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Former delegate Rich Anderson announces bid for Virginia’s 51st District

Anderson, a Republican, hopes to return to the post he lost in 2017

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Rich Anderson

Rich Anderson, a four-term Republican Virginia delegate who lost his seat in 2017 to Del. Hala Ayala, a Democrat, has announced he’ll run again this November.

Anderson, 63, is the husband of Prince William County Supervisor Ruth Anderson, R-Occoquan. Anderson is also a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, who retired from active duty in 2009 at the rank of colonel.

“Public service is all I’ve known for 30 years as an Air Force officer and eight years as a Virginia legislator,” Anderson said in a press release issued Thursday morning. 

“I remain committed to making life better in Prince William County and across Virginia for working families. Public service is my calling, so public service is what I intend to do.” 

Long considered a swing district, the 51st has become more Democratic in recent years. The district stretches across Prince William County from Lake Ridge to Nokesville, encompassing more than 80,300 residents, according to the U.S. Census. 

Voters in the 51st District picked Gov. Ralph Northam (D) over his Republican challenger Ed Gillespie by 55 to 40 percent in 2017. In 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton won the district with 50 percent of the vote to President Donald Trump’s 44 percent.

Anderson was first elected to the Virginia General Assembly in 2009 when he beat incumbent Del. Paul Nichols, a Democrat, by 269 votes. Anderson ran unopposed in 2011 and 2015 and beat Democrat Reed Heddleston in 2013 with 53 percent of the vote.

In 2017, Anderson lost to Ayala, who garnered about 53 percent of the vote to Anderson’s nearly 47 percent. Anderson was one of several Republicans to lose their seats in an election that swept 15 new Democrats into office along with Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney Gen. Mark Herring, all Democrats.

While in the General Assembly, Anderson was known for his focus on military issues. He chaired the General Assembly Military and Veterans Caucus and continues to serve on the Virginia War Memorial Board. 

Anderson also chaired the House Science and Technology Committee and was a member of the House appropriations, general laws and transportation committees.

On health care issues, Anderson was an early supporter of bills allowing oils from the marijuana plant to be legalized as part of medical treatments. But he was a staunch opponent of Medicaid expansion in Virginia, which the state General Assembly approved in early 2018 after nearly five years of debate.

During a 2017 debate in Dale City, Anderson called Medicaid expansion "bad fiscal policy," noting it already claimed about 23 percent of Virginia’s budget that year. Anderson instead advocated for funding what he called the state’s “health care safety net” — money sent to free clinics that treat the uninsured.

Medicaid expansion allows people making under $16,700 a year to qualify for free health insurance under Medicaid, which is funded through state and federal tax dollars. 

Prior to the Virginia General Assembly’s 2018 vote, which took place after Anderson lost his seat to Ayala, Virginia had one of the stingiest Medicaid programs in the country. Even disabled adults could not qualify for the program if they made more than $9,700 a year, and childless, non-disabled adults did not qualify for Medicaid at all, no matter how little they made. 

An estimated 14,000 Prince William County residents are now eligible for Medicaid as a result of the expansion, which went into effect Jan. 1.

Anderson could not be reached for comment Thursday morning.

A native Virginian, Anderson holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in public administration from Webster University. He is a graduate of the Air War College and the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia, where he sits on the Sorensen Statewide Advisory Board, according to his press release. 

Anderson has also served as chair of the Joint Commission on Technology and Science and the General Assembly Aviation Caucus. He is a commercial pilot with more than 2,000 flying hours, his press release said.

Anderson was also a member of the Virginia State Crime Commission and the Virginia Commission on Youth, his press release said.

Locally, Anderson is also senior vice commander of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 48 and a life member of both American Legion Post 364 and VFW Post 1503. He also sits on the Freedom Museum Board of Directors, the Prince William Salvation Army Board and the Youth for Tomorrow Board of Advisors.

Anderson and his wife, Ruth, reside in Woodbridge. Ruth is a retired 21-year Air Force lieutenant colonel. 

In addition to serving on the board of supervisors, Ruth Anderson chairs the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission. They are members of Lake Ridge Baptist Church in Woodbridge and have three children and four grandchildren.

Reach Jill Palermo at


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