After the dust settled from the 2021 election, Rich Anderson dropped me a note suggesting we catch up. We discussed all manner of things over breakfast at the Hoadly Road IHOP. For the record, Anderson is my friend. He is also the most effective delegate who ever represented me in the Virginia legislature.
We disagree on many things; however, there is a lot we agree on. Anderson and I spent a lot of time on my front porch discussing those things upon which we could collaborate. I remember pitching an idea to him regarding the state’s policy on retaining license plate reader data. It turns out he was very interested in anything to do with the privacy of Virginia residents.
Anderson moved quickly, forming the Ben Franklin Privacy Caucus, drafting legislation, creating a coalition of Republicans, Democrats, the ACLU, the Tea Party and Libertarians, and delivering bipartisan legislation to Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s desk for signature. Unfortunately special interests won, and McAuliffe didn’t sign the bill.
Anderson, like a lot of other Republicans, lost his 51st House District seat during the Blue Wave of 2017. His success as a legislator and skills collaborating with all flavors of people were not lost on his colleagues in Richmond. They summoned him for a meeting. Anderson walked in prepared to decline another run for public office. To his surprise, they had something else in mind: Anderson was asked to run for chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia. Mission accepted. Anderson was elected chairman in August 2020.
Wanting to be the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia looked like signing on as the captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg. Demographics in Northern Virginia and other urban areas were changing dramatically. The Blue Wave appeared to be washing across Virginia. COVID-19 made everything a challenge. The results of the 2020 election speak for themselves.
Anderson shared how challenging it was for the Republican Party to organize its nomination process during evolving COVID restrictions. After going through a few different ideas, the 2021 Virginia Republican convention was held across 39 satellite locations. Unlike previous conventions in the state, there was no limit on how many delegates could cast votes. Votes were weighted based on the locality. Anderson gave a “shout out” to Kay Crews, the ballot parliamentarian, for pulling off the complicated process without a hitch.
Anderson sent out a recruiting tweet a couple weeks ago: “If you live in Prince William County and want to rescue your Government & Community by running for public office, let’s talk. My plan for 2023: Bring unprecedented numbers of volunteers & funding to…PWC politics. We did it in 2021; we can do it in 2023.”
Some Democrats made light of Anderson’s bold threat. I suggest that taking him lightly is a huge mistake. If in doubt, just look at Virginia’s executive branch and House of Delegates. And the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and School Board are giving his candidates plenty of campaign issues for the 2023 local elections.
I enjoyed listening to Anderson’s tales from the field. He kept refusing to accept credit every time I brought up one of his party’s successes. The challenging but successful primary; the grass-roots local party activists; Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s campaign team – it was all about them.
If you don’t know Rich Anderson, you might wonder what exactly he does. I do know Rich Anderson. He’s the “man behind the curtain,” and he’s coming after Prince William next.