Lisa Marie Cheney, a GW alumnae and the Republican candidate for Congress in the 8th District of Virginia, said the diversity of her education led her into politics.
Cheney, who completed her undergraduate work at GW in 1988, received 66 percent of the vote in the Republican primary. In the November general election, she will face either 14-year Democratic incumbent Jim Moran or his challenger, Andy Rosenberg.
Since graduating from GW, Cheney has not stranded too far away from Foggy Bottom, running her own business, PSMA Inc., a government relations consulting firm, in Alexandria, Va. She is a specialist in missile defense and said it is rare for a woman to work in that field.
A political science and biology double major, Cheney remembers being called “crazy” by one of her professors for wanting to concentrate in both fields. But the political science courses she initially took as electives helped steer her toward a career in politics. She remembers Hugh Leblanc, head of the political science department at the time, as one of her most influential professors.
“He tended toward the liberal side, and I was on the conservative side, so we had some heated debates,” said Cheney.
Leblanc arranged for Cheney to intern for Rep. William Lipinski, a Democrat from Illinois. While she was hesitant to work for a politician from the opposing party at first, she ended up staying at the internship for a year and helping him draft legislation.
“Sir, you can put me in the corner to make coffee, if you want, ’cause I’m a die-hard Republican,” she remembered saying before she became a consultant to the politician.
During her years at GW, Cheney was also a College Republican and a lifeguard at the Watergate complex’s health club.
She has been immersed in politics since childhood, attending every White House Christmas party since Lyndon B. Johnson was in office. A daughter of federal employees, she has always wanted to run for office.
“I love the political process,” she said.
Cheney started her political career by handing out Ronald Reagan campaign flyers during her freshman year in high school. She went on campaigns for the elder George Bush and Bob Dole, setting up events along their campaign stops.
But it is her 24-year experience in Northern Virginia politics, as a longtime member of the Alexandria Republican City Committee, that makes the Virginia native believe she can win the Congressional seat.
In fact, she has participated in every Alexandria Republican campaign since 1990.
Jack Kemp, the running mate in Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, has offered to help with her campaign.
Her campaign platform addresses national security and tax reform. A fiscal conservative, she said people, and not the federal government, should choose what to do with their “hard-earned money.”
She said her role as a mother who cares about issues such as housing and education makes her electable in a district with many dual-income and single families. Cheney has a 3-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old son.
Cheney’s family is instrumental to her life and campaign. She said she had always been “very philanthropic” due to her mother’s influence. She recently started a charity that sent teddy bears to Iraqi children during the war.
She said when she was young, she told her mother that she wanted to run for office, and her mother advised her to lead a “clean” life – as politics leads to a life subjected to public scrutiny. Cheney advises students who hope to run for political office to do the same.
“Your life will be an open book,” she said.
Cheney said she would like to speak on campus if she were invited.
“I hope she comes to speak on campus sometime, since she graduated from here,” said junior Christine Streich, a Republican.