He's no Johnny Cash, but San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer was off to Memphis last month to reveal the strategy of his victory to a Republican Party establishment seeking votes from an increasingly fragmented and discontented electorate.
The Cash ballad "Goin' to Memphis" is famous: “Like a bitter weed, I'm a bad seed/ But when that levee's through and I am too/ Let the honky tonk roll on/ Come mornin' I'll be gone/ I'm goin' to Memphis, yeah Memphis.”
On the other hand, Faulconer's trip to the spring meeting of the Republican National Committee and his speech to delegates was a largely under-the-radar affair.
The mayor's online news-release list doesn’t note the 3600-mile round trip.
On May 8, U-T San Diego, owned by real estate mega-millionaire and GOP kingpin Douglas Manchester, ran an Associated Press account of the event that omitted the mayor's appearance.
Headlined "GOP split breaking down, tea party power wanes," the story featured a photo of House Speaker John Boehner and then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was upset the next month by a Tea Party candidate.
Based on a report on Facebook by Toni Anne Dashiell, a national committeewoman from Texas, Faulconer's appearance was all GOP establishment politics, all the time.
"Tonight we’re all enjoying a welcome reception with San Diego Mayor Faulconer, who will talk about the help the CAGOP and RNC gave to ground game and data and tech efforts, and Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant as we get started on a very successful and productive Spring Meeting!"
An extremely well-funded Republican organization here is widely credited by San Diego political insiders as having been a major key to Faulconer's victory in this year's low-turnout election.
But the mayor and his backers, including Manchester's U-T San Diego, have been especially careful to avoid discussion of the GOP machine's role.
Deft use of the GOP Lincoln Club, which dispatched hit pieces against both ex-assemblyman and Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher and Democratic San Diego city councilman David Alvarez was accompanied by state and local GOP expenditures, made under the state's so-called member communication exemptions to the city's campaign disclosure laws.
Though his paper never reported it, Manchester poured at least $356,000 into the Lincoln Club and state and local Republican committees for Faulconer's cause.
In a February 7 U-T report that failed to mention Manchester's multiple contributions to the Lincoln Club, the club's president and chief executive T.J. Zane said, "The Lincoln Club believes in the accuracy of our mail pieces as much as we believe out-of-town special interest money is trying to buy this election for David Alvarez."
In addition to his news and opinion operation, the voluble La Jollan has designs on developing two major properties in the city: the so-called Navy Broadway commercial and retail complex downtown, and U-T headquarters in Mission Valley, which he wants to turn into condominiums and related commercial developments.
Shortly after his election, Faulconer named Doug Austin, Manchester's architect on the Mission Valley project, to a seat on the city’s planning commission.
In a glowing May 2012 story about the proposal, the U-T reported: "Doug Austin, whose architectural firm AVRP Studios is designing the project, said the hallmark will be a lighthouse structure at the top of the new office tower. It will incorporate a Times Square–type news ticker and a lantern that glows at night.
“I’ve always seen the paper as a beacon of the community, so it’s symbolic of that,” he said. “It’s out there to be the eyes and ears of the community — it’s a light. That’s the big inspiration piece.”
Faulconer's trip to Memphis came to public light when he was touted last week by a blog post on the website RealClearPolitics.com.
Without noting Manchester's key role in financing Faulconer's cause and running high-profile interference for him on the pages of the U-T, the upbeat piece, headlined "San Diego's Mayor, Forging a Vital Brand for the GOP?" paraphrased Faulconer as saying, "Cut out divisive positions on social issues, focus on competent governance, and Republicans can win in big cities (and maybe other contests too)."
Faulconer political aide Jason Roe, making no mention of the U-T's crucial hand in shaping Faulconer's image, offered a tougher take: “Democrats need hate, for lack of a better word, to get the base to turn out,” asserted Roe. “Kevin is not a hateful guy. Even if you’re a Democrat, you don’t hate the guy.”
We have a call in to Faulconer media aide Matt Awbrey and have sent a public records act request to the city for documentation of the mayor's trek.