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Biography Brian Bilbray

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Brian Bilbray Brian Bilbray
Brian Bilbray
Former U.S. Representative for California's 50th congressional district, serving from 2006 to 2012


Brian Bilbray Biography

ENG: 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. 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 has been representing the 50th district ever since. Due to district realignment he ran as the incumbent in the 52nd district in the 2012 general election, but lost to Democrat Scott Peters.


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.


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. 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.


Elections - 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.

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, 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. In the initial all-party special election on April 11, 2006, Bilbray was the Republican candidate with the most votes, receiving 15.26% of the total vote to Roach's 14.50%. 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. 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.

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. An election contest lawsuit sought a hand recount.

However, Bilbray was sworn in before the vote count was official. 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.


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 54.2%-43.5%. 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.


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 and $1 million in donations, 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 50.72% to 49.28%, Bilbray conceded defeat.



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. 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.





January 15, 2013

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