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There's no anchor text issue - in that only one link on a page can carry weight for a particular keyword. Nothing like that.
The point of linking to another site should be that you feel the other site has value for your audience.
I asked the guy to change the anchor to Blue Widgets in Green and with in day, my site site jumped up for terms Blue Widgets and Blue Widgets in Green.
the top 10 sites in the very narrow niche I track rank primarily due to simple reciprocal links with keywords in the anchor text.