Last in a series on Democratic primary candidates in Maryland’s 8th congressional district. In a crowded field of Democrats hoping to succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), David Anderson bills himself as the “least liberal.”
The 57-year-old nonprofit executive is the only candidate who favors raising the retirement age for Social Security benefits. His signature issue is a “national family policy” that would provide tax credits to stay-at-home parents.
Anderson, who has little campaign cash and no endorsements, is focusing his search for votes on the more conservative northern swath of the 8th Congressional District, instead of the densely populated south, where 80 percent of the district’s Democrats live.
“My values have more in common with the Democratic families and senior citizens in Frederick and Carroll counties than they do with the Montgomery County liberal establishment,” said Anderson, who lives just outside the district in Potomac. (If elected, he says, he would move into the district.)
Lanky and bespectacled, Anderson is something of a civics nerd.
He holds a doctorate degree in philosophy from the University of Michigan, where he wrote his dissertation on the theory behind his family policy. Anderson taught a class at Johns Hopkins University on scandal management, ethics and public policy, and taught political theory at George Washington University. He’s edited papers on civic engagement.
For the past 11 years, he has worked for the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars, leading its efforts to raise money from state legislatures to fund student internships in the District.
“Everything I’ve done in my career,” Anderson said, “has been focused on building a stronger American democracy, building more civic participation and coming up with creative policies.”
Anderson said he’s long wanted to run for office but couldn’t balance his $180,000-a-year job with a part-time seat in the Maryland legislature. If elected to Congress, he says, he will quit the Washington Center and serve full-time.
He is a passionate proponent of government-subsidized child care and paid family leave — policies that Democrats have tried for decades to advance, without success.
Anderson wants to link initiatives on child care and family leave with a tax credit for families that have a stay-at-home parent. He says that approach would generate Republican support, despite a price tag he estimates would be at least $100 billion.
He says his interest in the topic stems from watching his own parents switch off staying home to raise him and his siblings in New Jersey. His mother was a community college instructor, his father a consultant. Anderson’s own wife left her job at AARP after giving birth to their second child.
“This is the key issue that remains from the New Deal to the Great Society,” Anderson said. “We have dealt with older Americans, we have dealt with poor Americans, we dealt with the health issue . . . the big gap is young, hardworking, middle-class families.”
In otherwise sleepy Democratic debates, Anderson has drawn fire for wanting to phase in an increase to the Social Security eligibility age from 62 to 64 for early retirement and from 67 to 69 for full retirement.
Many Democrats say such a move disproportionately hurts poor people in manual-labor jobs and minorities with lower life expectancies.
Anderson say he’s open to exempting people in certain occupations and would include modest benefit increases for people currently on Social Security. But he blasts as unrealistic his opponents’ calls to significantly expand the entitlement program.
“That’s something party-line Democrats in Montgomery County say to get votes,” he said.