Brian Phillip Bilbray (born January 28, 1951) is a U.S. Republican politician, who is a member of the United States House of Representatives, first serving from 1995 to 2001, representing . After that, he was a registered lobbyist. On June 6, 2006, Bilbray won a special election as representative for 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.
As mayor, Bilbray attempted to build a yacht marina in the Tijuana Estuary and to build a 1.5 mile breakwater off of the beach of Imperial Beach. Both projects were stopped by the opposition of local environmentalists and surfers. 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. Bilbray often took on a bureaucracy that he felt was sometimes too slow. For example, frustrated when sewage from Mexico caused closure of his city's beaches and government agencies did too little to solve the problem, Bilbray summoned the news media, hopped aboard an earthmover, and began building a dam.
From 1985 to 1995, Bilbray was a member of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. He was a principal architect of the calamitous trash-to-energy recycling plant in San Marcos, a debacle that, for the county, was the equal of the city of San Diego's pension disaster.
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 prior to 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 votegetters 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 cancelled 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 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. Interestingly enough, Bilbray was quickly 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.
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.
In the 2006 midterm election, Bilbray defeated Busby by a margin of 54.2%-43.5%. Bilbray ran as an opponent of illegal immigration.
Bilbray was also involved with now-imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff; Bilbray benefited from congressional trips arranged by Abramoff for lobbying purposes, including the Federated States of Micronesia, a former territory of the United States.
During his second run for Congress in the 50th district, Bilbray took a strong stand against illegal immigration and won over many of the district's more conservative voters. After Congress reconvened in 2007, Bilbray joined the conservative Republican Study Committee.
Bilbray was given a 94% rating by the American Conservative Union in 2006, indicating a conservative voting record.
Bilbray was given a 93% Bush support score by CQ Politics in 2006, indicating that he voted in agreement with President Bush 93% of the time.