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Brian Bilbray

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Title: Brian Bilbray  
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Subject: California's 50th congressional district, California's 50th congressional district special election, 2006, California's 49th congressional district, Susan Davis (politician), United States House of Representatives elections, 2012
Collection: 1951 Births, American Anti–illegal Immigration Activists, California Republicans, Living People, Mayors of Places in California, Members of the United States House of Representatives from California, People from Carlsbad, California, People from Chula Vista, California, People from Imperial Beach, California, Republican Party Members of the United States House of Representatives
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Brian Bilbray

Brian Bilbray
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 50th district
In office
June 6, 2006 – January 3, 2013
Preceded by Duke Cunningham
Succeeded by Duncan D. Hunter
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 49th district
In office
January 3, 1995 – January 3, 2001
Preceded by Lynn Schenk
Succeeded by Susan Davis
Personal details
Born (1951-01-28) January 28, 1951
Coronado, California
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Karen Bilbray
Children 5
Residence Imperial Beach, California (1995–2006)
Carlsbad, California (2006–2010)
San Diego, California (2010–present)
Alma mater Southwestern College
Occupation Tax consultant
Religion Roman Catholic

Brian Phillip Bilbray (born January 28, 1951) was the U.S. Representative for California's 50th congressional district, serving from 2006 to 2012, and previously for the 49th district from 1995 to 2001. He is a member of the Republican Party. Bilbray was Chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus and a member of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee.[1] His subcommittee assignments on the Energy and Commerce Committee were as follows: Oversight and Investigations, Communication and Technology, and Energy and Power.

On June 6, 2006, Bilbray won a special election as representative for California's 50th congressional district to serve out the remaining seven months of the term of fellow Republican former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who resigned after pleading guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes. Bilbray won re-election in the November 2006 general election and represented the 50th district until decennial redistricting. Due to district realignment from decennial redistricting, he ran as the incumbent in the 52nd district in the 2012 general election, but lost to Democrat Scott Peters.


  • Personal life 1
  • Mayor and supervisor 2
  • Member of Congress, 1995–2001 3
  • Lobbyist activities 4
  • Elections 5
    • 2006 special congressional election 5.1
    • 2006 general election 5.2
    • 2008 general election 5.3
    • 2012 general election 5.4
  • Residency 6
  • Political positions 7
  • Committee assignments 8
  • Electoral history 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Personal life

Bilbray was born in Coronado, California, and grew up in Imperial Beach, California. He graduated from Mar Vista High School and attended Southwestern College, a community college in Chula Vista, California. He worked as a tax consultant before entering politics. A Roman Catholic, he and his wife, Karen (née Walker), have five children, one of whom, Brian Jr., is a current member of the Imperial Beach city council.

Bilbray is a cousin of former Nevada Democratic Representative James Bilbray.

An avid surfer, he has compared surfing to politics.[2][3]

Mayor and supervisor

Bilbray became interested in politics when an extensive program of eminent domain was proposed for Imperial Beach. He ran successfully for the city council as a populist, serving during 1976–1978, and was mayor during 1978–1985.

As mayor, Bilbray attempted to build a yacht marina in the Tijuana Estuary and to build a 1.5 mile breakwater off the beach of Imperial Beach.[4] Both projects were stopped by the opposition of local surfers and environmentalists. The Tijuana River Estuary is now a National Estuarine Research Reserve and California State Park. The breakwater project was halted with the help of the then fledgling Surfrider Foundation. From 1985 to 1995, Bilbray was a member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

Member of Congress, 1995–2001

In 1994, Bilbray won the Republican nomination for the 49th district, now the 53rd district, which included most of San Diego, and defeated freshman Democrat Lynn Schenk in the Republican landslide of that year. The 53rd was one of several marginal districts to go Republican in that cycle. Bilbray was reelected in 1996 and 1998. In 2000, he was defeated by State Assemblywoman Susan Davis.

Lobbyist activities

In 2001, Bilbray registered as a federal lobbyist. His clients included San Diego Gas and Electric Company; the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians; the San Diego Regional Airport Authority; Conquer Cancer and Alzheimer's Now; Los Angeles County; and Federation for American Immigration Reform.


2006 special congressional election

Bilbray ran in the 2006 special election to fill the vacancy in California's 50th congressional district caused by the resignation in December 2005 of fellow Republican Duke Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy and tax evasion, and subsequently went to jail. In March 2005, Bilbray moved to Carlsbad, California, to take care of his mother, who owns a home there.[5]

The race to assume Cunningham's seat was highly contested, especially on the Republican side, with 14 Republicans (compared with only 2 Democrats) officially running for the position. Leading up to the initial all-candidate election that would determine the parties' candidates in a runoff election, Bilbray was in a virtual tie with Republican businessman Eric Roach,[6] slightly ahead of former State Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian. Four days before the election, businessman Alan Uke, one of the major Republican candidates, ran an attack ad accusing Roach of outsourcing thousands of jobs at the expense of American workers.[7] In the initial all-party special election on April 11, 2006, Bilbray was the Republican candidate with the most votes, receiving 15% of the total vote to Roach's 15%. He then faced the top vote getters of all the other parties in a runoff election on June 6, 2006: Democrat Francine Busby, Libertarian Paul King, and William Griffith, an independent.

During the campaign, Arizona Senator John McCain canceled a planned fundraiser for Bilbray at the last minute, after Bilbray called McCain's immigration bill "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.[8] McCain later contributed money to Bilbray's campaign and voiced a radio commercial for the National Republican Congressional Committee in support of Bilbray's race against Busby.[9]

Bilbray won the runoff with 49% of the vote, and was sworn in on June 13, 2006 as a member of the Congress. The Republican Party considered this a bellwether race because this district had "the perfect storm in favor of the Democrats" according to Ken Mehlman, the RNC Chairman at the time of the special election. The Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute raised several concerns about the fairness and accuracy of the vote count.[10] An election contest lawsuit sought a hand recount.

However, Bilbray was sworn in before the vote count was official.[11] The court dismissed the suit on the basis that, once the House of Representatives had sworn in Bilbray, the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the challenge.[12]

2006 general election

Bilbray and Busby each won their party's primary, and faced each other again in the November general election. Bilbray defeated Busby by a margin of 54%–44%. Bilbray ran as an opponent of illegal immigration. With the advantage of incumbency and the Republican edge in registrations in the district, Bilbray was initially a clear favorite to win in November. Both the Cook Political Report and CQPolitics first rated the race as Republican Favored. But Busby gained in October, with a late-October poll by SurveyUSA showed Bilbray ahead by just 3 points, for a number of reasons: the general political climate seen as disadvantageous to the GOP, Busby's outraising Bilbray, and Bilbray's low profile campaign. On October 23, CQPolitics changed their rating to Leans Republican.[13]

2008 general election

Running unopposed in the June primary, Bilbray overcame a strong challenge from Democrat Nick Leibham in the November 2008 general election. With help from the DCCC[14] and $1 million in donations,[15] Leibham ran a string of TV attack ads against Bilbray. Democrats thought they had a chance at winning the district due to the hostile environment plaguing Republicans in general, and shifting demographics locally. Bilbray won, 50% to 46%, with 4% of the vote going to Libertarian candidate Wayne Dunlap.

2012 general election

Due to district realignment after the 2010 census, Bilbray ran as the incumbent in the 52nd congressional district in 2012. An all-parties primary was held on June 5, 2012. A runoff between Bilbray and current Port of San Diego Commissioner Scott Peters, a Democrat, was held on November 6. The initial vote was very close, so that a winner was not declared until ten days after the election as provisional ballots were counted. On November 16, with Peters ahead by 51% to 49%, Bilbray conceded defeat.[16]


Since his loss to Congresswoman Susan Davis in 2001, Bilbray has maintained residences and properties in Imperial Beach, California; Alexandria, Virginia; and Carlsbad, California. In response to requests to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, by the local Democratic Party and neighbors of the congressman, a San Diego County grand jury was convened to investigate claims against Bilbray's declared residency for the special and general elections in 2006.[17] The investigation was dropped in May 2007.

Questions about Bilbray's residency again arose after his reelection on November 6, 2010, when he personally, as well as his children Briana and Patrick, claimed to not live in California and not qualify for in-state tuition in a class-action lawsuit against the University of California. Brian Bilbray appeared as a named plaintiff residing in Virginia.[18]

Political positions

During the 109th Congress Bilbray served on the House Armed Services, Veterans Affairs and Government Reform Committees. During his first term Bilbray co-authored legislation that led to the transfer of the Mount Soledad Veteran's Memorial from the City of San Diego to the federal government. He also authored legislation that would have reformed the federal budget process.

Bilbray positioned himself as moderate on some social issues while conservative on immigration and fiscal matters.[19][20] He is a signer of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.[21]

During his second run for Congress in the 50th district, Bilbray won over many of the district's most conservative voters with his hard line stance on illegal immigration. Since then Bilbray's voting record has been considerably more conservative than it was during his first term. He is a member of both the moderate Republican Main Street Partnership and the conservative Republican Study Committee, two groups with conflicting positions on policy. For example, the RMSP supports embryonic stem cell research and opposes the Federal Marriage Amendment, while the RSC opposes embryonic stem cell research and supports the FMA. He is also a member of Republicans for Choice.

Bilbray voted in agreement with President CQ Politics in 2006.[22]

In October 2011, Bilbray voted for a bill that would prohibit public funding for abortions. It passed 251–172 in the House. Bilbray almost always has voted for free trade agreements in the past years, specifically with Korea, Colombia, and Panama, all of which passed. The following month, he introduced a new bill which would benefit veterans. It provides job training and internships paid for by federal grants.[23]

In 2011, he voted for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 as part of a controversial provision that allows the government and/or the military to indefinitely detain American citizens and others without trial.[24]

Committee assignments

Electoral history

California's 49th congressional district: Results 1994–2000
California's 50th congressional district: Results 2006–2010
Year Winner Votes Pct Runner-up Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct 3rd Party Party Votes Pct
1994 Brian Bilbray 90,283 49% Lynn Schenk (inc.) 85,597 46% Chris Hoogenboom Libertarian 5,288 3% Renate M. Kline Peace and Freedom 4,948 3%
1996 Brian Bilbray (inc.) 108,806 53% Peter Navarro 86,657 42% Ernie Lippe Libertarian 4,218 2% Kevin Hambsch Reform 3,773 2%
1998 Brian Bilbray (inc.) 90,516 49% Christine Kehoe 86,400 47% Ernie Lippe Libertarian 3,327 2% Julia F. Simon Natural Law 2,829 2%
2000 Susan Davis 113,400 50% Brian Bilbray (inc.) 105,515 46% Doris Ball Libertarian 6,526 3% Tahir I. Bhatti Natural Law 3,048 1%
2006 Brian Bilbray 78,341 49% Francine Busby 71,146 45% William Griffith Independent 6,027 4% Paul King Libertarian 2,519 2%
2006 Brian Bilbray (inc.) 118,018 53% Francine Busby 96,612 44% Paul King Libertarian 4,119 2% Miriam Clark Peace and Freedom 3,353 2%
2008 Brian Bilbray (inc.) 157,502 50% Nick Leibham 141,635 45% Wayne Dunlap Libertarian 14,365 5%
2010 Brian Bilbray (inc.) 142,247 57% Francine Busby 97,818 39% Lars Grossmith Libertarian 5,546 2% Miriam E. Clark Peace and Freedom 5,470 2%


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Wanna Catch the Next Wave in Business?". Fast Company. August 31, 1997. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  3. ^ Newman, Andy (December 17, 2000). "The Way We Live Now: 12–17–00: Salient Facts: Surf Rage; Rule of the Waves". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  4. ^ , 2004-10-15Grist Magazine"Terminal With Extreme Prejudice", and "Fights Break Out Over River Damming" by Lori Shein, reprinted in Language Arts High School Curriculum for the Tijuana Estuary (California State Parks)
  5. ^ "Where Does Brian Bilbray Really Live?". 10News. Retrieved September 24, 2015. 
  6. ^ "San Diego Politics Blog :: April 2006". February 22, 1999. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Uke Attacks Roach for Outsourcing (April 2006)". February 22, 1999. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  8. ^ , 2006-05-31Union-Tribune"McCain Pulls out of Bilbray Fundraiser", San Diego
  9. ^ Newsmax. " – Breaking news from around the globe: U.S. news, politics, world, health, finance, video, science, technology, live news stream". Retrieved September 24, 2015. 
  10. ^ Moore, Greg (July 14, 2006). "DNC Voting Rights Institute on CA-50 Special Election".  
  11. ^ Congressional Election Nullified – Nobody Noticed, Scoop (news website), August 25, 2006
  12. ^ LaVelle, Philip J. (August 30, 2006). "Judge throws out suit seeking to void election of Rep. Bilbray".  
  13. ^ Rachel Kapochunas (October 23, 2006). "Busby Rallying in Calif. 50 Months After Special Election Loss". 
  14. ^ "Democrats say they'll make a run at Bilbray – The San Diego Union-Tribune". Retrieved September 24, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Hunter succeeds father; Bilbray leads – The San Diego Union-Tribune". Retrieved September 24, 2015. 
  16. ^ Spagat, Elliot (November 16, 2012). "GOP Rep. Bilbray loses re-election bid in Calif". Associated Press, cited in San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved November 16, 2012. 
  17. ^ William Finn Bennett (October 26, 2006). "Neighbor: Bilbray being investigated by grand jury".  
  18. ^ Martinez v. Regents of the University of California (SUPERIOR COURT OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, COUNTY OF YOLO November 15, 2010). Text
  19. ^ Brian Bilbray on the Issues
  20. ^ " > News > Politics – Bilbray edges out Busby". Retrieved September 24, 2015. 
  21. ^ Current Taxpayer Protection Pledge Signers
  22. ^ "Presidential Support Scores". CQ Politics. Retrieved September 4, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Initiative to protect counties, labor confessions and a city ombudsman". The San Diego Union-Tribune. November 5, 2011. Retrieved September 24, 2015. 
  24. ^ Connor Adams Sheets (December 16, 2011). "NDAA Bill: How Did Your Congress Member Vote?". International Business Times. Retrieved September 24, 2015. 

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Lynn Schenk
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 49th congressional district

Succeeded by
Susan Davis
Preceded by
Duke Cunningham
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 50th congressional district

Succeeded by
Duncan D. Hunter
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