WASHINGTON -- Jeb Bush has one of the most famous surnames in politics. With a father and a brother who have already lived in the White House, Bush enters the presidential race with a well-known biography. But there will still be a lot to learn about him in the coming months.
He’s A Texan
Most people associate Texas with his brother George W. Bush, who lived in the state after finishing college at Yale and who served as the state’s governor. But unlike his older brother, who was born in Connecticut, Jeb -- actually named John Ellis Bush -- was born in Texas and spent most of his formative years in the state.
The Bush family had moved to Midland in West Texas, where George H.W. Bush worked in the oil industry. Jeb Bush grew up in Houston, attending grade school in the state’s largest city. For high school, he went back east to attend Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, like his brother. He was known there for smoking marijuana and roughhousing, the Boston Globe reported. Jeb Bush would meet his future wife, Columba Garnica Gallo, as a high school student while on a class trip to Mexico in 1970.
After high school, he returned to his home state to attend the University of Texas at Austin. He stayed after graduation for a few years to work in Houston.
He’s Not A Lawyer
While at UT-Austin, Bush didn’t take the normal academic route of aspiring politicians. He was a Latin American studies major, and by the time he finished school, he was fluent in Spanish.
Bush now jokes that he hired many lawyers while serving as governor of Florida, telling a crowd in April that despite not being one, he was often surrounded by them.
He also stayed away from the family business of oil. Instead, he went to work for a banking company in Houston after graduation. Newly married with two children, he went to South America to find business opportunities.
Ultimately, he ended up in Florida, moving to Miami in 1980 as his father became vice president. There he got into the commercial real estate business and real estate development. He stayed in Florida to start his political career, quickly moving up the Republican ranks.
He’s Not Hispanic, But His Wife Is
Bush raised some eyebrows this year when it came out that he had marked “Hispanic” on his voter registration card, which was obtained by the New York Times. Bush couldn’t offer an explanation for the mistake and resubmitted the form to remedy the error.
But Columba Bush was born in Mexico, where the two met while Jeb Bush was teaching English as part of a high school exchange program. The two stayed in touch and eventually Columba moved to Texas and the pair married. They have three children, the oldest of whom, George P. Bush, is in politics himself as commissioner of the Texas General Land Office.
Columba Bush has played a minor role in her husband’s political career, opting to stay low-profile through his previous campaigns. She’s also had tension with her in-laws. In her book “The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush,” Ann Gerhart describes how Jeb's mother Barbara Bush wasn’t a fan of Columba and described her as “an unpredictable ditz,” while praising daughter-in-law Laura, wife of George W. Bush, as “first lady material.”
In 1999, Columba was stopped by customs agents for failing to declare clothes and jewelry she had bought in Paris. She said she didn't want Jeb to know that she'd spent almost $20,000 on the trip.
“The embarrassment I felt made me ashamed to face my family and friends,” Columba Bush said. “It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life.”
First Defeat, Then Historic Success
Jeb Bush ran for Florida governor for the first time in 1994. He lost, failing to unseat Democratic incumbent Gov. Lawton Chiles. On the same night, his brother George won the governor's race in Texas, unseating Gov. Ann Richards -- a result that surprised the Bush parents.
Jeb angered black voters during the 1994 campaign. Asked what he would do to help African-Americans in Florida, Bush replied, “Probably nothing.” That was the short version of a more nuanced answer. “It's time to strive for a society where there's equality of opportunity, not equality of results,” he said at the time. “So I'm going to answer your question by saying 'probably nothing.'”
But Bush would go on to win in his next try. In 1998, he defeated Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay with 55 percent of the vote. And in 2002, he would be re-elected -- making him the first two-term Republican governor in Florida history. By then, his brother had been elected president.
Governor In The Spotlight
One of the most controversial times in Bush’s gubernatorial term was a family affair. In 2000, George W. Bush's run for president came down to the wire -- a wire that ran through Florida.
Hanging chads and pregnant ballots were scrutinized over and over. Jeb Bush -- given the family tie -- recused himself from being involved in the counting process. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t tied to the incident, and he was blamed by many Democrats when his brother ultimately was declared winner after a Supreme Court ruling.
It wouldn’t be the only controversy to draw national attention to Jeb Bush’s Florida. In the beginning of Jeb Bush’s term, a battle began to brew over Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was in a coma and whose husband sought to end life support. Her parents fought the attempt. The issue became political, with anti-abortion forces making the case a litmus test. Jeb Bush played an active role in supporting Schiavo's parents against the wishes of her husband and the decisions of the courts. The husband finally prevailed.
Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, wrote earlier this year that the former Florida governor “put me through hell.”
Jeb Bush has said he has no regrets about his actions. "I don’t think I would have changed anything," he told Time magazine.
He Could Have Been NFL Commissioner
In 2006, as Bush’s second term as governor of Florida was ending, he was approached about being the next National Football League commissioner. The job had recently opened up, and people with ties to the NFL thought he would be good for the job.
Bush declined. “I'm doing my job until I'm finished and then I'm going to consider other things,” he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Instead, Bush went to work in the healthcare and banking industries. In 2007, he joined the board of directors for Tenet Healthcare and worked for the company as a consultant. He did consulting work for Lehman Brothers in its private equity division. And he worked for British bank Barclays -- a role that has been scrutinized in the context of how Bush made money after leaving office.