Meet Jeb Bush’s Mexican wife, Columba

Jeb Bush released on Tuesday the first chapter of an e-book detailing his time as Florida governor. The first chapter revealed he earned the nickname…

In this photo taken on Feb. 12, 2004, in Tallahassee, Fla., Jeb Bush and his wife Columba reflect on their marriage with five other couples at a dinner. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Jeb Bush released on Tuesday the first chapter of an e-book detailing his time as Florida governor. The first chapter revealed he earned the nickname “The eGovernor” because he “spent 30 hours a week answering emails, either from my laptop or Blackberry, often while on the road.”

But it also revealed something about his Mexico-born wife, Columba, who would become the nation’s first Hispanic first lady if Bush runs for president and wins.

“No one was more supportive or understanding than my wife Columba — and she never complained about the ever-present Blackberry,” Bush wrote.

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He also wrote that Columba was understanding whenever he had to work on Sundays, which he tried to reserve to spend time with his wife and their three children: George P., Noelle and John.

Close friends and family members say Columba has been supportive of her husband throughout his political career but that she has preferred to stay away from the public eye.

“Jeb is a natural-born politician, but I’m not a political person,” Columba said in a rare interview with the Chicago Tribune more than 25 years ago. “At home we’re a common, ordinary couple.”

Months leading up to Bush’s announcement in December that he was considering running for president in 2016, several media outlets reported his publicity-shy wife might be reluctant about his decision to run. But on Monday, Bush squashed those rumors when he said in a conference call with allies that his wife is, once again, supporting his political aspirations.

“Thanks to the support that I have from my beloved wife and family, my life is totally focused on this,” he said, referring to his potential White House bid.

Jeb Bush's wife Columba held the family bible as he was sworn in for a second term as Florida governor in 2003. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Jeb Bush’s wife, Columba, held the family bible as he was sworn in for a second term as Florida governor in 2003. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

The couple first met in the early 1970s when Jeb Bush went on a study-abroad trip to Mexico as a high school student. They got married in Texas in 1974, and it wasn’t long before Columba immersed Jeb Bush in the Hispanic culture. They now speak Spanish at home.

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A few years after they got married, the couple moved to Florida where Jeb Bush began pursuing his political career. Columba knew of her husband’s great desire to run for public office, so she didn’t stand in his way when he ran for governor and won in 1998. He served as governor from 1999 to 2007.

As a first lady of Florida, Columba mostly stayed away from the limelight. She didn’t like public speaking, especially speaking in English, which is her second language. And she found the media attention on her family to be overwhelming.

However, she tried to make the best of it. Using the platform she had as Florida’s first lady, she advocated for issues that were important to her, such as domestic violence, the arts and education. Another issues she advocated for was substance abuse, which hit close to home when her daughter Noelle faced drug-abuse problems in the early 2000s.

Nowadays, Columba remains engaged in her own quiet way on issues she cares about. As for politics, she continues to maintain a low profile and rarely appears with Jeb Bush at political events.

But that could soon change as some political pundits say she could help Jeb Bush if he decides to run for president, particularly in helping bring out the Latino vote and changing the narrative on immigration. This, however, would require Columba to come out of her comfort zone and into the public eye.

Alfonso Aguilar, a former George W. Bush administration official who has worked with Jeb Bush on immigration issues, told The Hill he believes Columba would be ready for that challenge. He also pointed to former First Lady Laura Bush, who went from being portrayed as shy to a confident political figure.

“[Columba] is going to be fine,” Aguilar told The Hill. “This is a role that people have to grow into.”

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