Alderman invited to inauguration

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2001

Sam Habeeb, holding a sign in support of President-elect George W. Bush, stands outside his Vicksburg home. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

[01/02/01] Vicksburg alderman Sam Habeeb has scored one of the hottest tickets of the season: a trip to the inauguration of President-elect George W. Bush.

While Republican Party officials say several hundred Mississippians will make the trip, Habeeb is the only one from the Vicksburg area who made it onto the guest list for the exclusive event.

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“I’m excited,” said the South Ward representative and Republican activist. “I’ve never met George W. Bush, so I hope I get a chance to meet him.”

Although the Bush campaign was low-key in the Magnolia State, considered in the bag by campaign advisors, Habeeb said he was involved in several campaign strategy meetings in Jackson.

“(Gov. Ronnie) Musgrove surprised a lot of Republicans last year, so we didn’t want to take anything for granted,” he said.

Habeeb, who won’t be running for a second term on the city board this summer, said he looks forward to making connections while on the trip. Although he has no plans for another political race any time soon, he said he wouldn’t shy away from any federal job offers that might come his way.

In addition to his own race for alderman in 1997, Habeeb has worked on about a dozen Republican campaigns, mainly congressional races.

He remembers leaving an election-night party in Jackson at 2 a.m. amid cheers for Bush, who had been declared the winner.

“When I got back to Vicksburg at around three, I turned on NPR and they were saying it wasn’t over yet,” he said. “It was pretty depressing.”

But the candidate eventually prevailed, and Habeeb said his trip to Washington, D.C., will give him a chance to be a part of history.

The Mississippi delegation to the inaugural festivities will be staying at the Doubletree Hotel, said state Republican Party head George Fondren.

The close nature of the election and the drawn out post-election legal battles may have stirred up extra excitement for this year’s inauguration, and made tickets more difficult to come by, he said.

“I’ve never see this much excitement and demand for tickets,” Fondren said.