Jeb Bush's Wife: Very Low-Key, Lavish Taste

Columba Bush loves charity work, needlepoint, and expensive jewelry: reports
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 23, 2015 1:07 PM CST
Jeb Bush's Wife: Very Low-Key, Lavish Taste
In this Sept. 5, 2007, file photo, Columba Bush, wife of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, speaks in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

In 1989, the wife of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told the Miami Herald, "I'm not a political person. At home, we're a common, ordinary couple," per the New York Times. By most accounts, Columba Bush is deeply private, painting and doing needlepoint, eating plain fare by herself at local restaurants, and decidedly avoiding the spotlight, according to profiles. Born in Mexico, she's an intriguing prospective first lady—the first Hispanic in the role at a time when the GOP could use a boost with that population and only the second born outside the US—and what the Times calls "the furthest thing from a classic political spouse" who offers "a startling contrast" from the likes of potential 2016 spouses like Bill Clinton. One habit sets her apart from the 99%, reports the Washington Post: her penchant for costly jewelry, a practice that's facing increased scrutiny as her husband appears closer to a presidential campaign.

The first real public brush with her love of bling was in 1999, when she got busted by customs while returning home from a European trip: Although officials recovered $19,000 in receipts for clothes and jewelry, Bush claimed she had only spent $500, notes the Times. Jeb Bush said she was just trying to hide the spree from him; at a later charity event, Columba said, "The embarrassment I felt made me ashamed to face my family and friends," the Post notes. But she often frequented jewelry retailer Mayors, which extended at least five loans to her between 1995 and 2009—including one that nabbed her an $11,500 Rolex watch and $5,900 earrings—according to docs cited by the Post. And while the Bushes can afford such purchases, the biggest potential pitfall, per the Post: "Having enormous wealth does not allay the criticism ... particularly for candidates who seem tone-deaf to how far removed they are from the struggles of ordinary Americans." (More Jeb Bush stories.)

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