"While we were driving to the hospital, she passed out, no oxygen" she said, referring to her daughter, Theresa, suffering from a sudden asthma attack. "She was blue, you know, just blue. What do you do? Try to revive, maybe CPR? Get to the hospital as soon as you can?"
Ruby chose to get to the hospital. Her daughter Theresa, then a junior in college, would go without adequate oxygen for nearly seven minutes, and remain in a coma for three agonizing months.
The story is fraught with drama and emotion, but Ruby tells it stoically.
"When she got to the hospital, she was clinically dead," Ruby said. "A little later, they even began talking about harvesting her organs."
"I said if they thought they were going to do that, I'd have her moved to another hospital where they don't do that."
Then she pauses, and a small smile emerges.
"I was bluffing," she admits. "I knew she couldn't be moved at that time."
The decision to get to the hospital as soon as possible turned out to be the right one.
In the course of conversation with Ruby Baxter de Vera, one experiences many such moments of understatement, where even drama and emotion are undercut by sotto voce and a faint smile. This poker-player stoicism is both Ruby's greatest strength as a Council Candidate and the quality for which she faces the most criticism.
"'Why don't you attack more? Why don't you attack Jose more? Why don't you attack Nick more?' people always ask me. I don't attack people. I speak clearly and honestly. I tell people what they will get out of me."
Indeed, in an hour long interview at her campaign headquarters on Eagle Rock Boulevard, she doesn't ask to go off the record once, speaks freely and even breezily about the Mayor's role in the campaign, and makes dozens of direct, unequivocal, controversial statements, particularly about spiritual beliefs (Ruby is Catholic, and does not compartmentalize her religious beliefs when speaking about political issues).
"Yes, I'm a pro-life Democrat. You can't be a Catholic and be pro-choice," she insists. A few minutes later, she says, "When they took prayer out of the classroom, that was when things went bad." And when asked about the City Council's education and neighborhood committee's recent motion requesting the City Attorney to draw up an Amicus brief on behalf of proponents of including "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, she doesn't protest, and even seems pleased to reflect that Dennis Zine is one of the sponsors.
And when ACLU attorneys challenged the inclusion of the cross in the County of Los Angeles Seal, Ruby asked a prominent local politician if she thought the rosary beads that enclose the City's seal were similarly imperiled.
In between, she expounds openly on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's role in the race. "Oh, Antonio wants Jose to win, no doubt. (Villaraigosa has already endorsed Jose Huizar). But no, I don't think it's to spite Nick. I think it's because Jose was there for him so much."
"The endorsements are all already out. You know why. Nobody wants to cross Antonio."
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Ruby Baxter de Vera---she says the City Clerk insisted that list the "Baxter," although she is best known as Ruby de Vera---has served local Democratic politics and her community for 25 years. A born organizer, she is a founding member of the Interfaith Coalition on the Aging in North East Los Angeles, a founding member of Kiwanis Club of Fil-Am Glendale, and a former Woman of the Year and Democrat of the Year in the 45th and 55 Assembly Districts of the State of California. Most recently, she has worked as a Community Advocate and Senior Field Deputy in Council Districts 13 and 14.
And she faces two candidates who are better organized, better known, and have better endorsements and far more money than she.
So why run?
"This District is not represented," she says. "It's not getting a lot of service from the City. The new people are not in tune with it. It's time for somebody like me, somebody with a different feel for it."
"I have called that 3-1-1 number. By the time you listen to the choice, you can even forget what you\'re calling about. It seems not all the operators are savvy." Ruby feels that public works issues are not only the District\'s leading issues, they are leading issues for all of Los Angeles. "The City has far too many liability claims," she says. "Many derive from street and sidewalk neglect."
"The City is such a hierarchy. If you call the right person, you can get it done, but it's almost impossible to find the right person."
She wears a tennis bracelet with a charm featuring a wheelchair icon and a heart. In her HQ are two convention placards: one says "Kennedy" and the other "We Love Teresa." The sign refers to Teresa Kerry, but it's Theresa de Vera who leaps to mind.
Theresa was recently appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and mother and daughter made a pilgrimage to Terri Schiavo's bedside earlier this year.
"We went to Florida---Theresa was very drawn---and we didn't even know the hospital she was in. So we had to ask around. And I want to tell you," she laughs, "some Florida cops are not nearly as nice as our LAPD." They met Terri's parents, and their story was picked up by some Christian media. Theresa remains devoted to bioethics and end-of-life causes and organizations, and is a graduate student at LMU.
° ° ° ° °
Ruby's analysis of the November 8 election gives her some hope. "There will be a low turnout, likely, although some State issues might bring people out," she says. "Certainly unions will get out the vote, so they'll be influential in a low turnout."
"And there are not just two but lots of Latinos to split the Latino vote quite a few ways," she smiles. "I believe I'm the first Filipina-American woman to run for office in the City of Los Angeles."
Her favorite street in the district?
"I love Eagle Rock Boulevard," she says. Her HQ is across the street from a Filipino American meeting center. "Merton's a good street, too."