JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Gov. Jay Nixon recalled Missouri’s bloody history in the Civil War during his inaugural address Monday while encouraging Democrats and Republicans in charge of the state’s politically divided government to come together for the common good.
Nixon took the oath of office for a second term shortly after noon Monday with his hand on a family Bible—and his wife and two sons at his side—in a chilly outdoor ceremony at the Capitol. It was the climax of a full day of events that began with a worship service at a nearby church and was to conclude with an inaugural ball inside the Capitol.
Nixon, a Democrat, will be working with Missouri’s largest Republican legislative majorities since the Civil War era. Yet he said today’s partisan tensions don’t even come close to what existed during that time, when Missouri had two capitols, two governors and two rival state flags.
For years after the war’s end, Missouri was crippled by political struggles, retaliation and suffering, Nixon said.
“That my friends? That was hard politics,” Nixon said.
Today, “I am more optimist than ever about our future,” Nixon said later in his 13-minute speech. “We will put our shared principles ahead of our small differences, and work together for the common good.
“The people of Missouri deserve—and expect—no less. And that is how I intend to lead,” Nixon said.
The governor didn’t detail any specific policy initiatives for his second term, instead highlighting some accomplishments from his first four years in office—new incentives for the auto industry, record levels of international exports and the response to a series of devastating natural disasters.
Nixon also recalled his days as a freshman state senator in the late 1980s, when Missouri’s political control was reversed but still divided—with a Republican governor and Democratic-led Legislature.
“Cooperation was not considered a sign of weakness, but rather a prerequisite for progress,” said Nixon, who drew applause by adding: “And progress is not partisan.”
House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said after Nixon’s speech that bold leadership “has been sorely lacking from the executive branch in recent years.”
“I am hopeful he will turn his rhetoric into reality in the years ahead,” Jones said.
Nixon, 56, easily turned back a challenge from Republican businessman Dave Spence of St. Louis in last November’s election. He is just the fourth Missouri governor to win two consecutive terms—a feat that was not possible under the state constitution until the second term of Democratic Gov. Warren Hearnes in 1968. The only other governors to win re-election were Republican John Ashcroft in 1988 and Democrat Mel Carnahan in 1996.
Nixon, first lady Georganne Nixon, and their family began inauguration day by attending a Monday morning church service with more than 100 others at First Baptist Church near the Capitol. The Rev. Daniel Hilty, of Nixon’s home parish of First United Methodist Church, encouraged attendees to help those in need and listen to others while trusting in the Lord.
The Nixons and other elected officials then joined in a short parade that wound past the Governor’s Mansion to the Capitol. The Nixons rode in the bed of a red Ford F-150, a model made in Missouri at an assembly plant that is receiving tax incentives from Nixon’s administration in order to modernize and expand production.
Attendance at the parade was sparse, and many of the 3,840 chairs set up for the outdoor inauguration also remained empty—facts likely attributable to temperatures in the low 20s. Before the ceremony began, members of Nixon’s administration had to clear frost and ice off the folding chairs. Some of chilled audience members left immediately after Nixon’s speech, before the events had concluded with music and a benediction.
Nixon and other state officials were seated on a platform erected above the Capitol’s steps that was heated from beneath their feet.
The oaths of office were first administered to Missouri’s other executive officials elected this past November—Democratic Attorney General Chris Koster, Democratic Treasurer Clint Zweifel, Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander and Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. Only Kander is new to his position.
The inaugural celebration began Sunday with a reception at the Governor’s Mansion and a private dinner for Nixon’s supporters. It wraps up Monday night with a formal ball in the Capitol that is open to the public. The events are projected to cost $180,000, with Nixon’s campaign committee covering $150,000 and about $30,000 coming from state funds.
A native of rural De Soto in eastern Missouri, Nixon has a long career in Missouri politics. He worked briefly as an attorney in his home county before winning an open state Senate seat in 1986. He won election as attorney general in 1992 and served there for a record 16 years before becoming governor in 2009. He generally has enjoyed political success, though he failed twice in bids for the U.S. Senate.