It had all the trappings of a presidential election: posters, slogans, speeches, and a fall nip in the air. There was even a familiar button: Anderson for President.
But in the election last week at Wood Acres Elementary School in Bethesda, there was a difference: the Anderson this time was not the 1980 independent candidate for president of the United States, but his 11-year-old daughter, Susan, a sixth grader.
Susan's candidacy made her, youngest of the former Illinois congressman's children, the first to try to follow in his footsteps.
"We didn't actually know she had embarked on that course until she was nominated," said her mother, Keke. John B. Anderson, who publishes a political newsletter from his National Unity Committee office in downtown Washington, was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week giving a speech and was unavailable for comment on his daughter's budding career.
"We've tried to downplay it," Mrs. Anderson said, adding that her daughter's decision came somewhat as a surprise because so many other students were running and Susan is entering only her second year at Wood Acres. (The family moved to Bethesda from their old home of Rockford, Ill., in the summer of 1981.) "She said, 'This is something I always wanted to do,' " Mrs. Anderson said.
The Andersons had some advice for Susan, win or lose: "We told her to go ahead, to try her best and to be honest in her statements to her classmates, and the experience will be good for her," Mrs. Anderson said.
Susan, interviewed the day before she was to give her big speech to the student body, handled a reporter's queries with aplomb. She said her father had helped her with her speech. "He told me to be really encouraging, to try to do things that would be good for the school," she said.
Wood Acres held school elections this fall, instead of last spring, to allow the 200 or so incoming students from now-closed Brookmont Elementary, who now account for almost half the Wood Acres student body, to run.
Candidates were instructed to refrain from making promises they couldn't fulfill, and each had a $7 campaign spending ceiling. There was also the question of the buttons.
After some of the Anderson for President buttons from John Anderson's 1980 campaign began showing up on supporters, one of Susan's three rivals, Todd Sisitsky, whose uncle is a Massachusetts state senator, wanted to pass out leftover blue-and-white Sisitsky buttons. An exception was made from the spending limit.
The day of reckoning came Thursday. The candidates and their managers had to face the electorate in an assembly of speeches, followed immediately by the voting in the classrooms on paper ballots.
Some candidates, like vice presidential hopeful Todd Fooks (who eventually tied for victory), promised to try to raise money for more physical education equipment and more computer software. Others, such as the other vice presidential co-winner, Rachel Rozanski, pledged to work for a balloon launch and bake sale. Fourth grader Jenny Golden successfully made her pitch in poetry, with a cheerleader's finale. Sara Vincent used a hand puppet to woo voters and later went on to win as secretary.
When her turn came, Susan Anderson talked of responsibility, of pride in her school and of wanting to "meet and talk with everyone" to try to make the school better.
But in the end, the presidential candidate with the most votes was Todd Sisitsky, who also had spoken of school pride. Todd had an assist from his 7-year-old brother, Peter. At the end of Todd's speech, out walked a giant cardboard bubblegum packet. Peter popped out, yelling: "Stick with Todd and he'll stick with you!"