McCord slides into SAG vp job via Membership play

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Kent McCord, a onetime candidate for SAG president, has been elected first national vp of the guild in a power play by its MembershipFirst activist contingent.

McCord won the slot in a Tuesday vote by the board of SAG's Hollywood division. He replaces Anne-Marie Johnson, who failed in a bid to retain the post after falling out of favor with MembershipFirst. Johnson was rejected by the group over a perceived lack of fervor in advancing its agenda, according to well-placed sources.

Some in MembershipFirst believe SAG could have done better in the latest basic cable agreement, even though the July pact offers a 21% increase in live-action residuals. SAG president Alan Rosenberg and Johnson, in pushing for approval of the pact, seem to have stirred negative feelings within the group, which no longer includes Johnson on its Web site listing of MembershipFirst-backed SAG board members.

There also has been a concerted effort by Rosenberg and Johnson to repair severed relations with leaders of the New York branch of SAG, and the geographical rapprochement also alienated some at MembershipFirst, which dominates the Hollywood division.

Although there has been less overt criticism of Rosenberg, some believe the election of McCord to a second-in-command post at the guild could press the president into a more strident leadership position as the months tick down to the October 2008 expiration of its film and TV contract. On the other hand, Rosenberg has yet to say whether he even will stand for re-election in September 2007.

"There is no way you can overstate how impactful this will be for the upcoming negotiations in 2008, or what a repudiation this is of Rosenberg," an industry insider said of the branch vote.

Rosenberg is in the second year of a two-year term as president. Johnson served two one-year terms as first national vp.

Paul Christie, SAG's second national vp and president of the guild's New York division, said he thinks Rosenberg deserved a first vp of his choice -- and that would have been Johnson.

"I'm astounded by what they did," Christie said. "Kent is a good guy; I consider him a friend. But this, to me, is wrong. It was very clear who Alan's choice was. Anne-Marie has been riding shotgun for a year, and she in my opinion has been doing a pretty fair job."

As for speculation the Hollywood branch was irritated by renewed dialogue with New York leadership, he added: "If the major objection is that they worked too hard to repair the relationships around the country, then, man, I'm confused with that one. If that's a problem for some people in L.A., I would suggest they consider getting on a couch somewhere and getting some help with that."

McCord, who got his first acting job on the 1960s sitcom "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" and starred on the TV series "Adam-12" (1968-72), declined a request for an interview but issued a statement about his new position.

"From the time I was first elected to the national board in 1972, I have fought to keep our union open, inclusive and prepared for the future," he said. "Today, more than at any time in the 73-year history of our union, we are witnessing technological changes that will forever alter the way our members' work is distributed and exhibited to audiences throughout the world.

"I am eager to participate with (Rosenberg), the board and all of our members here in Hollywood and throughout the country to ensure that we remain prepared to protect and improve our members' wages and working conditions in this rapidly expanding entertainment industry."

McCord, then SAG treasurer, ran unsuccessfully for SAG president in 2003 against Melissa Gilbert, who was elected to a second term.

Rosenberg, who also limited his reaction to a press statement, said: "While I am personally disheartened that Anne-Marie Johnson was not elected to continue her service as Hollywood's national vice president, she will remain on the national board and as my senior adviser and help continue the unification of Screen Actors Guild."

The SAG president added a thanks for Johnson's help in aiding his efforts to "heal our guild, stop the infighting and to prepare for contract negotiations in 2008."

SAG Hollywood executive director Ilyanne Morden Kichaven said McCord's "formidable service and diverse experience continually improve the lives of working actors."

Christie will stand for re-election to his board office Tuesday at a meeting of the New York division board.

The guild's regional branch division will elect SAG's third national vp at a two-day board meeting Oct. 19-20. Steve Fried currently holds that office.
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