In the early morning light of a fall weekday, Lisa Marie Cheney stands at the entrance of the King Street Metro station in Alexandria and greets commuters with a cheerful, "Hi, I'm Lisa Marie Cheney, running for Congress against Jim Moran!"
From time to time, Cheney's intro gets a smile or a nod of approval, but most of the questions are about the last name emblazoned on her campaign signs and on the T-shirts of her volunteers.
"They see the signs, and they think we're with the Bush campaign. Or they think I'm Cheney's daughter," she said, referring to the vice president.
Cheney, a defense consultant and mother of two, is a Republican who supports most of the Bush agenda. But she isn't Cheney's daughter. Her husband, Navy Cmdr. David Peter Cheney, is a distant relative of the vice president.
Trying to build her own name recognition in a race against a well-known incumbent, U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D), has been the greatest challenge facing Cheney in Virginia's 8th District, which is made up of Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County.
She has spent much of her time on the campaign trail criticizing Moran -- her favorite word to describe him is "embarrassment" -- while telling voters of her own deep roots in Alexandria.
"My whole life experience is here," Cheney, 39, said in a recent interview at a coffee shop on King Street. "I went to school here, I was the daughter of a single parent here. I know those struggles; it's part of who I am."
On the campaign trail, Cheney often talks about growing up in Alexandria as the child of a single mother who was a federal employee. Many of the district's voters work for the government.
She also tells audiences that her strong views on abortion grow out of her having been adopted when she was 4 days old.
"I am pro-life for a reason. It's a personal thing to me," Cheney said at a recent candidates' forum in Arlington. "My birth mother was 19 years old, single, right out of high school. The first time she had sex, she got pregnant. Her father was a colonel in the Army in France, and she was too afraid to tell him, so she took it upon herself and made the best choice. . . . I am a living, breathing example of what choosing life is all about."
Kathryn McKeown, now 63 and a retiree living in Alexandria, ended up raising Cheney alone after her husband abandoned the family six months after they brought Cheney home from the hospital. The two lived in various apartments in Arlandria and in Park Fairfax, where Cheney resided until she bought her own home in the Seminary Hill neighborhood of Alexandria at age 30.
Cheney said she had a sometimes lonely childhood, because her mother worked long hours as a switchboard operator at the White House. She vividly remembers sitting alone in the living room playing Candyland by herself after her exhausted mom had fallen asleep on the couch. "As a child, I didn't understand it. I understand it now," she said.
She said she remains close to McKeown and has had contact with her birth mother since 1999.
Cheney graduated from St. Mary's Academy, a private school in Alexandria, and received a political science degree from George Washington University in 1988 and later a master's degree in national security statecraft from the Institute of World Politics in the District.
After graduating from college, she worked for a Reston firm that specialized in satellite technology, and in 1994, she founded her own firm, PSMA Inc., consulting on missile defense systems. On the stump, she stresses her 17 years' experience consulting on national security issues on Capitol Hill.
Cheney said she always wanted to run for political office someday and decided to run for Congress in March of last year, shortly after Moran made remarks about the Jewish community's influence on the decision to go to war with Iraq at an antiwar forum. The remarks were widely condemned by constituents and fellow members of Congress.
Yet even Cheney's supporters concede that she faces an uphill battle against Moran, a seven-term incumbent from a largely Democratic district. She has received little or no financial support from the national Republican Party, though her campaign did raise more than Moran's in the most recent fundraising quarter, according to federal election reports -- $120,000 to Moran's $114,000.
Moran had more than $1.28 million earlier this year but spent $900,000 to defeat lobbyist Andrew M. Rosenberg in the June Democratic primary. At the end of last month, Moran had $269,122 on hand, compared with Cheney's $58,574.
There is also an independent candidate in the race, James T. Hurysz, 57, a quality control manager and Arlington resident.
"I think she's an enthusiastic alternative to Moran. She's a straight shooter and that's a welcome change," said Eric Lundberg, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee.
Throughout the campaign, Cheney has made Moran's many past missteps -- personal and financial -- a central theme. She included a list of Moran's shortcomings in a recent fundraising letter that raised eyebrows in some quarters. The letter included an accusation that Moran had beaten a former wife, a reference to a 1999 argument that resulted in police being called to Moran's home. No charges were filed.
Moran is quick to point out the ideological differences between himself and Cheney on national security, deficit spending, taxes and abortion. While Cheney supported the war in Iraq and the Bush tax cuts, Moran said, he opposed "virtually everything the Bush-Cheney administration has done." He called Cheney's fundraising letter "scurrilous."
Cheney said she was not slinging mud but simply talking about Moran's high-profile incidents over the years, already discussed in the media and in the district.
"I don't think I've been hard on him. I've only talked about headlines he's created," she said . "His negative behaviors have made him an ineffectual leader. . . . We deserve better."