Statement: “As the first mayoral candidate ever to visit Baja California during the election season, San Diego Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio ignited international goodwill … ” said an Aug. 30 press release from DeMaio’s campaign.

Determination: Huckster Propaganda

Analysis: Carl DeMaio took a two-day trip to Mexico less than two weeks ago as part of a larger effort to broaden his mayoral campaign platform.

DeMaio met with business leaders and government officials from Baja California and went with two soon-to-be-seated San Diego city councilmen and other local business leaders.

When he returned, DeMaio’s campaign sent out a press release that called his visit unprecedented:

As the first mayoral candidate ever to visit Baja California during the election season, San Diego Mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio ignited international goodwill while strengthening DeMaio’s ties to government and business leaders in Mexicali and Tijuana during a two-day jobs tour. (emphasis added)

We wanted to check DeMaio’s assertion that he was the first mayoral candidate ever to visit Baja, a claim that, if correct, would burnish his commitment to border issues.

We didn’t have to go far back in history to find that the statement isn’t true. DeMaio’s opponent, Democratic Congressman Bob Filner, represents most of California’s border with Mexico. He has gone to Baja four times, three on official business, since the primary began last June, according to information provided by his campaign.

The last trip came in early August when Filner went to Tijuana as part of a bi-national environmental initiative. Filner’s trip occurred the day before a debate on border issues at UC San Diego. At the beginning of that debate, DeMaio announced his coming Baja sojourn. Filner then mocked him.

“I’m so proud of you, Carl,” Filner said. “You’re going to go to Mexico in a few days. You know I was just there yesterday with (Tijuana) Mayor (Carlos) Bustamante.”

Filner also wrote about his trip on his congressional Facebook page. On Facebook, Filner posted a picture of himself at the event with Bustamante.

DeMaio’s campaign said it’s well aware that Filner has gone to Mexico. DeMaio spokesman K.B. Forbes argued DeMaio was the first mayoral candidate to go to Baja in his capacity as a candidate and not in his duties as an elected official.

The DeMaio campaign, Forbes said, paid for the trip and developed the itinerary, not DeMaio’s City Council office. In its press release, the campaign attached quotations from two Mexican business leaders who also referred to DeMaio’s trip as the first by a candidate to Baja.

“The reality is that he’s the first mayoral candidate,” Forbes said.

That distinction wasn’t in the campaign’s press release.

San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. CEO Mark Cafferty was with DeMaio for one day in Mexico. Cafferty said DeMaio didn’t make a big deal about distinguishing his role as a councilman and a mayoral candidate.

“In my personal opinion, he was speaking as a seated politician and as a candidate depending on the question,” Cafferty said.

We also looked farther back in history and found that neither DeMaio nor Filner are the first candidates to head to Baja while running for mayor.

Back in 1983, three of the four major mayoral candidates participated in a forum in Tijuana a few days before the primary election.

“In San Diego, it is not our future alone,” eventual winner Roger Hedgecock told a crowd of 300, according to an article in the San Diego Union. “It is a shared future with those inhabitants of the Republic of Mexico and Tijuana.”

To sum up, Bob Filner is running for mayor. He went to Baja California four times since last June. That means he visited Baja during election season.

In 1983, three mayoral candidates went to Tijuana for a candidate forum. That means they, too, visited Baja California during election season.

Carl DeMaio is running for mayor. That makes him a mayoral candidate as well. He also went to Baja California since last June. That means he also visited Baja during election season. But Filner and at least three others went to Baja first.

Our definition for Huckster Propaganda is a statement that’s not only inaccurate but it’s reasonable to expect the person making it knew it and said it anyway to gain an advantage. It fits here.

DeMaio was not the first mayoral candidate to go to Baja California since the primary began. Three went in the 1980s. Regardless of whether DeMaio’s campaign knew about that long-ago forum, Filner had made it clear that he’d been there recently. But DeMaio’s campaign made the claim regardless as part of its effort to boost his standing on border issues.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

You can also e-mail new Fact Check suggestions to factcheck@voiceofsandiego.org. What claim should we explore next?

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for Voice of San Diego. He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects.

Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

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