He is married to Karin Seehofer.
After secondary school, Seehofer started working as an errand boy in the local administration in Ingolstadt.
Seehofer served as member of the Lower House of the German Parliament (Bundestag) in Germany from 1980. He was Federal Minister for Health and Social Security from 1992 to 1998 in the cabinet of Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
In 1993, Seehofer ordered that Germany's 117-year-old Federal Health Agency be dissolved following a review of how the government in the 1980s handled the cases of thousands of hemophiliacs who were infected through blood contaminated with H.I.V. The Health Ministry took over the agency's responsibilities. Also, Seehofer announced that Germany would contribute to an emergency fund for victims of the scandal. In the context of the crisis, he came under considerable pressure to resign.
Seehofer became deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group of the Bundestag in October 1998, which was led at the time by Wolfgang Schäuble. He served as Health Minister Ulla Schmidt's counterpart in negotiating the cross-party healthcare bill of 2003. Because of his disagreement with CDU leader Angela Merkel on flat-rate contributions (Gesundheitsprämie) to the federal health insurance he resigned from his post on 22 November 2004 but remained the deputy chairman of the CSU and kept his mandate. After joining the Bundestag Seehofer kept his mandate as a directly elected delegate (Direktkandidat) from his Constituency Ingolstadt. At the 2005 federal election he received 65.9 percent of the votes in his district. Seehofer was appointed Federal Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection in the cabinet of Angela Merkel and stayed in office from 2005 to 2008.
After his party lost more than 17% of the popular vote in the Bavarian state elections of 2008, incumbent Minister-President Günther Beckstein and Chairman of the CSU, Erwin Huber, announced their resignations. Seehofer was quickly proposed as their successor. At a party convention on 25 October he was affirmed as the new Chairman of the CSU with 90% of the votes, and on 27 October he was elected Minister-President by the Landtag with votes from the Free Democratic Party, forming the first coalition government in Bavaria since 1962.
During the term 2011–2012, Seehofer served as President of the German Bundesrat. As such, he acted as Acting President of Germany between Christian Wulff's resignation on 17 February 2012 and the election of Joachim Gauck on 18 March 2012.
Under Seehofer's leadership, the State of Bavaria took to the Federal Constitutional Court in 2012 in order to dispute the legality of Germany's post-World War II system of financial redistribution among the country's 16 states. Bavaria, a beneficiary of the system until 1988, had paid more in 2011 than it got out in the 40 years it was a net recipient. The State of Hesse, another per-capita contributor, joined the lawsuit.
Also under Seehofer's leadership, the CSU won an absolute majority in the 2013 state elections, heralding strong momentum for the conservative parties in the federal elections the following week. Together with Angela Merkel and Sigmar Gabriel, he later led the negotiations to form a coalition government on the national level. In late 2013, Seehofer won a record 95.3 percent of the party's votes to continue as chairman.
In early 2015, under pressure from younger rivals, Seehofer announced he would retire at the next regional election in 2018. Later that year, when was chosen the fifth time as leader of the CSU, he received 87.2 percent of the vote, some 8 percent down on the result he achieved in 2013. In August 2016, Seehofer said he may break with party unity and run a separate campaign in the 2017 national elections, a move widely seen as an effort to keep pressure on Merkel to shift to a more restrictive refugee policy in the European migrant crisis.
In 2010, remarks made by Seehofer according to which Turkish and Arab migrants were no longer needed in Germany were strongly criticized by the Turkish community and by Chancellor Angela Merkel's government.
In 2011, Seehofer took the debate further when he said those who wanted to stay in Germany should be ready to sign up to German values. He proposed a change to the Bavarian Constitution so that the authorities in the state would be under obligation to help with the integration process but that minorities, too, should be prepared to actively support the integration process.
In late 2015, Seehofer and the CSU sharply criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy, as the party's home turf of Bavaria was the main entry point for refugees and other migrants arriving in Germany. Under pressure from Seehofer and his allies, Merkel later restricted cash benefits for refugees and added Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro to the list of "safe" countries to which migrants can be returned. He repeatedly called on the federal government to set a cap on the amount of refugees Germany should be taking in, saying that the country was able to manage only "200,000 applicants [per year] for asylum … at the most." Seehofer later threatened to file a complaint against the government's refugee policy with Germany's Constitutional Court.
Seehofer is opposed to Turkey's becoming a member of the European Union. In 2009, he stated that Turkey "as a self-proclaimed representative of the Muslim world, clearly doesn't fit in".
In an interview with news magazine Der Spiegel in late 2014, Seehofer warned Germany's foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his fellow Social Democrats (SPD) against pursuing a more friendly approach towards Russia in the Ukrainian crisis, arguing that "if Mr. Steinmeier is pursuing his own form of diplomacy alongside the chancellor, that would be highly dangerous." He added that, even within his own party, there was already too much friendly sentiment towards Russia that had to be kept in check. However, in 2015, he held that it would be "Realpolitik" to try to involve Russia in tackling global crises. In early 2016, his joint visit with Edmund Stoiber to Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin was met by harsh criticism, even from CDU politicians. By early 2017, Seehofer reiterated his calls to lift the EU sanctions against Russia.
In 2012, Seehofer demanded that the German constitution be changed to permit referendums on decisions to deepen European integration and transfer powers to European institutions. That same year, he criticized International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde's proposal for measures that would result in a mutualization of Eurozone debt, arguing that shared liability for sovereign debt and a banking union would remove pressure from governments to carry out economic policy changes.
In 2013, Seehofer made Peter Gauweiler a deputy leader of the CSU in a bid to court the party's euro critics; however, Gauweiler quit after two years in protest against the extension of Greece's aid program.KfW, Ex-Officio Member of the Supervisory Board (2005–2008)
Landwirtschaftliche Rentenbank, Deputy Chairman of the Supervisory Board (−2008)
Donau-Wasserkraft AG (DWK), Member of the Supervisory Board (1998–2005)
Bayerische Landesstiftung, Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Trustees
Bavarian Research Foundation, Ex-Officio Member of the Board of Trustees
Deutsches Museum, Member of the Board of Trustees
Committee for the preparation of the Reformation anniversary 2017, Member of the Board of Trustees
Hanns Seidel Foundation, Member of the Board
Sudetendeutsche Stiftung, Member of the Board of Trustees
German Energy Agency (DENA), Member of the Supervisory Board (−2008)
ZDF, Member of the board of directors(2010–2014)
Honorary doctorate of the National Agricultural University of Ukraine (2008)
Order of Merit of Portugal (2009)
Honorary doctorate of the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu (2010)
Honorary doctorate of Qingdao University (2010)
Order of the Star of Italy (2014)
A married father of three, Seehofer failed in a 2007 bid for the CSU leadership when it emerged that he had a daughter born out of wedlock, from an extramarital affair with a much younger staffer of the German Bundestag. After a period of indecision, he opted to return to his wife.
In 2002, Seehofer survived a serious myocarditis. His health again became an subject of public debate when he collapsed during a speech at a party event in early 2015.