t think Greg needs any help.”
Habeeb was leaving for Richmond as soon as he could pull away from well-wishers and the press. His wife Christy said he hadn’t packed a thing. She will be traveling to Richmond for the swearing in ceremony.
Habeeb plans to be home every weekend and says he will communicate during the week with his family via skype, email, phone, and text; Habeeb is an avid social media user. He was adamant about arriving in Richmond in time for the prayer breakfast at 7:00 a.m.
He still has to be certified as the winner before he can take his oath of office. All paper and electronic votes cast were rushed to the Virginia State Board of Elections in Richmond. Habeeb posted an election finance report before taking the oath of office at noon Wednesday.
Directing comments to the 36 percent of the voters who did not vote for him, Habeeb told them, “fight with us; hold us accountable where we stray; give us a chance to succeed.”
Habeeb is just getting his feet wet, but if his confidence and conviction says anything about the youthful 34 year-old delegate, he is likely to jump into the deep end of the pool without hesitation. He was already talking about jobs initiatives, transparency and government issues. He said, “It all fits into a broader picture of advancing the agenda of families, small businesses, protection of our schools and neighbors and creating economic opportunities.”
Habeeb said that every agency’s budget should be available to the public via the web. He wants to update the fraud against taxpayers act that allows regular citizens to bring attention to government fraud.
“The reality is that people have lost faith in government,” said Habeeb. “When we bring market forces into government with things like audits, incentive compensation, holding people accountable – those things bring transparency back,” he said.
“I love the Internet generation. I’m not one who believes in backroom deals. I believe in blogs and open information and all the kinds of things that our generation has helped bring to the world – questions are answered in ways they’ve never been answered before.”
“Anybody that takes a vote and doesn’t want the world to know they’ve taken it isn’t the type of person who should be leading us in Richmond. You will never, never go wrong with being on the side of more transparency and more openness in government,” said Habeeb.
Habeeb didn’t directly say he would support a bill like HB778 that was introduced by Republican James LeMunyon in the 2010 session which would allow General Assembly and Senate votes to be compiled in a way that would make it easy for citizens to compare legislator’s votes. Senator John Edwards killed it in the sub-committee. He did say, he “would be in favor of compiling legislators’ votes in any mechanism that could be displayed transparently to voters.”
Habeeb thanked his supporters and volunteers for taking time from the holiday season. “You donated your hard earned money and stood out in the freezing cold … It will be an honor to serve the people of the 8th District in the Virginia House of Delegates.”