They say that behind every great man is a great woman, and in Jeb Bush's case, that woman is Columba. As the former Florida governor officially filed his presidential candidate paperwork Monday, his would-be first lady was cast into the spotlight. And while the American public has decades of experience with the Bush family, many may not know Jeb Bush's 61-year-old wife.
Jeb Bush met Columba Garnica Gallo on a high school trip to Mexico in 1971, the Washington Post reported. He was 17, she was 16. She moved to the United States, and they got married three years later -- before she learned English. "I fell madly in love with her — literally love at first sight," Bush said earlier this year. "Whatever I was doing beforehand, I vaguely remember. But my life got really organized after that.”
They had three children together -- George P., Noelle and John Ellis (Jeb) Jr. -- and she kept a low profile. But over the years, Columba Bush occasionally made comments to the media indicating she was unhappy with how her husband's work dominated their life together. When he ran for Florida governor in 1994 and lost, she reportedly said she "didn't ask for this." She once even said he ruined her life, GQ reported.
A scandal brought Columba Bush to unwelcome prominence shortly after Jeb Bush won the governorship on his second try in 1998. Returning from a trip to Paris, she lied to U.S. Customs officials about how much new clothing and jewelry she had brought back. Columba falsely told authorities she had $500 worth of goods when she was really transporting more than $19,000 of merchandise, the St. Petersburg Times reported. She was fined $4,100.
Since then, she's warmed slightly to the spotlight, the Atlantic reported. In Florida, Columba Bush raised awareness about domestic violence and established a high school scholarship program called Arts for Life! She also became a vocal supporter of antidrug initiatives when her daughter had an addiction problem. She still serves on the board at Columbia University's Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.
With all of this in mind, pundits say she could be Jeb Bush's secret weapon heading into 2016. She'd be the first Hispanic first lady and has already begun softening her public image, joining Twitter and Instagram last month. "Just because she’s reticent to engage publicly doesn’t mean she’s not ready for it,” political adviser Brett Doster recently told the Hill. “She’s strong as iron."