HERCULES -- Racism in Hercules is at its worst in at least two decades, according to a campaign letter from a councilwoman's husband urging Filipino-American voters to replace three incumbents with a trio of candidates backed by him and his wife.
The Oct. 12 letter from Manuel de Vera, husband of Hercules Councilwoman Myrna de Vera, injects ethnicity into a campaign that previously revolved around differences over future land use at several city-owned parcels and has been spiked with personal animosities. The letter deplores anonymous fliers and pseudonymous postings on the Hercules Patch blog, since deleted, that express "subtle racism and, in some cases, blatantly racist remarks against Filipino Americans."
Without elaborating, it says there is "indication" that some of the offensive commentators were supporters of Dan Romero, one of three council incumbents running for re-election on Nov. 6; the other two are Gerard Boulanger and William Wilkins.
"The racial attacks have been a shock to me," Manuel de Vera writes. "I've lived in Hercules since 1991, and I've never seen such racism in our diverse city."
The de Veras support Sherry McCoy, Hector Rubio and Phil Simmons for council. There is a fourth challenger, Bill Kelly.
Romero says he has nothing to do with any racist comments and that the de Veras are spreading "rumor and gossip." He has responded with automated campaign calls in which he declares respect for the Filipino community and notes that he has three nephews who are Filipino.
"It's a shame that I have to spend time and money to dispel this, when there are bigger problems in the city of Hercules," Romero said Monday.
A council feud between Romero and de Vera grew increasingly bitter after Romero's elevation to mayor in December.
Boulanger and Wilkins, for their part, have publicly deplored ethnic prejudice.
Manuel de Vera's letter, which appears under the letterhead of his political action committee For A Better Hercules, touts McCoy, Rubio and Simmons as "the best candidates (who) have been the ones closest to Filipino Americans."
It notes that Rubio has played tennis with Filipino-Americans for years and that his campaign manager is a Filipino-American; that McCoy's kids attended schools with large Filipino enrollment, that her "interaction with Filipinos has been constant" and that she has been "the closest adviser" to Myrna de Vera; that Simmons' neighbor and campaign manager is a Filipino-American, and that he has been "enjoying his interactions at RSM Foodmart," a Filipino grocery store.
Manuel de Vera's letter also chastises Romero for ignoring Myrna de Vera's request to make a proclamation for Philippine Independence Day in June, noting that Romero did support proclamations honoring the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants. Romero said Monday that the council has not proclaimed Philippine Independence Day since 2007 and does not proclaim other nations' holidays, either.
McCoy and Rubio have not responded to an email from this newspaper seeking comment on the letter. Simmons, in an email, did not address the letter but spoke of his "wonderful experience" in Hercules, "possibly the most diverse community" he has ever seen.
As of the 2010 U.S. census, 6,034, or 25.1 percent of Hercules' 24,060 residents, identified themselves as Filipino-American or Filipino. A former mayor, Ed Manuel, himself Filipino-American, once dubbed Hercules "The Philippine Dream."
De Vera's Oct. 12 letter concludes by urging every registered Filipino-American to vote and saying it is important that Rubio, McCoy and Simmons win.
Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner.