Bexar County judge candidates spar over significance of ‘Dr. No,’ DeBerry’s critical nickname for Sakai

Democrat Peter Sakai said it offended him, his relatives and others. Republican Trish DeBerry said it was used to describe Sakai’s refusal to relocate the county jail.

By David Martin Davies & Brian Kirkpatrick, Texas Public RadioOctober 28, 2022 11:02 am,

From Texas Public Radio:

The candidates for Bexar County Judge sparred over the term “Dr. No” on TPR’s “The Source” on Monday, the first day of early voting for the 2022 midterm elections. It was the latest confrontation since the campaign for the county’s top job took an ugly turn two weeks ago.

The controversy began at the Deputy Sheriff’s Association candidate forum on Oct. 10. Trish DeBerry, the Republican candidate, used the name to criticize Democrat Peter Sakai as they debated issues over the county jail.

“And we will have better conditions at the jail,” she said, “and my opponent, ‘Dr. No’ – he said nothing about these issues.”

There were audible gasps from the audience in reaction to the nickname.

“Dr. No” is the name of a 1962 James Bond movie whose main protagonist is a villain of Asian descent. The character was half Chinese and half German and fully committed to taking over the world.

Genaline Escalante, president of the Asian American Alliance of San Antonio, said it was blatantly racist. “We were quite taken aback,” he said, “Very, very disappointed. We feel that … the remarks were quite racist from our perspective.”

Sakai is of Japanese descent. On Monday, he said he, his relatives, and others were offended by the term. Sakai said it reminded him of the teasing he endured as a minority among minorities growing up in South Texas.

“This brought back those memories and it did for me,” he said. “I find it so insensitive that Commissioner DeBerry just won’t acknowledge that all we had to do was make reference to each other using our name or professional title. I, you — you don’t have to call me ‘judge.’ I said, ‘Call me Peter.’ But can we not get to name-calling? That is why people are so upset.”

TPR asked DeBerry on Monday about the reference to a 60 year old spy thriller flick being a racist slur.

“First and foremost,” she explained, “the James Bond movie regarding ‘Dr. No’ was aired and was a movie before I was even born. So I had no recollection of that. Maybe not a James Bond fan, but also I will tell you that the ‘Dr. No’ phrase has been used in the political vernacular for the better part of 25 years.”

Deberry said she used the name to point out Sakai’s firm opposition to moving the Bexar County jail and to building a downtown baseball stadium. Sakai said relocating the jail would be a $1 billion “county budget buster.”

“Typically, it’s used to describe someone who says ‘no’ to everything,” DeBerry said. She encouraged voters to Google the term for themselves.

She said the nickname was not racist, even though the Asian American Alliance for San Antonio said it was an unequivocally deplorable and a racist statement.

“Peter never on that stage talked about the fact, ‘Don’t call me Dr. No.’ What he asked was, ‘Call me Judge.’ So the fact that he’s incensed by it today — this is politically manufactured on the first day of early voting … to make a point that I think is somewhat offensive to me.”

Escalante from the Asian American Alliance of San Antonio said because of the rise in anti-Asian violence in the U.S., there should be no place for slurs in politics and that even after objections to the “Dr. No” name were raised, DeBerry continued to use it.

“If Judge Sakai had said ‘No’ to some of the questions,” he said, “why would she say, ‘Dr. No?’ She would have like, maybe had said something like, ‘Mr. No’ or ‘Judge No.’ ”

Voters began to express their opinions on DeBerry and Sakai on Monday — the first day of early voting. It continues until Nov. 4. Election Day is Nov. 8.

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