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Politically Speaking: Former Gov. Nixon on education, parks, sports — and Missouri leadership

Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon

Former Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon returns to Politically Speaking to discuss a multitude of issues, including the state of St. Louis’ education system and the challenges of gubernatorial leadership.

Nixon served as governor from 2009 to 2017. He is one of four men (Mel Carnahan, John Ashcroft and Warren Hearnes) to be elected to two consecutive terms as Missouri’s chief executive. He also was elected to four terms as attorney general and to a Jefferson County-based Senate seat.

Since leaving office, Nixon and his wife have moved to University City. He’s a partner at Dowd Bennett, where he’s handled some high-profile cases. One involved the Grain Belt Express transmission line, which plans to deliver wind power throughout Missouri. Nixon successfully argued that a denial of the project should be overturned.

While Nixon has generally stayed out of the political fray since leaving office, he has sounded off both in the media and through Twitter. He talked about some of those topics on the show, including:

  • Nixon emphasized that Missouri governors need to have a productive working relationship with the news media. That became a source of major tension during former Gov. Eric Greitens’ tenure, especially because the GOP official routinely didn’t take questions after public events.
  • He has warm words for Gov. Mike Parson, adding that he worked with the Republican chief executive when he was a state senator. Nixon said Missouri governors need to be a bulwark against potentially harmful policies that come out of the Missouri General Assembly. “I think you don’t find, generally, great creative ideas on how to run government from legislators — it’s just not their position,” he said. “They think of the budget as expending money and executives think of it as moving the needle on issues.”
  • Nixon, who faced criticism for how he handled Ferguson protests, says he’s happy Missouri policymakers did not shy away from dealing with thorny public policy issues stemming from Michael Brown’s death in 2014. “I think a lot of people have learned about the difficult issues involving race relations, policing and all those various things,” he said. “And I think that conversation continues.”
  • He said St. Louis residents missed a big opportunity in 2017 when they didn’t vote to publicly fund a proposed Major League Soccer stadium. Nixon also disputed St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger's comments that backers of the stadium didn't talk with him. Stenger spokesman Cordell Whitlock said "although there were conversations, no financial plan or request for money was ever presented to the county executive regarding a soccer stadium in St. Louis."

Follow Jason Rosenbaum on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Follow Jo Mannies on Twitter: @jmannies

Follow Jay Nixon on Twitter: @GovJayNixon

Music: “Downfall” by TRUSTcompany

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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