Jay Nixon was born in De Soto, Mo., and resides in Jefferson City. He earned a bachelor's degree and a law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
His father was mayor of De Soto and his mother was president of the school board.
Nixon was elected to the Missouri Senate in 1986 and attorney general in 1992.
After two unsuccessful bids for U.S. Senate, Nixon was elected governor in 2008.
Nixon and his wife, Georganne, have two sons.
Jay Nixon has been campaigning for re-election as governor in 2012 by minimizing his Democratic affiliation, highlighting his independence and appealing to the political middle. He faces a challenge from Republican Dave Spence, a suburban St. Louis businessman who is a political newcomer.
In some regards, Nixon's campaign sounds Republican. He touts the fact that he cut more than $1.8 billion of spending and 4,000 state employee positions since taking office in January 2009. He has joined Republican legislative leaders in adamantly opposing new taxes, and signed a law in 2011 gradually eliminating the state franchise tax on businesses. Nixon also touts that Missouri has retained a AAA bond rating and balanced budget, the latter of which is required by the state constitution.
As a candidate in 2008, Nixon pledged to restore Medicaid coverage to those who had been cut off the roles in a previous Republican administration. In his first year as governor, Nixon proposed to restore coverage to only some of those people, but the Republican-led Legislature rejected the plan. Nixon has largely avoided the subject since then. For example, Nixon has declined to say whether he believes Missouri ought to expand its Medicaid eligibility under the terms of the 2010 health care reform law supported by President Barack Obama and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012.
Nixon has had mixed success on economic issues. In July 2010, lawmakers meeting in a special session he called passed new tax incentives for automakers, which quickly paid off when Ford Motor Co. announced plans to retool a Kansas City area assembly plant. But lawmakers have resisted Nixon's urging to restructure the state's 61 tax credit programs. A fall 2011 special session called by Nixon ended without passage of the marquee bill, which would have pared back existing tax credits while authorizing new business incentives. One of the more controversial components would have created tax breaks to spur international trade at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
During his first two years as governor, Nixon struck deals with colleges and universities to hold tuition flat in exchange for being spared from large state budget cuts. There was no similar deal during his third and fourth years in office, as the budget cuts continued.
After a deadly tornado hit Joplin in May 2011, Nixon played an active role in coordinating the state's response and recovery efforts. He revived the disaster-commander role later that year as Missouri was hit with record flooding and again in 2012, as the state suffered from widespread drought.
Among the knocks on Nixon was his habit of billing other state agencies for his frequent flights on the state airplane. Legislators, in bipartisan fashion, sought to limit that practice by adding special wording to the state's budget.
Nixon has a long history in Missouri politics. He often jokes he got his start as a child when the phone would ring during dinnertime and his parents — his father was the mayor of De Soto, Mo., and his mother the president of the local school board — would send him to answer it.
He won election to an open state Senate seat in 1986 and, just two years later, tried to jump up to the U.S. Senate, but was defeated by Republican Sen. John Danforth. While still serving as a state senator, Nixon won a close Democratic primary and an even closer general election for attorney general in 1992. He went on to become the state's longest-serving attorney general, holding the office for 16 years before being elected governor.
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Jay Nixon is not up for re-election in 2014.
(Last updated by The Associated Press on August 7, 2014.)