The Incredible Mystery of Where This GOP Congressional Candidate Lives

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Wikimedia Commons/Facebook
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Wikimedia Commons/Facebook

Derrick Anderson, on paper at least, looks like an ideal GOP recruit to run for Congress in Virginia.

He’s a former Green Beret who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has a law degree from Georgetown. And he has two prestigious federal court clerkships under his belt. And sure enough, Anderson recently announced his congressional bid in Virginia’s 7th District, a swingy and consistently expensive House district to run in—the most expensive, in fact, for 2022—that is currently represented by Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger.

There’s just one problem for the newly declared 39-year-old Republican: It’s unclear he actually lives in the district.

Despite touting his hometown roots in Fredericksburg and publicly claiming he’s lived in Spotsylvania County since 2021, there’s little evidence to suggest he actually resides in the area—other than registering to vote there.

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Instead, according to public records and documents obtained by The Daily Beast, it appears Anderson actually lives in an Alexandria townhouse that he bought for $852,000 in 2021 with the help of a Veterans Affairs loan that is “only available for a primary residence.”

While congressional candidates in Virginia are not legally required to live in the district, the loan from the VA and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that Anderson received puts him in an awkward position. His Alexandria home, his supposed “primary residence,” is well outside of the district he’s running in.

Again, by law, the veterans’ loan has to be used for a “primary residence,” and Anderson would not be allowed to rent out the property for at least a year. But Anderson is registered to vote at an address in Fredericksburg more than an hour away from his Alexandria home.

And this is where things really get interesting.

The Daily Beast asked the Anderson campaign, again and again, to provide information on where the candidate has lived for the last two-and-a-half years. The campaign repeatedly refused to do so.

When The Daily Beast brought the VA loan to the campaign’s attention, the campaign relied on a narrow interpretation of the loan program’s occupancy requirements—essentially arguing that there were no occupancy requirements outside of requiring someone to move in within 60 days of closing—to make the case that Anderson had done nothing wrong.

“A Veterans Affairs home loan allowed Derrick, like many veterans, to purchase a home while serving our nation as a judicial clerk,” campaign adviser Hooff Cooksey told The Daily Beast. “He scrupulously complied with the requirements of the program and will be a champion of Veterans programs such as these in Congress that recognize the service of our men and women in uniform, some of whom have served their country in the most dangerous environments around world.”

A representative for Veterans United—a VA approved lender that issues these loans—was emphatic that recipients of these loans have to use the purchased home as their primary residence for at least 12 months after moving in. But even though mortgage providers widely note that the VA loan program requires “that you live in your home for at least a year as your primary residence,” the law itself seems more ambiguous about an actual timeframe.

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What is less ambiguous, however, is that there are intermittent occupancy rules requiring someone getting this VA loan to “have a history of continuous residence in the community” and that “there must be no indication that the veteran has established, intends to establish, or may be required to establish, a principal residence elsewhere.”

Anderson and his campaign seem to want to have it both ways—that this Alexandria home was his primary address, and that he has consistently lived in the district—while also trying not to go on the record about where he has lived over the last two years. (The campaign declined to answer questions about whether Anderson lives in the district or account for where he has lived since he bought his Alexandria home.)

The argument from Anderson’s campaign seems to be that he did nothing wrong by using this VA program to buy a house, which allowed him to put up less or even no money as a downpayment, get a better interest rate, and reduce closing costs. The argument is, as long as Anderson intended to use the house as his primary residence, he’s in the clear.

But this is complicated by Anderson’s voter registration. A source with access to Anderson’s Virginia voter file noted that he has used a Fredericksburg apartment since 2021 as his primary address on his voter card. That information hasn’t changed since 2021, suggesting Anderson voted in the Fredericksburg district in November 2021 and June 2022—during the Virginia primary in which he was on the ballot.

Additional voting records show Anderson voted in-person for the general elections in November 2020 and 2022, but by mail for the other most recent cycles. (His campaign didn’t answer questions about what local district Anderson voted in for the November 2021, June 2022, and November 2022 elections.)

For someone who closed on a house in Alexandria in May 2021, swearing that it was his primary residence, he didn’t seem to consider it his primary residence for very long, because if he did, he was voting in the wrong district by November of that year.

Conversely, Anderson could have been—or still could be—living in his Alexandria property and voting in a district that isn’t the one in which he lives.

Again, despite multiple conversations with the campaign, a spokesperson declined to answer questions about where Anderson has lived for the last two-and-a-half years.

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The Democrat currently representing the district, Spanberger, has reportedly told Democrats she plans to run for governor in 2025 and thus won’t run for re-election, giving Republicans the best chance at picking up the seat since the 2018 midterms. In Anderson, the GOP has a young, fresh face with both military and top-level legal experience.

But his bid to represent the district could be severely complicated by allegations that he doesn’t live in the district.

Normally, campaigns go to great lengths to avoid any perception of carpetbagging. The 2022 midterms were rife with carpetbagging storylines, from campaigns trying to get an edge in crowded primaries. While Anderson has the benefit of growing up in Fredericksburg, his return to the district is more complicated, given that he claims to be a resident of Spotsylvania County going back to 2021. A Richmond-Times Dispatch article from the same year refers to Anderson as a “Goochland resident,” a town around an hour-and-a-half from Fredericksburg.

As a former federal law clerk for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia and Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit—a job inherently tasked with attending to small details—Anderson should have been attuned to the key details he needed to line up before running for office the first time.

In his first bid for Congress, he listed a PO box—not the address in Fredericksburg or Alexandria—in his statement of candidacy forms.

The omissions and inconsistencies went unnoticed in the 2022 primary, where he exceeded expectations and finished ahead of the initial GOP favorite, Virginia State Sen. Bryce Reeves, who took the bulk of attacks from the rest of the field.

Anderson is also taking another run for Congress in a House district that gets an exorbitant amount of attention and outside spending compared to just about anywhere else, with the 7th district becoming the most expensive 2022 House race in the country when candidate spending and outside spending are counted together, totalling more than $42 million.

As the candidate continues to introduce himself to voters—who would have had no idea about his Alexandria residence—he may need to spend more time back in the district, as long as he doesn’t get stuck in the infamous traffic on Route 95 headed there.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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