Seven hours before the first Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night, Jane O'Meara Sanders sent her husband's supporters an email. The couple was nervous, she wrote, but excited to debut "his message with a national audience of millions of people at once." Her enthusiasm made sense -- for them, debates could be considered good luck. Their relationship started with one.
The 64-year-old would-be first lady to Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, first met the candidate in the 1980s after she organized a debate while he was running for mayor of Burlington. "When I heard him speak, well, that was it," Jane O'Meara Sanders, who already had three children, later said. They have been married since 1988, Bloomberg reported.
She's actually Bernie Sanders' second wife. He married Deborah Shiling Messing out of college, but they got divorced in 1966 after 18 months of marriage. Bernie Sanders is also tied to another woman -- Susan Mott Glaeser, a girlfriend who gave birth to his son, Levi, in 1969.
Jane O'Meara Sanders has proved controversial for her 2011 resignation as president of Burlington College, where students and staff at the Vermont school blamed her for a "toxic and disruptive environment" as well as serious debt, Seven Days reported. Critics also have questioned Sanders and her kids' paid volunteer work for Bernie Sanders' campaigns over the years, which a blogger for the Hill recently called "not illegal but certainly smacks of nepotism." Her LinkedIn profile shows she spent years serving as "press secretary, chief of staff or policy analyst as needed" while Bernie Sanders was in the House of Representatives.
These days, Sanders is an adviser and "sounding board" for her husband, as she told CNN earlier this month. She shares an office with her husband at his campaign headquarters. If he nabs the Democratic nomination and takes office, she told the Burlington Free Press she wants to "build the bridges to the people we don't see eye to eye with."
"I never thought he would go to Congress, I never thought he would be in the Senate, I never thought he would run for president," she told CNN. "But he is the best person for the job."