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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Tim Bridgewater, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, talks to voters at Draper Park on June 5 during a campaign stop.

SALT LAKE CITY — Somewhere tucked in the pages of an old journal from his college days is a card listing everything Tim Bridgewater expected to accomplish in his life.

"I wanted to travel the world, write a book, run a successful business, have a ranch, pay cash for a Mercedes-Benz," the GOP U.S. Senate candidate recalls. "… run for office, run a marathon."

There's no book, yet, and instead of a ranch, Bridgewater, his wife, Laura, and their four teenagers live in Provo. His car is a Dodge Ram truck, although he often borrows his wife's Lexus SUV hybrid for campaign stops.

But the 49-year-old has traveled the world, first as a Mormon missionary and later for the federal government and his own business interests. He's run four marathons and is making his third try to win public office.

Bridgewater never doubted he'd be checking off the key goals on his list despite having been raised by a single mother through much of his childhood in a West Jordan double-wide trailer.

"It was a game plan," Bridgewater explains between phone calls while being driven to a recent appearance.

He shrugs off questions about where he developed the confidence to go after his dreams.

"I'm not afraid of failure," Bridgewater says, his always raspy voice sounding even more emotional than usual. "I always felt like I had the world by its horns. … You control your own destiny. You control your own ride."

He offers a story about his first experience as an entrepreneur, during the summer before his senior year of high school. After working various jobs, including as a mortar carrier for bricklayers, he came up with an idea for making more money.

Bridgewater loaded up his Cougar XR7 with the acids and other materials needed to strip excess mortar off newly completed brick structures and sold his services to the same bricklayers, this time at a higher price.

"It taught me there's value to brainpower," he says.

Bridgewater's 11th-grade honors English teacher at Bingham High School, Nedra Sproul, remembers him as an articulate jock who could still be surprised by getting an "A" on an assignment.

"In an essay, he taught me more about football in an easier way than probably anybody has before or since," Sproul said. "He said, 'It's just football.' I said it wasn't easy."

Football was a big part of Bridgewater's life then. A star player, he hoped to be recruited by Arizona State University until he was sidelined by an injury in practice. He ended up at Snow College on a football scholarship and graduated from BYU with a degree in finance.

Sproul, who has stayed close to Bridgewater over the years, never expected him to get into politics.

"He wasn't Mr. Debater, Mr. Go-Off-To-Law-School, Mr. Run-For-Office in high school," she said.

But Bridgewater was a risk-taker, Sproul said, not afraid to head to Washington, D.C., after college without having a job lined up. His interest in the nation's capital was sparked by a chance stop there on his way home from his LDS Church mission in Venezuela.

"It changed the course of his life," she said.

Steve Richards made the move to Washington, D.C., with Bridgewater, a friend from BYU, and introduced him to his uncle, Dick Richards, a former Republican National Committee chairman.

"A lot of people don't have the discipline, the curiosity, the drive that Tim has," said Steve Richards, who built his own career in Washington, D.C. "He made it happen."

Bridgewater went to work for the federal Export-Import Bank, collecting bad loans in Central and South America, at the end of the Reagan administration, before being hired by Dick Richards' lobbying firm.

Through Dick Richards, Bridgewater was introduced to everyone from Thailand's leaders to President George H.W. Bush and his son, Neil. Bridgewater and Neil Bush went into business together, forming a consulting company in the mid-1990s.

Dick Richards, who has since returned home to Ogden, said Bridgewater was drawn to politics.

"When you're in Washington, that's the hub of the world, and it gets you excited," Dick Richards said. "Being there, and my connections, were probably big factors."

Bridgewater plunged into GOP politics, raising big money for President George W. Bush's campaigns, as well for former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., later volunteering as Huntsman's chief education adviser.

In the 2008 presidential race, Bridgewater and Huntsman were among the few Utah Republicans backing Arizona Sen. John McCain over Mitt Romney. Bridgewater served as McCain's Western states regional coordinator.

Even before heading to Washington, though, Bridgewater had begun building his business and family life. Fresh out of school, he talked his BYU roommate, Garn McMullin, into investing in an unusual business venture.

"He thought he could sell quite a few waterbeds in Tonga," McMullin said. "So we bought a bunch of them, put them on a container, and the Tongan people loved them."

Unfortunately for the novice investors, the contact they'd hired to handle the transactions in Tonga "took our money and ran," McMullin said, leaving them out thousands of dollars.

"Tim felt so bad because it was his idea," McMullin said, and several years later, Bridgewater sent him a check for the amount he'd lost in the deal. "I remember at the time I thought, 'I could do business with him.' "

The pair did, forming a venture capital firm about the same time Bridgewater went into business with Neil Bush. Bridgewater has juggled a number of diverse business interests over the years, here and abroad, ranging from gypsum wallboard plants to a residential treatment facility for troubled youths.

McMullin said businessmen like Bridgewater are not "willing to just sit around and let things happen. … It's more of a 'can-do' attitude. Frankly, I think that's a tremendous asset in politics today."

Laura Bridgewater, a molecular biologist with a doctorate from George Washington University, said her husband's profession is not without risk.

"That's the kind of environment he thrives in," she said, although it's meant the family has gone through some lean times. "I'm fine with it. It's been great. Even in the early years, I knew we would always have food, always have shelter."

His work and her studies took them to Washington and Houston before they came home to Utah in 1999. The couple has four children, Chelsea, 19, Nate, 18, and twins Lily and Brandon, 15.

Now a BYU professor and researcher, Laura Bridgewater said neither she nor her husband fully understands what each does for a living.

"It's very different," she said. "Maybe that's why we're a good pair."

The couple met when she was just 19 and he was 26.

"He had to ask me to marry him three times," Laura Bridgewater said, noting the pair were engaged for about three hours shortly after they met until she decided they were moving too fast.

"He was very persistent," she said.

Tim Bridgewater is also leaving nothing to chance in his latest bid for elected office after losing the Republican nomination to Utah's 2nd District House seat twice before, in 2002 and 2004.

On a recent day on the campaign trail, he plots to secure a key endorsement over the phone from the backseat of his wife's SUV. With a hands-free device in his ear, he's scrolling through messages on his phone with one hand and scribbling notes in a Franklin planner with the other.

At the same time, Bridgewater keeps an eye on traffic, interrupting phone calls to direct the campaign worker behind the wheel to speed up before a light turns red or take a particular route he believes will be faster.

And when he's late for an appearance despite his efforts, Bridgewater doesn't hesitate to sprint out of the SUV and across traffic.

"This is running for office," he tells a reporter struggling to keep up, not even breaking a sweat.

For more information on Tim Bridgewater, including his answers to a Deseret News political questionnaire, click here: www.deseretnews.com/election/candidate/501/Tim-Bridgewater.html

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