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winter 2018
Phillip Habib

Student becomes youngest elected official in S.C.

Habib runs successful write-in campaign on social media, with $30 budget.

Armed with $30, his Facebook friends and just a week to campaign, Wofford College junior Phillip Habib managed to become the current youngest elected official in South Carolina.

The 20-year-old from Goose Creek, S.C., was elected Nov. 8 as a commissioner on the Berkeley County Soil and Water Commission as a write-in candidate. He got 463 write-in votes during the general election in which no name appeared on the ballot. His closest competitor received 148 votes, and a total of 5,228 names were submitted as write-in candidates for the position.

Habib’s campaign – run primarily on Facebook, which included just $20 spent on advertising – began about a week before the election when he was filling out his absentee ballot and noticed the commission seat had only a write-in option. He inquired about why and was told the current commissioner had decided not to run.

Habib quickly decided, “Why not me?” He launched a Facebook campaign that “caught on like wildfire,” he told his hometown newspaper, the Berkeley Independent.

His only other campaign expense was $10 for poster boards to make signs.

“Looking back, I’m not that surprised (to be elected) because of the great response I got on social media,” Habib, a business economics major at Wofford with about 1,700 Facebook friends. “However, on election day, I was very nervous. I woke up at 4 a.m. to get ready and set out signs. I was going from poll station to poll station to let people know my platform and ask them to write in my name. I stayed at the office for the election commission in Berkeley County until 11 p.m. trying to figure out if I had won, even though I knew it would be a few days before the results were official.”   

He also created a “Phillip Habib for Soil and Water Commission” page that received 226 likes.

Habib says he wanted to serve on the commission because he believes that Berkeley County’s “natural beauty is undervalued. I want to create programs that encourage people to properly use our resources, such as the Berkeley Blueways program that promotes kayaking in the county.”

He credits his experiences in the Launch program of The Space in the Mungo Center at Wofford with the idea of using Facebook for his campaign. “One of the things they teach us is how valuable social media is to spreading your brand,” he says. “I used a lot of things they taught me in The Space while running my social media campaign. Also, Facebook has the most users, so it only makes sense to use a social media platform that can reach the most people.”

While Habib isn’t sure what he will do after graduating from Wofford, he says the experience of interning with the Berkeley County Economic Development Office over the past two summers – helping to recruit more than $100 million in investment – and The Space have him thinking of becoming an entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of a start-up called Voyway, which aggregates the travel industry.

At Wofford, in addition to The Space, Habib is a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity and serves on the Judicial Commission.

by Laura Hendrix Corbin