After surviving a tough primary challenge by a fellow Democrat this spring, U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. now faces an energetic Republican challenger who has made Moran's character and ethics the focus of her campaign for Virginia's 8th Congressional District seat.
On the campaign trail, Lisa Marie Cheney, 39, a defense consultant, routinely calls the congressman an "embarrassment" who has lost his ability to lead after a string of controversial statements, financial troubles and temper-fueled incidents. Moran also faces an independent challenger, Arlington quality control expert James T. Hurysz, 57.
Moran, 59, has spent the past several months campaigning hard in his district, which includes Alexandria, Arlington County, Falls Church and a spur of Fairfax County to Reston. He has attended candidate debates and teas and hosted town meeting forums on issues as diverse as the Iraq war and homeownership.
He is struggling to reunite his supporters behind him after many defected in the primary, when lobbyist Andrew M. Rosenberg -- who capitalized on voter discontent with Moran's travails -- garnered 41 percent of the vote to Moran's 59. Moran's district was redrawn in 2001 to include precincts in Fairfax, many of which went for Rosenberg.
"It's a new part of the district, and they don't know me," Moran said in an interview. "They've been very receptive to believing the negative things my opponents have spread about me. There isn't any one issue that has caused people to vote against me; it's all been personal attacks. . . . I haven't had enough time for people to get to know me and refute these charges."
On the stump, Moran has consistently talked about national issues such as the war in Iraq, gun control and national security, while giving an occasional nod to efforts he's made for local residents, such as helping to procure funding for the Four Mile Run restoration project, local police departments and the proposed Metrorail extension to Tysons Corner.
"Iraq is the most dominant issue on people's minds," said Moran, who opposes the war. "Secondly would come the assault weapons ban -- that Congress did not extend -- and the deficit. [Constituents] are concerned about the tax cuts."
Voters in candidate forums have continued to ask Moran about an antiwar forum in 2003 at which he said: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war in Iraq, we would not be doing this." After many people condemned his statement, he apologized and was forced to give up a House leadership post.
"It was unfortunate that the reference to the Jewish community received as much publicity as it did, because of the hurt it caused and because it played into or confirmed an attitude that I don't think is there or is appropriate," Moran told voters at a synagogue in Herndon recently.
Cheney countered: "The comments made should have never been said. . . . We need a voice in Congress that represents all of us and makes us proud."
Cheney has tried to position herself as a hometown woman who is a viable alternative to Moran, which even her supporters concede will be difficult in a district that is largely Democratic. She has suggested in voter forums that Democrats unhappy with Moran split the ticket -- voting for Democrat John F. Kerry for president and her for representative.
"I was born and raised in this district, so my opinions and beliefs have been created by my community," said Cheney, who lives in the Seminary Hill neighborhood of Alexandria.
Cheney is a supporter of the Iraq war, President Bush's tax cuts, school vouchers and other conservative programs, but she says she does not support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
She often is asked by voters whether she is related to Dick Cheney; her husband, Navy Cmdr. David Peter Cheney, is a distant relative of the vice president's.
Moran's other challenger, Hurysz, is a Democrat who supports Kerry and is running as an independent. He said he is the viable option for Democratic voters unhappy with Moran.
On the campaign trail, Hurysz has said that Virginia needs more transportation money to keep up with its expected population boom and that he supports alternative solutions such as light rail and alternative fuels.