Dressed in a Redskins jersey, jean shorts and brown flip-flops, Chike Anyanwu greeted just about everyone Sunday who entered the cafeteria of Annapolis Area Christian School.
The school is the meeting place of Crossroads Church, where Anyanwu and his family have attended for nine years.
Anyanwu, the Republican candidate for County Council in District 4, said his faith will play a major role in his campaign.
“For me to love God, I got to love people and I do truly love people. I’ll do whatever will benefit people,” he said. “I’m not going there thinking of myself, I’m going there to do things, to pursue issues, that will benefit my constituents. I want to invite people of all faiths to support me in that endeavor.”
He’s doing it without much help beyond a handful of volunteers. He has reported no contributions and has told state election officials he plans to spend less than $1,000 on the campaign.
Anyanwu faces Democrat Andrew Pruski on Nov. 4 in a district that includes Odenton, Gambrills, Piney Orchard and Maryland City. Pruski, an outgoing school board member, has loaned his campaign thousands of dollars and has raised thousands more. Pruski’s resignation from the school board is effective today.
“Even though the other candidates have a lot of money, I truly believe this election is about grass-roots,” Anyanwu said. “We are going to keep knocking on doors, keep waving signs, having a strong presence on Facebook ... every means to meet our constituents and get our message out.”
Anyanwu, who grew up in a family of 10, credits his parents for teaching him to work hard.
“Because of what they taught me, I’m going to work hard for my constituents. Both my parents have a lot of integrity and that was taught to me at a very young age and that’s what I’m sticking with.”
Anyanwu left Nigeria in 1988 to start a new life in the United States.
He studied mathematics and computer science at Howard University, where he met his wife, Adrienne.
When he was laid off from an IT job several years ago, he took a job as a driver for Metro in the Washington, D.C., area until he could launch a business geared toward IT companies vying to sell services in Nigeria. The business went OK until 2009, when the economy sent him back to driving buses.
Anyanwu has been a Maryland Transit Administration driver in Baltimore for the past five years, supporting his wife and their children. She schools Uchechi, 16, Ikechi, 15, and Tochi, 7, at their Piney Orchard home.
The couple considered sending the children to a Christian school but could not afford the tuition.
“It actually brought us closer to our children, so we continued it,” Adrienne said.
“I like home school because the kids can pray if they choose, they can read the Bible if they choose,” Anyanwu said. “They cannot do that in public school. It is important for us that our kids have a relationship with God.”
Anyanwu said traffic congestion is the issue that holds the most importance for him.
“The biggest issue right now is the traffic congestion in this area, especially on Route 3,” he said. “That traffic is a nightmare during certain times in the day. I want to come up with the best ways to solve traffic congestion.”
But he also is talking about the drive to build a build a new high school in Crofton, which would affect other west county communities. Anyanwu supports the idea as long as Arundel High School and other older buildings are renovated first, and taxes aren’t raised to pay for it.
“I am for building a new high school but what do we do with other schools that are decaying? Shouldn’t we fix that before building a new school?” he said. “I just want us to improve those schools first before we build a new school. We can also expand those schools some more.”
Anyanwu opposes any new taxes and is critical of the stormwater fee approved last year by the County Council. The county charges homeowners $85 a year, with the money dedicated to address stormwater pollution in streams and rivers. Commercial property owners pay more.
“I think everybody is being taxed so much,” he said. “If we keep taxing people, we don’t have enough for the upkeep of families. Some families need that money to send their kids to school.”
Adrienne believes her husband may benefit from timing. John Leopold resigned as county executive last year after being convicted of abusing his office, and County Councilman Daryl Jones spent months in prison for failing to file his taxes. She said good morals are the key to county leadership.
“I think the county would really benefit from having good strong leadership coupled with good morals. I think we need to try to restore that sense of integrity to government roles,” she said.
No matter the outcome in November, Anyanwu says the election won’t change him.
“Whether I win or lose, my integrity is going to be intact,” he said. “It’s not a do or die for me.”