Click photo to enlarge
Fremont resident Vinnie Bacon. (Bea Ahbeck/The Argus File Photo)

FREMONT -- Dirk Lorenz has seen this movie before.

When the Fremont flower shop owner lost his 2004 City Council bid by a whisker, he argued that he should be first in line for an appointment later that year to replace an outgoing council member.

But he didn't make the cut. Anu Natarajan, then a planning commissioner, got the appointment and Lorenz ended up on the Planning Commission.

With Councilman Bob Wieckowski scheduled to vacate his council seat next month to join the state Assembly, Vinnie Bacon finds himself thrust into the role last played by Lorenz.

Bacon finished just 708 votes shy of victory in this month's City Council election, but after running an aggressive campaign against two incumbents, he's a long shot to get appointed by a council on which he has no political allies.

"I'm going to apply, but I've already accepted that I will not get the appointment," he said.

Meanwhile Lorenz hopes to be cast as this year's Natarajan and finally get the appointment.

"As I reflect back, I think they made the right decision (selecting Natarajan)," he said. "It needs to be an open process, and they need to pick the best candidate."

The council is scheduled to begin looking for Wieckowski's replacement on Dec. 7, one day after he is sworn in as an Assembly member, replacing Alberto Torrico.

The four remaining council members will have 30 days to accept applications, interview candidates, and pick someone to serve the remaining two years of Wieckowski's term.

Bacon supporters have wasted no time making the case for their man.

"It would be deeply disrespectful to the citizens of Fremont to appoint anyone but Vinnie Bacon given how he fared in the elections," Lorna Jaynes told the council Tuesday night.

But council members said this month's election results won't be the deciding factor.

"Just because someone (almost wins) doesn't mean they're entitled to an appointment," Mayor Bob Wasserman said. If the council intended to appoint the runner-up, Wasserman added, it needed to make that clear well before the election, so others interested in the appointment would have run.

Bacon finished less than one percent behind incumbent Councilman Bill Harrison and about two percent behind Natarajan. But with two incumbents defending their seats and Wieckowski's seat all but certain to open up, some aspiring politicians may have chosen to sit out the election to wait for a chance at the appointment.

In addition to Lorenz, planning commissioners David Bonaccorsi, Rakesh Sharma, Yogi Chugh and Roman Reed each say they are considering applying.

Human Relations Commissioner Raj Salwan said he plans to apply.

However, former school board member Nina Moore, who has been touted as a potential candidate, said she won't seek the seat.

The council could have chosen to hold a special election to replace Wieckowski, but Wasserman said earlier this year that it would be too costly.

The appointment provides a huge political boost, giving the recipient a chance to later run for council as an incumbent without ever having won an election.

Natarajan twice has won election after being appointed in 2004.

The big difference between 2004 and this year are the candidates who narrowly lost the election. Lorenz is a registered Republican with strong support the Chamber of Commerce, while Bacon is a local Sierra Club official with strong support from environmentalists.

"The people who are hounding us to appoint (Bacon) this time are completely the opposite from the people who were hounding us to appoint Lorenz last time," Wasserman said. "It's all a matter of whose ox is being gored."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-353-7002. For more Fremont news, read his blog: www.ibabuzz.com/tricity beat.