ALCOD1: Fremont mayors, past and present, are taking sides

Former Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison and current Fremont Mayor Lily Mei.

The campaign epicenter for the race in the open Alameda County Board of Supervisors seat in District 1 is moving to Fremont.

ALCOD1 logoThe Tri-Valley portion of the district encompasses roughly half of the supervisorial district. A large portion of Fremont makes up the other half.

But the current Fremont mayor’s apparent choice for replacing retiring Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty is raising eyebrows.

Fremont Mayor Lily Mei has told elected officials that she will endorse fellow Councilmember Vinnie Bacon for county supervisor.

The selection is not particularly surprising on its face. Mayors endorsing candidates who serve with them on city council and other boards is common. Mei and Bacon’s politics have been intertwined for several years.

In 2016, Bacon backed Mei’s upset for mayor against the incumbent Harrison and both share similar slow-growth stances toward housing. Both, incidentally, were fined by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for campaign finance violations a year later.

Without a doubt, the endorsement from Mei, who represents the largest city in the district is a big win for Bacon’s campaign.

ALCO Board of Supe D1 collage
ALCO District 1 March primary candidates: Bob Wieckowski, Vinnie Bacon, David Haubert, and Melissa Hernandez.

But Mei’s endorsement is somewhat curious given that she had initially endorsed Haggerty’s re-election for supervisor in early 2019.

This occurred prior to Haggerty announcing his retirement from elected office last summer. Bacon announced his run for county supervisor in February 2019 with the understanding that he would be challenging Haggerty’s re-election.

In addition, among the four candidates in the race, Bacon’s politics and style is perhaps the most unlike Haggerty, a moderate-to-conservative, not to mention bombastic, character in Alameda County politics.

Mei’s endorsement may be explained by political expediency. If Bacon fails to advance from the Mar. 3 primary to a likely top-two runoff in November, he could potentially be a candidate for Fremont mayor this fall. Bacon’s will be termed out of his council seat this year.

Meanwhile, Mei’s first term as mayor as been successful by progressive standards. She has taken a lead in fighting the homeless crisis in Fremont, while becoming a regional voice on the issue. But the her moves on the same issue have also been criticized by some Fremont residents.

In particular, some Asian American residents, a considerable portion of her base of support, who have soured on her leadership during the recent controversy over a homeless navigation center she supported in Fremont.

Last week, Dublin Vice Mayor Melissa Hernandez fortified her support outside of her base in the Tri-Valley after she won the backing of former Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison.

The move follows Haggerty’s decision to split his endorsement between state Sen. Bob Wieckowski and Hernandez. Harrison and Haggerty have been political allies for years.