ALLISON BROPHY CHAMPION/CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT
April 21, 2022
The pullback of all American troops from Afghanistan inspired Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson, a Spotsylvania County native, to run for U.S. Congress.
“I lost five of my guys in Afghanistan and for me it was one of those moments where I really sat back and looked at what was happening at the federal level, how the Biden administration handled the withdrawal…I had one of the Gold Star mothers of one of my guys that was killed call me and ask me what was going on?” he said in an April 14 interview with the Star-Exponent.
Anderson was in disbelief.
“A mixed bag of emotions for me…soul searching, decided that I wanted to, one, continue service to the country and two, I wanted to serve my community where I grew up. My family is all throughout this district,” said the 37-year-old.
Anderson is seeking the Republican nomination in the June Primary to run in November against two-term incumbent Rep. Abigail Spanberger, a Henrico Democrat, for the 7th District U.S. House seat.
He grew up in this area and as a student at Courtland High School was on the wrestling team competing against other local youth including in Culpeper. Anderson was a senior in high school when 9/11 happened. His family has a history of military service, including his father and grandfather, also a Green Beret.
“I wanted to serve after 9/11 but my mom was adamant about me getting an education because no one in our family had ever had that opportunity,” he said.
The oldest of six children, Anderson attended Virginia Tech on an ROTC scholarship and within a year of graduating was in Iraq, where he spent 15 months, starting with the 2007 surge. He received the Bronze Star.
The Army infantry soldier then served with the Honor Guard at Arlington National Cemetery, participating at over 150 funerals.
Anderson afterwards joined the Special Forces and did five deployments with the Green Berets around the Middle East including in Afghanistan. He became fluent in Arabic.
While he was commander on one of those deployments in the Gaza Valley, charged with chasing away Taliban fighters, was when his men died by friendly fire June 9, 2014.
Anderson recalled the tragic story in a 2017 interview on “60 Minutes.”
Following his time in the Army, he graduated from Georgetown University Law Center and clerked for two federal judges. Anderson also worked in the White House during the Trump Administration in the Office of National Drug Control Policy and is currently a major in the National Guard.
Unmarried with no children, Anderson, who has a 5-year-old Dalmatian, has been knocking on doors around the newly drawn 7th District, reconnecting with old friends and neighbors and listening to their concerns.
“It’s a great opportunity to get personal with folks,” he said in the interview.
Anderson was in Culpeper last week for the ribbon cutting of a Lions Club eyeglasses sculpture in Rockwater Park.
Inflation is at the top, he said of what he’s hearing on the campaign trail.
“It really, really affects people in the district every day,” Anderson said. “Always a sigh at the gas pump, paying two and three times. They are looking for what solutions are going to be made and what will be done and instead, especially at the presidential level and the House side, (they are) seeing the issues being deflected onto other things.”
For example, the Biden Administration wants to extend the mask mandate on public transportation, he said. Meanwhile, unresolved issues at the southern border persist, he said.
“When it comes to immigration, it’s a pretty basic concept of enforcing the law,” Anderson said, asked solutions. “That’s where I think we should start at—try to get our borders back under control.”
He added Congress needs to come to the table to talk about the issue no one in Congress seems to want to address. As a federal judge’s clerk, Anderson said he saw first-hand some of the problems with immigration law.
“The law had Band-Aids placed on it throughout the years so we have this massive amount of immigration law,” he said.
“What we found is you have immigration law A and immigration law B that didn’t necessarily jive together and both were saying separate things so the judges are forced to interpret what those laws mean when in reality Congress should have enacted the law the proper way.”
Other national issues the candidate said would be priority if elected include making America energy-independent and minimizing “big government overreach,” Anderson said, mentioning COVID regulations.
Locally, addressing issues with the VA would a focus, he said.
“Virginia is second per capita for veterans in the nation,” Anderson said, noting the new 7th District will include military installations at AP Hill and Quantico.
He gets his healthcare through the Veterans Administration, saying it got a little better under the Trump administration due to the addition of an online portal for meeting with medical providers.
“We are about to build one of the larger VA clinics/hospitals in Spotsylvania,” Anderson added. “It will be a great opportunity for veterans not to have to drive all the way to Washington, D.C, and Richmond, face I-95 just for a doctor’s appointment.”
He listed supporting 7th District farmers as another priority if elected along with addressing the traffic quagmire that is I-95 outside of Fredericksburg.
“Everybody knows how terrible it is,” the candidate said. “It is recommendation from my mother and her friends how and what we can do to fix 95. It is integral because we have so many commuters that travel to Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Richmond.”
Asked about addressing high rates of opioid overdoses and suicide in Culpeper, Anderson referred to his time with the Trump administration.
“One of the big things I saw was the fentanyl coming across the border…into the U.S. killing people,” he said. “It’s brought into Mexico then being shipped through the cartels, large amounts of it, doesn’t take a lot to kill somebody. That’s really where it starts,” Anderson said of border enforcement.
Asked what makes him stand out from the five other candidates seeking the GOP nomination, Anderson said he is homegrown.
Second, he is the only post 9/11 veteran in the race that has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he said. Anderson noted, in addition, his constitutional background in law.
“Fourth, I have never held political office and I think based on what we saw in 2021 with Glenn Youngkin elected governor people are ready for a breath of fresh air and new ideas,” he said, adding, “It would be an honor to be able to serve the people that raised me.”
Anderson grew up working in his mother’s restaurants, and he often runs into familiar faces.
“It’s so great to be able to have that conversation and talk with them and hear how things are going,” he said.
A news reporter in Culpeper since 2000, I got my start in the business as a youngster delivering papers after school for the Elizabeth Daily Journal in urban New Jersey.