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Tim Bridgewater made his first foray into business the summer after his junior year of high school.

Tossing buckets and hoses and acid in the back of his 1968 Cougar XR7, he would contract with homebuilders to scrub the mortar off the brick of newly constructed houses.

Bridgewater said he made more money than a teen could imagine. "That was the beginning of my entrepreneurial career."

It is the perspective of someone who has spent 22 years in business, focusing on practical solutions and understanding the free market, that Bridgewater said separates him from the other competitors trying to knock off Sen. Bob Bennett.

"You have somebody with real solutions," Bridgewater said. "The problems this country faces right now are of epic proportions in terms of the debt, in terms of the out-of-control spending, in terms of the role of government, and unless we get somebody back there who's going to come up with real solutions and actually change things, you're just going to end up with a placeholder back in Washington, D.C."

Bridgewater's parents divorced and his mother remarried when he was 11. He grew up in a double-wide trailer in West Jordan and was a jock at Bingham High School, and attended Snow College on a football scholarship.

He served an LDS Church mission in Venezuela and returned to earn a business finance degree at Brigham Young University. He worked for about a year at First Interstate Bank, then did a stint at the tail end of the Reagan Administration, working for the Export-Import Bank collecting bad loans in Central and South America.

Working in Washington, Bridgewater met Dick Richards, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and went to work for the Ogden native.

"We were doing government consulting, I guess I'd call it lobbying business," Richards said. Their clients included aerospace companies and the Kingdom of Thailand. "Tim is a bright guy. He's pretty innovative. He's aggressive. He's ambitious and he works hard."

Richards also introduced Bridgewater to the politically powerful, including President George H.W. Bush and his son Neil, who partnered with Bridgewater to launch Interlink Capital Strategies in 1994.

The company was created to finance business projects, largely in Asia, including an electronics company, the largest mall in China, and a carpet company. In 1998, it shifted focus to domestic business ventures and invested in dozens of companies, mainly in the technology sector. The recession has hit many of the investments hard.

Bridgewater is also the founder and chief financial officer of the Silverado Boys Ranch for troubled teens and has worked as a consultant for Raser Technologies, an alternative energy company that has sought more than $50 million in federal stimulus funds. Bridgewater said he had nothing to do with those decisions and condemns federal bailouts.

Garn McMullin went to high school with Bridgewater, roomed with him in college and has done business with him and said Bridgewater would be a great senator.

"With his business background, he's had to make a payroll. He's had to struggle to get companies up and going," said McMullin, who is a state Republican delegate. "I think we have a number of attorneys back in Washington, D.C. They're trained to fight, where a businessman will come to a problem and try to figure out a solution."

In addition to his business ventures, Bridgewater has been active in politics for years. He supported the Bush family's political endeavors, becoming a "Pioneer" by raising more than $100,000 for George W. Bush's presidential bids in both 2000 and 2004 and he raised money for the senior Bush's presidential library.

"I always had a passion for government, for people who are changing the world one person at a time," he said.

Bridgewater was chairman of the Utah County Republican Party and ran twice -- in 2002 and 2004 -- for the Republican nomination in Utah's 2nd Congressional District, losing both times to John Swallow in fiery, bare-knuckled campaigns.

He raised money for Jon Huntsman Jr.'s campaigns in 2004 and 2008, and served as the then-governor's volunteer education chief, trying to negotiate wiggle room in the federal No Child Left Behind mandates. In '08 he was also western regional campaign director for John McCain's presidential bid.

About 18 months ago, at the request of then-Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, Bridgewater spent several months meeting with delegates, running for Utah Republican Party Chairman, but said he heard over and over that he should instead run against Bennett. After discussing it with his family, he took the plunge.

"Senator Bennett is not a bad man," Bridgewater said. "But we need a whole new generation of leaders to tackle the tough issues."

Who is Tim Bridgewater?

Occupation » Businessman and venture capitalist

Spouse » Laura Bridgewater, a molecular biologist at BYU

Children » Four kids: Chelsea, 19; Nathan, 17; Brandon and Lily, 15.

Background » Born November 1960.

Graduated from Bingham High School, 1979

Received football scholarship to Snow College

Served an LDS mission in Venezuela

Graduated with a bachelor's degree in finance from BYU, 1986

Worked for U.S. Export-Import Bank late in Reagan Administration

Created Interlink Capital Strategies with Neil Bush, brother of future President George W. Bush, in 1994

Utah County Republican Party Chairman, 2001-2002

Ran for U.S. Congress, but lost GOP nomination in 2002 and 2004

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s education deputy, 2005-2006

Western regional campaign director for McCain-Palin committee, 2008

Hobbies » Enjoys hunting, fishing, boating and has coached little league football and basketball