A group of Hercules residents has launched a local Democratic club, just as the fall election campaign kicks into high gear.

The Hercules Democratic Club was chartered by the Democratic Party of Contra Costa County on Aug. 24, said club president and co-founder Manuel de Vera; he is married to Hercules Councilwoman Myrna de Vera.

The club's purpose, Manuel de Vera said, is to further Democratic Party ideals and priorities such as education, equality, housing issues and health care.

The club's 21 founding members also include Myrna de Vera and another sitting council member, John Delgado, according to a list provided to this newspaper by Manuel de Vera. Also among the founding members are three candidates -- Sherry McCoy, Hector Rubio and Phil Simmons -- running for the three other current council members' seats on Nov. 6.

One of the council incumbents seeking re-election is William Wilkins, who said he has been a registered Democrat for over 40 years. The new club did not contact him until after it was already chartered, he said.

"They did not reach out to a broad segment of Democrats," Wilkins said Saturday. "They reached out to 21 people that they knew supported their candidates.

"There was nothing open and transparent about this process."

The other council incumbents seeking re-election are Gerard Boulanger, who said he is an independent; and Mayor Dan Romero, who said he is a Republican.

Manuel de Vera said Friday that the club reached out to Wilkins.

"Wilkins can join if he wants." Manuel de Vera said in an email Monday. "The club is open to anyone who is a registered Democrat."

Wilkins said Manuel de Vera notified him by email Aug. 26 that the Hercules Democratic Club had recently been chartered and was inviting registered Democrats running for the council to be vetted by the club.

"I learned a long time ago not to play cards with a man who stacks the deck," Wilkins said Saturday.

A fourth challenger, Bill Kelly, said Friday he switched his party registration within the last month from "decline to state" to Democrat. On Monday, Manuel de Vera said the club's vetting committee will meet with Kelly Wednesday. The committee also is vetting biographical information supplied by other Democratic candidates for City Council in view of possible endorsements, he said.

The Hercules Democratic Club's other founding members, he said, are Nathan Rapp, aide to State Senator Loni Hancock; Sarah Creeley, the club's vice president; Selina Williams, club treasurer; Jo Ellen Marcotte, club secretary; and Howard Campbell, Brian Miller, Jojo Soriano, Susan Keeffe, Antonio Secapure, Ken Morrison, Homer Ball, David Fields, Anita Roger-Fields, Toni Leance, Charles Davidson, and Janice Leighton-Armah.

Manuel de Vera said the fledgling Hercules club is supposed to meet the first Wednesday of each month at Round Table Pizza in the Creekside shopping center. This month's meeting has been moved back a week, to Sept. 12, because the normal meeting date would be the eve of the club's first large-scale public event, a forum on education at Hercules Middle School at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Other local Democratic clubs in Contra Costa County include the Antioch, Diablo Valley, El Cerrito, Lamorinda and San Ramon Valley Democratic clubs; Democrats of Rossmoor; and East County Democrats For Action.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner