Sen. John Kerry gets a hug from his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry. (AP)
Teresa paves the way with love and moneyBy Andrew Miga and David R. GuarinoWednesday, July 21, 2004
On a damp May night on Nantucket nine years ago, John F. Kerry [related, bio] and Teresa Heinz exchanged wedding vows in a small civil ceremony at Heinz's oceanfront home.
The lanky senator's new bride was one of the world's leading philanthropists, beneficiary to a ketchup fortune estimated at beyond $500 million.
The senator's net worth on his wedding day was about $150,000, according to a former aide.
It was a lopsided union - at least financially.
But old friends and political pals say the marriage gave Kerry more than just financial stability. It gave him personal stability, mellowing the hard-charging Bay State senator and lending an emotional ballast to the free-wheeling style Kerry had picked up since he returned to bachelorhood 13 years before.
Kerry's days of philandering with starlets were over.
But also banished were the years of tight finances, hitting up real estate barons for cut-rate apartments and sweating rent checks to maintain residences in Boston and Washington.
Teresa Heinz - she didn't take the senator's name until it was on a presidential primary ballot - was earthy, outspoken and passionate about environmentalism and public health.
She wore an easy sophistication, a North African by birth who was devoted to using her wealth as a means to make the world a better place.
She immediately countered Kerry's cool, aloof persona.
``When you live with someone, you adapt,'' Heinz Kerry told The New York Times this year. ``With my late husband, we were both kids, young, so you grow up together.
``With John, there were two adults. I had my baggage, my wounds, my hurts, he had his. The only difference is I came from having been married a long time, 25 years successfully married, and John had been 12 years alone. He had to learn how to share some things which he probably never thought he had to share.''
The wealth Kerry married into was mind-boggling - even for someone born into privilege as a distant Forbes family relation.
Today, Kerry and his wife own five opulent homes - in Idaho, Beacon Hill, Georgetown, Nantucket and Fox Chapel, Pa. - worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $33 million.
Teresa Heinz Kerry jets across the country in her own private jet and has a bevy of staffers to run a $1.2 billion foundation with a global reach.
Kerry has found himself on the defensive when asked on the campaign trail how, given the vast wealth he and his wife control, he can relate to the struggles of average Americans.
The senator responds by noting it is not where people come from that counts, it's what's in their hearts and the values they care about that really matter.
Kerry's campaign also has stressed how, despite his elite background, public service has been the core of Kerry's life - from volunteering for combat duty in Vietnam to serving as Middlesex prosecutor and then at the State House and on Capitol Hill.
Kerry's wedding to one of the world's richest women seemed to energize him as his 1996 re-election contest with then-Bay State Gov. William F. Weld neared and the race began to draw national attention.
The senator's commanding performance in seven televised debates tipped the balance against Weld, a formidable foe, cementing Kerry's image as a tough comeback campaigner.
``That was a world-class race,'' said veteran Democratic political consultant Michael Shea, who prepped Kerry for those debates. ``Republicans crawled all over him, but he summoned something in himself to win it. It put him on a track to the White House.''
Kerry also had tapped $1.7 million in personal wealth for campaign loans and loan security that enabled him to go toe-to-toe with Weld on the TV airwaves with hard-hitting commercials.
After the Weld race, Kerry soon set his eyes on the presidency.
He nearly developed labor pains mulling a 2000 White House bid for months, debating endlessly with aides and allies before finally pulling the plug.
Months later, during a tortuous midsummer wait, he narrowly missed the cut to serve as Al Gore's running mate - a blessing in disguise as it turned out, leaving him unencumbered to make his own White House bid.
As Kerry launched his 2004 bid, his wife warned that if a rival made personal attacks against him, she would tap her vast personal wealth to respond.
Under federal campaign law, she can fund her own independent TV ads, so-called ``issues ads,'' as long as they are not part of the Kerry campaign.
``Would I take it lying down?'' she said of potential personal attacks against Kerry during a Herald interview last year. ``My hunch is I would not.''
During the bruising 2004 presidential primary race, Kerry again turned to his personal wealth, using the Louisburg Square townhome he co-owns with his wife to loan his presidential campaign $6 million in seed money.
The money helped Kerry turn the corner in the primaries.
Depending on how the fall race goes, the $6 million loan could be perhaps the shrewdest financial move Kerry has ever made.