Bridges' interest in politics has deepened over the years. Last March, he announced he would run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell. After Campbell dropped out of the race, Bridges was persuaded to step aside so Democrats could unite behind the candidacy of Ken Salazar, who went on to win the election. Now Bridges is publicly floating the idea of a run for governor in 2006.
Bridges often comes across as all business, and it's open to question if his plainspoken and sometimes gruff manner will go over well with voters. But he insists his interest is in public policy, especially education.
His passion stems from growing up in a struggling working class family in Albany, Georgia. "I grew up in poor circumstances; my father was a water well driller," Bridges says. "I worked for him until I was out of high school, then I went to Georgia Tech. That was my ticket out." As a graduate of a public university, Bridges is passionate about the importance of public education. "When you look at the promise of America, a big piece of it is people believing they can better themselves through education," he says. "The ability to get a college education with reasonable tuition is part of government. There are reasons as a society we support public functions. We seem to be losing that. There's this attitude we have to have lower taxes and less government."
Since winning a seat on the State Board of Education with a 90-vote margin in 2000, Jared Polis also has become highly visible, helping to launch new charter schools for immigrants and homeless teenagers and playing a prominent role in Colorado's non-profit and political worlds. Polis is only 30 but seems older, with a small paunch and the confident air of a successful businessman. He's also developed the slick joviality of a ward heeler, greeting schoolchildren with a pat on the head and talking easily with parents. Polis has already hinted that he'll consider running for Rep. Mark Udall's seat in Congress if Udall follows through on his plan to run for the U.S. Senate in 2008.
Polis is the son of Stephen Schutz and Susan Polis Schutz, founders of Blue Mountain Arts, the Boulder-based greeting card company. As a student at Princeton, Jared Polis (he uses his mother's maiden name because he says he likes the sound of it) developed a keen interest in the Internet, just as the speculative bubble in all things Internet was starting to explode. He sold an Internet service company he started in his dorm room for $22 million in 1998. The next year he and his parents sold Bluemountain.com, the Internet side of their greeting card business, for an astonishing $900 million. Polis had the good luck to be building Internet companies at just the right moment, and Fortune magazine estimated his net worth at $174 million in 2002. The magazine even put him on a list of the most affluent U.S. bachelors, joining the likes of Sean "P.Diddy" Combs and then-bachelors Shaquille O'Neal and Tiger Woods.