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Nixon chief of staff recovering from mild stroke

Watson, left, has served by Nixon's side since 1993. (Photo: Governor's office)
Watson, left, has served by Nixon’s side since 1993. (Photo: Governor’s office)

By Eli Yokley

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — John Watson, chief of staff to Gov. Jay Nixon, was hospitalized Saturday after suffering a mild stroke.

Watson, who has worked for Nixon since he took office as attorney general in 1993, is currently in the hospital undergoing additional tests. Nixon spokesman Scott Holste told The Missouri Times that Watson is expected to make a full recovery.

Watson plays a key role in Nixon’s legislative advocacy and policy making process. His temporary absence comes as the governor’s office continues its push this week for Medicaid expansion and as lawmakers begin to debate the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.

Holste said during Watson’s absence, his duties will be performed by Jeff Harris, director of policy; Peter Lyskowski, deputy chief of staff; and other members of Nixon’s senior staff.

Nixon’s office was not clear on whether Watson planned to return to his duties, but sources close to the process said Monday that if Watson does not return, Harris would be the likely choice to replace him. Watson has served in the high-stress role as chief of staff to Nixon since 1997.