When Cindy McCain talks about growing up, she usually refers to herself as an "only child" -- a phrase that ignores the existence of her half-sisters.
"It's terribly painful," Kathleen Hensely Portalski said. "It is as if she is the 'real' daughter. I am also a real daughter."
Portalski and McCain are both children of the late Jim Hensley, the Arizona businessman who founded one of the largest beer distributorships in the nation. Kathleen, 65, is the product of Hensley's first marriage in the 1930s to Mary Jeanne Parks. Hensley divorced Parks for Marguerite (Smitty) Johnson, whom he met at a West Virginia hospital in World War II and married in 1945. Cindy was born nine years later.
The half-sisters had little contact growing up and have not spoken since Hensley's funeral in 2000. In his will, he left just $10,000 to his older daughter; Cindy inherited her father's multimillion-dollar fortune.
Portalski said she stood quietly by for decades while her father lavished attention on his second family. But the past few months -- with Cindy McCain's repeated references to being her father's only child -- finally became too much. "I was his family, too," she said from Phoenix.
Cindy McCain has another half-sister, Dixie Burd, by a previous relationship. Burd could not be reached for comment.
The McCain campaign has been tight-lipped about the expanded family tree: "Mrs. McCain was raised as the only child of Jim and Marguerite Hensley, and there was no familiar relationship with any other sibling," it said.
Portalski said that all she wants is for the McCains to apologize and acknowledge her family. (Since you asked: Yes, they're Democrats.) "He was my father, too. I don't know why even now he cannot be a part of my life."
OBAMA PLEDGES TO CREATE JOBS
Barack Obama pledged to create millions of union jobs in alternative energy and to end tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas, using new populist language to persuade voters that he, not McCain, is best positioned to lift the limping U.S. economy.
Speaking in Virginia, Obama made an appeal that sounded much like the closing pitch Hillary Rodham Clinton offered. "If you give me that opportunity, if you give me that chance, I will fight for you every single day," he pledged. "I'll wake up every day in that White House thinking about those people in Martinsville."
Today, Obama will campaign with Gov. Tim Kaine, believed to be a possible running mate.
MCCAIN: JUDGMENT, NOT PATRIOTISM, IN PLAY
John McCain told voters he is not challenging Barack Obama's patriotism in criticizing his call to pull out of Iraq, only the judgment of his Democratic rival.
"He's making these decisions not because he doesn't love America, but because he doesn't think it matters whether America wins or loses," McCain said in Las Cruces, N.M.
During a town-hall meeting, McCain repeated his charge that Obama would rather forfeit than win in Iraq just to boost his own political ambitions. Obama has denounced that assertion as an assault on his patriotism.