CHAMPAIGN — What could be a tight race for the city council's District 3 seat is taking shape early as two candidates who tied for an appointment this summer will square off next spring.
Voters will decide round two in a race that will pit an up-and-comer against a veteran city councilman.
The election is still months off and others may still enter, but Merry-Ann's Diner owner Tony Pomonis already has said he will campaign for the seat. That would put him up against Vic McIntosh, who has logged more than a decade on the city council and is a recent appointee to the District 3 seat.
The municipal election season officially kicks off at the end of August, when prospective candidates for the spring 2013 election can start circulating nominating petitions. They will each need to collect a given number of signatures before they are eligible to officially file for candidacy in November.
Pomonis, who narrowly missed an appointment to the seat just weeks ago, says he will be in that race.
"I want to serve the people of my district and the people of Champaign," Pomonis said.
He and McIntosh virtually tied for that appointment, when eight city council members voted 4-4 on each of the two candidates as they sought to fill a vacant District 3 seat in June. They simmered over the tie vote for three weeks until July 10, when council member Tom Bruno changed his vote and handed the appointment to McIntosh.
Bruno said, at that point, he was willing to vote for either candidate — he just wanted to get someone in the seat so the district covering the northwest part of the city would not be left underrepresented.
District 3 is the city's biggest geographically, and it includes neighborhoods like Boulder Ridge and Garden Hills as well as part of the North Prospect Avenue commercial district and a developing industrial park east of North Mattis Avenue.
Champaign City Council candidates run independently of party affiliations, but both McIntosh and Pomonis are Republicans. Pomonis thinks that makes them similar candidates with a few key distinguishing characteristics.
"Vic (McIntosh) and I have a lot of similarities," Pomonis said. "However, I believe that I have a unique attribute in the fact that I am a small business owner, and also the fact that I am a new face, so maybe I can bring a fresh, new perspective to the council."
McIntosh, who is about twice Pomonis' age, agrees that the two have vastly different experience levels. He spent more than a decade on the council before he chose not to seek re-election in 2009, and McIntosh thinks that gives him the edge.
He touted his work in the Garden Hills neighborhood and helping to win a second entrance to the Sawgrass subdivision off Staley Road, which solved a headache for residents there.
"I have learned exactly where to go to find the answer to a question," McIntosh said.
And McIntosh warns that voters should not let party affiliations prejudice their vote.
"Are he and I from the same party? Yes," McIntosh said. "But I don't think that classifies us as the same ideology."
McIntosh is one of five city council members whose terms expire in May 2013. The others whose seats will be up for grabs during the April 9 election are Will Kyles of District 1, Michael La Due of District 2, Marci Dodds of District 4 and Paul Faraci of District 5.