When Republican congressional candidate Lisa Marie Cheney stepped up to the lectern at the Arlington County Civic Federation candidate forum on a recent evening, she wasted no time on pleasantries.
"I'm Lisa Marie Cheney, and I'm here to tell you I'm the best choice to replace the embarrassing behavior of Congressman Jim Moran," Cheney said.
Lisa Marie Cheney chats with Charlie Howe, a backer of her opponent, Rep. James P. Moran Jr., at an event in Alexandria. Cheney has called Moran an embarrassment to the district.
(Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
She later turned to the seven-term congressman and accused him of giving the 8th Congressional District a "black eye and a bloody nose" because of his "hot temper and questionable legislative practices" -- a statement that drew scattered boos amid the applause from about 200 Arlington residents on hand.
After surviving a primary challenge from a fellow Democrat in June, U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (Va.) now faces a little-known Republican -- with a familiar last name -- who has made lambasting Moran's character and public missteps the central theme in her campaign in the general election.
Sitting down for an interview at her campaign headquarters in Old Town Alexandria, Cheney made no apologies for her direct, personal attacks on Moran.
"I took the opportunity to hammer him while he was there," she said. "This individual should no longer be our representative."
Cheney, 39, is a lifelong resident of Alexandria who owns a defense consulting company. She is frequently quizzed by voters who assume she's a relative of Vice President Cheney; in fact, her husband, David Peter Cheney, a Navy commander, is distantly related to the vice president, she said.
Moran said Lisa Marie Cheney has been forced to attack his character because many of her positions -- she supports the Iraq war and tax cuts and opposes abortion -- are not the views of most voters in the district.
"That's all she talks about because she knows that on the issues, her positions are juxtaposed to the majority in Northern Virginia. If you are wrong on the issues, your consultant is going to say, 'Attack the person's character,' " Moran said in an interview. "I've run for office more than a dozen times, and with each election my opponents tried to attack me on the character issue because they knew they're going to lose on how hard I work and my position on the issues."
At a town hall-style meeting on the Iraq war that Moran hosted in Falls Church last week, he reiterated his opposition to the war, which he said is the top worry on the minds of his constituents.
"In going into Iraq, we've made the U.S. less safe and less secure. We've destabilized many parts of the world we should be working with as allies," Moran said to warm applause.
He said he has spent much of his time recently talking with constituents about Republican policies he has opposed. He said his concerns include tax cuts and the federal deficit, as well as Congress's failure to reauthorize the ban on assault rifles.
Closer to home, Moran said, he redoubled his efforts to help secure federal funding to extend Metrorail to Dulles International Airport. Cheney also supports that plan.
Even with her tough campaign rhetoric, political observers said, Cheney faces an uphill battle to unseat the incumbent in a Democratic-leaning district during a presidential election year when voter turnout is expected to be high. Virginia's 8th District was redrawn in 2001 and now includes Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and a small part of Fairfax County, including precincts in Reston.