Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Eastern County), who also explored a run, was more blunt, describing Andrews as “a pretty awesome guy” but calling his door-to door approach “a ridiculous notion.”
“He’s going out right now eight, nine months before the primary,” she said. “No one pays any attention until it’s right on top of you. It’s just silly.”
The skepticism hasn’t stopped Andrews from keeping a blistering pace. He’s targeted households with the most likely 2014 Democratic voters — the 100,000 or so who came out for at least one of the last two non-presidential primaries in 2006 and 2010. Either directly or by word of mouth, he hopes to reach 30 percent of them.
Working weekdays in the late afternoons and early evenings, and often all day Saturday and Sunday, Andrews said he can do about 15 houses an hour. Where there is no one home — which is roughly half the time — he leaves a piece of literature, signed and inscribed: “Sorry I missed you.” He’s so far covered parts of Wheaton, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Glen Echo, Cabin John, Silver Spring and Germantown.
On this September afternoon, he’s in Precinct 13-31, where Leggett won 56.5 percent of the vote in 2006. Along Drumm Avenue, Homewood Parkway and Plyers Mill Road, many of the original smallish but sturdy post-World War II homes remain and are attracting young couples with children.
It’s also Andrews’s old neighborhood, where some longtime residents still remember him as the kid who threw the newspaper when he was a student at Albert Einstein High School.
He was Phil Levchenko then, a name he legally changed after graduation, he said, because he tired of having it misspelled or mispronounced. He took the new last name from his father, Andrew, a retired CIA analyst. It was around the same that his parents gave him a membership to Common Cause for his 18th birthday. Later, after earning a bachelor’s degree at Bucknell University and a master’s in governmental administration from the University of Pennsylvania, he spent six years (1988-94) as director of Common Cause Maryland.
Andrews dresses informally when he works a neighborhood — polo shirt and khakis — to avoid telegraphing the idea that he’s an IRS agent, a salesman or some other kind of unwelcome caller. He is patient, unfailingly attentive and possessed with a bottomless capacity for neighborly chitchat. (“The challenge is being in the moment all the time,” he said.) He lets voters lead the conversation with their concerns.