Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Democrat Snarls at Underdog Label

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Democrat Snarls at Underdog Label

Article excerpt

JOE CARMICHAEL IS ONE Democrat who can honestly say he learned a thing or two from Republican John Ashcroft.

"I was a student in his business law class during his first year of teaching at Southwest Missouri State," Carmichael said.

On Saturday, Carmichael - a 47-year-old lawyer and accountant from Springfield - was elected chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party. His first assignment, he says, is to prevent his former teacher from getting elected on Nov. 8 to the U.S. Senate.

Carmichael acknowledges that the prevailing wisdom has the Democratic nominee, U.S. Rep. Alan Wheat of Kansas City, running as the underdog. The same holds for the Democratic nominee for state auditor, state Sen. Steve Danner.

"We're going to prove them wrong," Carmichael said. He said that to sell Wheat the Democrats must emphasize Ashcroft's record as governor and his arch-conservatism - and help Wheat raise $2 million to get that message out.

"I know John. He's very conservative," Carmichael said. "Once that is crystal clear in the minds of the voters, they'll go to the polls to protect themselves."

To promote Danner, Carmichael says, the Democrats will hit hard at the performance of the 10-year incumbent, Republican Margaret Kelly.

Carmichael's allies say the new chairman knows how to deal with being the underdog. He hails from an area that's long been a GOP stronghold. Carmichael is the former Democratic chairman for Greene County, one of the most Republican counties in the state.

Carmichael's selection to lead Missouri's Democrats marks the first time in more than 50 years that both state party chairmen have been from Springfield. He's moving to a house just a block or so from the state Republican Party chairman, Tom Fowler.

Fowler, a lawyer and banker, says he knows and likes Carmichael a lot, even if he doesn't share his politics. Fowler, 53, has been state GOP chairman since 1988. …

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