WASHINGTON – For months Dick Cheney has been working from an undisclosed location in Anne Arundel County to elect Bob Duckworth, the Republican congressional challenger in Maryland’s 3rd District.
Cheney helped organize a lavish August fund-raiser, and led a letter-writing campaign to doctors and small businesses.
While most candidates would be trumpeting the fact, Duckworth will only say that he is “lucky and honored to have a guy by the name of Dick Cheney on my team.”
Probably because the guy by the name of Dick Cheney is not that Dick Cheney: The vice president is Richard B. Cheney while Duckworth’s pal is Richard P. Cheney, the Anne Arundel Elephant Club’s 2001 Republican Man of the Year.
The Odenton resident has a picture of his famous namesake, signed “From Dick Cheney to Dick Cheney,” and hopes to meet the vice president some day. For now, the retired Air Force officer is having fun with the attention — not all of it flattering — he gets from his name.
The confusion goes back decades — the other Cheney has been a White House aide, served in Congress and was a defense secretary for the other President Bush.
When the local Cheney worked on federal contracts for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, he had occasion to call the Washington Navy Yard and Andrews and Bolling air force bases.
“When I called any of these organizations and said, ‘Hi, this is Dick Cheney,’ I had total silence on the line,” Cheney said. “I could just imagine someone on the other end sitting at attention.”
Cheney and his wife, Pat, remember making hotel reservations several years ago and finding a very excited staff when they happened to call back for directions. The hotel, which was also hosting Walter Mondale’s daughter — the real one — had just ordered flowers for his room.
His name has not always worked in his favor — even when he includes his brother-in-law, Al Hague, whose name is pronounced like the Al Haig who was President Reagan’s secretary of state.
The two got some puzzled looks when they introduced themselves at golf courses in the 1980s. Another time, they showed up at a restaurant in Kennebunkport, Maine, to find that their dinner reservations for Al Hague and Dick Cheney had been ignored.
“I think people probably thought it was a joke and never made a reservation,” Pat Cheney said.
More recently, the Maryland Cheney fielded an angry phone call from a Mr. Spencer in Connecticut who wanted to give Dick Cheney a piece of his mind about Enron and the war in Iraq.
“I can assure you that I am well-versed and well-read on those topics,” Cheney told Mr. Spencer. “This is Dick Cheney, and I’m not the vice president.”
On a visit to the Washington Monument a few weeks ago, a lady who saw his nametag pulled him aside and insisted on a picture — even though at 6-foot-1 and with a full head of hair, Cheney looks nothing like the vice president.
The vice president could not be reached for his opinion about his namesake: Calls to his office and the Bush-Cheney campaign were not returned.
But Pat Cheney likes to call her husband “the first Dick Cheney.” Her husband is seven years older than the vice president, although he claims to be in better shape.
A former Democrat, the Anne Arundel Cheney switched to the Republican Party right after President Johnson’s tenure. He has always been interested in politics — he minored in political science at the University of Maryland — and has even contemplated a run for office.
Duckworth’s campaign manager, Carrie Geldart, thinks Cheney should consider it.
“What’s good about him, aside from instant name recognition, is that he is a very patient person when it comes to explaining things,” Geldart said. “He’s got a great sense of humor, a very loyal Republican.”
Even if he does not run for office, Geldart said, “He’s the vice president in Anne Arundel County.”
“With a name like that, who could turn him down?” Duckworth asked.
He is already drawing vice presidential attention.
After the nurse called Cheney’s name for a flu shot recently, someone shouted that he should be out campaigning and someone else asked how his heart was doing.
Cheney, as he always does, took it in stride.
“When I got my flu shot and I was walking back, I told them, ‘Don’t forget to vote Nov. 2,'” he said.
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