Late show for lead SAG role

Cassel assured H'wood board seat

With vote-counting for SAG president going late into the night, one of the top candidates knew he at least was guaranteed a continuing board seat.

In local board races, Seymour Cassel topped all Hollywood division candidates with 8,069 votes, assuring him a new three-year term. Cassel was also the chief rival to SAG president Alan Rosenberg in the incumbent's reelection bid for the guild's top elected office.

Among others landing Hollywood seats were Valerie Harper (7,592), Frances Fisher (6,990), Esai Morales (6,675), Kent McCord (6,410), Nancy Sinatra (6,246) and Bonnie Bartlett (5,841).

Sam Freed won the race for New York division president with 3,258 votes, gaining a two-year-term with 69% of 5,060 ballots. Maureen Donnelly was the top vote-getter among New York board candidates with 3,447 votes, followed by Nancy Giles (3,420) and Richard Masur (3,397).

SAG said it would post complete lists of all races on its Web site as the various races were tabulated. Incumbent secretary-treasurer Connie Stevens, who endorsed Rosenberg for president and ran unopposed, was assured reelection.

The battle for SAG president was largely a tussle between Rosenberg and Cassel, both associated with the guild's MembershipFirst faction in Hollywood. The candidates tangled less over policy or priorities than their personal styles and backgrounds.

In August, Rosenberg said Cassel should not have claimed that he was a "New York actor" in campaign literature sent to prospective SAG voters in the Big Apple.

"Seymour consistently and regularly has derided actors who live anywhere but in L.A.," Rosenberg told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. "So it was a little bit disingenuous of him."

Then there was the blogosphere battle over which of the two had the more volatile personality, with backers and critics of each rehashing stories of various political fracases over the years.

Both Rosenberg and Cassel have worked in film, TV and stage productions and boast substantial East Coast professional credits. Rosenberg is a native of Passaic, N.J., Cassel was born in Detroit, and both live in Los Angeles.

SAG's outgoing New York president, Paul Christie, who also is national 2nd vp of the guild, endorsed Rosenberg's re-election. Both of the top candidates also distributed materials touting endorsements from various well-known actors.

Both candidates said they support a recent move by the SAG national board to institute bloc voting on negotiating issues in the next round of film and TV talks. The concept is opposed by SAG's negotiating partner AFTRA as well as some New York-based SAG directors.

If employed during the 2008 negotiations, bloc voting would mean SAG members on the negotiating committee first voting among themselves and then registering unanimous votes in joint voting with AFTRA members of the committee. AFTRA claims that the practice would run counter to a long-standing agreement between the parties and throw their negotiating relationship into jeopardy.

Rosenberg was set to catch a Thursday night flight to Washington, where he is scheduled to attend a meeting of the AFL-CIO executive council today. One item on the agenda is a request by AFTRA to affiliate directly with AFL-CIO, a move frowned upon by SAG officials.

Elsewhere among the candidates for SAG president, background actor Barry Simmonds pressed the priorities of film and TV extras in an e-mail-driven campaign. And Charley M. De La Pena primarily was identified with his efforts on behalf of disabled actors.

Two years ago, Rosenberg defeated Robert Conrad and Morgan Fairchild to win his first term as president. He ran as part of a MembershipFirst slate, which also endorsed Rosenberg's re-election as president as well as Cassel's retention to the national board.