DES MOINES, Iowa – Teresa Heinz Kerry (search), who inherited a vast family fortune and heads a billion-dollar foundation, said Tuesday she would give up the money to have her first husband back.
"It was a very sad day when that happened," Heinz Kerry said, speaking of Sen. John Heinz (search), heir to the Heinz food fortune, who was killed in a 1991 plane crash. "I'd rather have my husband alive than that money."
Heinz Kerry, a philanthropist now married to Sen. John Kerry (search) of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential candidate, said she wants people to judge her by her life's work and not the size of her bank account. She and Kerry wed in 1995, the second marriage for both.
Her comments came during her first visit to the state since a win in Iowa's caucuses ignited her husband's presidential campaign last January. She spoke in the crowded, sweltering basement of a Des Moines health care clinic where she pitched his health care proposals and fielded questions about her wealth.
Addressing the suggestion that her fortune, estimated at $500 million, makes her out of touch with the voters who will decide whether to elect her husband, she said: "It's so ludicrous that it makes you laugh."
"You measure people by what they do with their lives," said Heinz Kerry, who also heads the $1.2 billion Heinz Foundation (search) endowment, which donates money to charitable causes.
Kristin Scuderi, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Republican Party, questioned how well Heinz Kerry could connect with ordinary Iowans. "I kind of question how down to earth she is," Scuderi said.
Heinz Kerry heard from medical patients who could not afford health insurance and called for changes to the system to focus on preventive health care and provide incentives to companies that offer health insurance to employees.
Separately, Kerry told an interviewer he has "no intention" of releasing his divorce records, calling it "ancient history."
"I have no intention of doing that at all. There's no reason whatsoever. It's history, ancient history," Kerry said in an interview with Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo during a campaign stop in Phoenix. "My ex-wife and I are terrific friends, very proud of our children. We have stayed close as an extended family in a sense through those years."
Kerry said his ex-wife, Julia Thorne, sees no reason to release the records, nor do their two children.
"It's none of anybody's business. Period," he said.