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Department of Social Sciences

Michael Smith

Michael Smith, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Political Science

I’m Michael Smith, and I am passionate about connecting my teaching to politics in the “real world.” I teach classes on state and local politics, campaigns and elections, and political philosophy, plus introduction to political science. If you’ve take a course from me, you know I love movies, the Socratic method, and my ever-present cup of coffee. My core insight is that politics affects everyday life. My core passion is rational thought. We must choose to act in our public lives, or choices will be made for us. I choose and act, and I want my students to do the same.

My dissertation explored the relationships state representatives develop with their constituents. The University of Missouri Press made it into a book. To write Bringing Representation Home, I interviewed and shadowed twelve state representatives in their home districts. I argue that a state representative’s district and her political ambitions both shape her style of representation. Urban, suburban, and rural representatives have different “home styles” (the term coined by political scientist Richard Fenno). It also makes a difference whether a representative seeks higher office or just plans to retire after a few terms.

I have published articles in scholarly journals and in Campaigns and Elections, a trade journal for political consultants.

My current research involves voter-approved term limits and their impact on state legislatures, and I have chapters in two books on the topic. I am also revising a manuscript about media coverage of candidates who die during election campaigns. I wrote that piece with my friends Chapman Rackaway of Ft. Hays State and Kevin Anderson of Eastern Illinois University. Kevin, Chap, and I are often spotted presenting research, debating politics, or just acting silly at political science conferences from coast to coast. I am currently collaborating on a book about political scientists who participate on political campaigns. I'm also exploring research in political theory, with a paper on the political implications of the biblical letters of Paul, co-authored with former ESU student Adam Rust. And I am revising a paper on Edmund Burke's theory of representation.

In my other life, I run political campaigns. I have run campaigns for state representative candidates in Missouri and Kansas. I was on the core team of Dr. Charles Wheeler, whose campaign pulled off an upset victory for Missouri Senate in 2002 despite being outspent seven-to-one by our opponent. This story is chronicled in my chapter, “Volunteer for Campaigns,” on pp. 78-80 of the bestseller MoveOn’s 50 Ways to Love Your Country. I am active in the Faith in Democracy project for More-squared, the Kansas City affiliate of the Gamaliel Foundation. Like President Obama, I have attended Gamaliel’s National Leadership Training.

My office phone number is 620-341-5566, my cell phone is 816-509-4535, and my e-mail address is