[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/08/art.bennett.jpg caption ="Utah Sen. Bob Bennett announced Friday his endorsement for Tim Bridgewater in Utah's upcoming GOP primary."]Washington (CNN) - Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah is backing one of the two challengers who ended his bid for a fourth term in the Senate.
On Friday, Bennett confirmed that he's endorsing Tim Bridgewater in Utah's upcoming GOP primary. Bridgewater and Mike Lee finished first and second early last month at a state Republican party convention, advancing to the June 22 primary. Bennett finished third in the voting by delegates, which eliminated him from advancing to the primary and ended his chances of re-election. Bennett became the first sitting senator to go down to defeat in a primary season marked by a strong anti-incumbent sentiment.
"I've known Tim Bridgewater for more than a decade, and I am impressed by the fact that he, like me, brings a businessman approach to political issues," said Bennett, in a statement released Friday by the Bridgewater campaign.
Bennett upset many conservatives with his vote in 2007 in favor of President George W. Bush's plan for a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, and his 2008 vote in favor of the federal bailout of large banks and financial institutions. The fiscally conservative Club for Growth actively worked to defeat Bennett, as did some national and local Tea Party organizations.
In the lead up to the state party convention, Bridgewater and Lee touted themselves as more reliable conservatives than Bennett. But in his campaign release, Bridgewater said he was deeply grateful to Bennett for his endorsement and his 18 years of service to Utah.
"While some of our policies may differ I have always held Senator Bennett in great respect and I am grateful of his support at this crucial time," added Bridgewater.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn