With a yellow tractor on thousands of campaign signs, state Rep. Lee Anderson is unabashedly running an agriculture-themed campaign for Congress. Supporters say Anderson’s farming and political background has given him the people and business skills to make a difference in Washington.
Anderson was the first to declare his candidacy for the 12th Congressional District seat, a move that quickly won him the support of Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross, Georgia Department of Transportation Board member and former Augusta Commissioner Don Grantham, among others.
“He’s done a good job in all the positions he’s been in, and he will return your calls,” Cross said.
“What we need is just a good, honest person, and that’s what Lee is,” Grantham said. “He’s handling himself very well.”
Anderson was elected to two terms on the Columbia County Board of Education in the 1980s and twice to the Columbia County Commission, starting with a special election in 2004.
Cross and Grantham complimented Anderson’s unwillingness to engage in the light mudslinging that Republican opponents Rick Allen, Wright McLeod and Maria Sheffield have, but they acknowledge that Allen and McLeod, both of whom have Columbia County ties, will make the July 31 primary decision a difficult one.
Like Allen, Anderson has connections to an older generation of Columbia County residents.
He married the daughter of former longtime Commissioner Vince Robertson. Donna Robertson Anderson was principal of Columbia Middle School for more than two decades and is serving as her husband’s campaign treasurer.
Lee Anderson still farms the family land, about 270 acres off Louisville Road near Grovetown, and many more acres in other counties, though he switched during the 1990s from dairy to crops used for horse feed and erosion control, campaign manager Reagan Williams said.
Anderson also runs a heavy-equipment and property auction company in Hazlehurst, and the couple own commercial rental property in Columbia County. The shrewd business decisions a farmer must make have made him into a candidate who can relate to people on every level, Donna Anderson said.
“He can converse with just about anybody, with any occupation,” she said. “He has had to deal with a multifaceted group of people, and he’s been a public servant for 16 years.”
Lee Anderson, 55, credits his wife of 30 years as part of the dedicated Anderson team of “public servants, not politicians” seeking to represent the 12th District. They have two grown children, Ben and Katie.
“I was taught it was greater to give than to receive,” he said. “I did not serve in the service, but I have served in the capacity as a farmer that I provided the shirt on your back, the meal on your table and the shoes that you wear.”
Another member of an old Columbia County family, retired Lincolnton auditor and former Anderson supporter Al Gray, said Anderson’s votes in the Georgia House to provide tax exemptions for farmers and energy producers might come back to haunt him.
“I think Lee’s candidacy will end up being a referendum on the Georgia Legislature,” Gray said, “and I don’t think that’s going to bode well for him.”
Regardless, both Gray and longtime Republican observer David Barbee said if the election had been held Friday, Anderson would be in an August runoff.
But Barbee, a former party official, said Anderson might not possess the skills to defeat Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow in a debate and in the general election.
“He’s a good man, a good person,” Barbee said of Anderson. “If he wins the primary, I’m voting for him. But after the Supreme Court’s ruling (Thursday), we have to defeat Obamacare, and we have to defeat Obama.”