Before she was 2 years old, Paige Anderson was walking precincts with her mother, a Nixon volunteer.
“I always had a love of politics,” said Anderson, deputy chief of staff for Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.).
Another Nixon-related event — watching the Watergate hearings with her mother — boosted her interest.
“My mom always made sure that my brother and I recognized how important these events are to our history,” she said.
Growing up in California during the Vietnam War was also formative for Anderson. “My mom wore an MIA-POW bracelet. In fact, one of the POW bracelets that she wore was [John] McCain’s,” she said, recalling that her mother had let her and her younger brother miss school to welcome home POWs. “I think that’s the first real political activity or moment that I remember growing up.”
During high school, Anderson volunteered with campaigns and participated on the debate team. At a debate camp at Georgetown University, she got a taste of life in the nation’s capital. “That was when I just fell in love with the city,” she said.
But after graduating from the University of Illinois, where she studied political science and economics, Anderson thought she would eventually go to law school and took a job at a law firm. “And I hated it,” she said. “Absolutely hated it.”
She left after two weeks, taking a job in the district office of Rep. Al McCandless (R-Calif.). She enrolled in the national security studies program at California State University at San Bernardino.
As the Soviet Union dissolved and the Berlin Wall fell, “you had this interesting moment in our geopolitical history … it felt like we were writing the book as we were going to class,” she said.
After working in McCandless’ district office and on some California campaigns, she sought to make the move back to the nation’s capital.
“I realized that I needed to be in D.C.,” she said.
Anderson found a job in Rep. Ken Calvert’s office, where she worked on energy, agriculture and defense issues for the California Republican. “I fell in love with energy issues,” she said, “and realized that all of these things are interconnected.”
After working as a senior legislative assistant for Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) and then legislative director for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Anderson took another short detour in 2001 when she left the Hill to work as manager of government affairs and business services at TXU Energy, a Texas utility company.
But 16 months away was enough.
“I learned so much,” she said, “but I missed the Hill. I missed it terribly.”
In 2003, Anderson returned to her old job as legislative director for Issa and then took the same job for Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) before moving to Bono Mack’s office earlier this fall.
Anderson compared her current responsibilities to that of an air traffic controller. “You need to be aware of what’s going on in all of the issues,” she said.
Sometimes, Anderson gets to work on issues that hit close to home. While working in Issa’s office, Anderson was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Since then, she has worked on women’s health issues in terms of raising awareness and writing legislation. As part of Issa’s staff, Anderson worked on Johanna’s Law, which promotes increased awareness about ovarian cancer.
“No matter how partisan things get and how crazy things get,” she said, “bipartisan things can still happen.” She continues to work, with her husband and with women’s health groups, to increase awareness on the Hill.
Anderson said work like that reinforces her belief in the political system. “I believe in the institution,” she said.
For those looking to follow in her footsteps, Anderson suggests they “do it.”
“Just get yourself here,” she said, suggesting taking internships and going door to door to find opportunities. “Come here and really get a taste for what it’s all about.”
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