For about 20 minutes, residents spoke on behalf of candidates, and aspiring council members pitched their credentials, to no avail.
Councilman Ed Palmer made a motion to appoint former Councilwoman Lynn Hirtz and was supported by Councilman Shawn O'Connell.
Palmer said in speaking with the public he heard that residents wanted someone with experience. They also wanted a female appointee, he said.
"They all said basically the same thing - we need somebody on the council immediately, that can dive right into the problems we have facing us which are budget issues, economic problems," Palmer said.
Mayor Deborah Robertson and Councilman Joe Baca Jr. voted against a Hirtz appointment.
Baca then nominated Rafael Trujillo, a former congressional aide to his father, Joe Baca, who in November lost to Gloria Negrete-McLeod in the newly drawn 35th Congressional District election.
Trujillo, who is on the Recreation and Parks Commission, came in third behind Palmer and O'Connell in the city's November council election.
Baca said that was one of his reasons for nominating Trujillo.
Robertson also supported Trujillo, but she and Baca were opposed by O'Connell and Palmer.
The vacant seat is a result of former Councilman Ed Scott losing to Robertson when the two squared off in November to fill the mayor's post when Grace Vargas decided not to run for re-election.
Gasps and laughter were heard in the room when the council deadlocked on filling the vacancy.
Robertson then made separate motions in support of Melissa Morrison and Dennis Barton, but neither motion was seconded.
The council hopes to avoid a special election that could cost up to $285,000.
State election law mandates that the council either fill the position by appointment within 60 days of the vacancy or call a special election.
City Attorney Jimmy Gutierrez reminded the council they have until Feb. 9 to make a decision on the appointment.
"If not, then you're going to have to call a special election," he said.