Top SAG race still a mystery

Only one faction has revealed its contenders

SAG's filing deadline for fall elections came and went Thursday, and it remains unclear who will face each other for the presidency. Only Unite for Strength, formed last year in opposition to the MembershipFirst faction led by SAG president Alan Rosenberg, has gone public with its complete slate.

Ken Howard will lead the charge as Unite for Strength's candidate for president, and Amy Aquino will run for secretary-treasurer. Unite for Strength also will field 33 candidates from the guild's Hollywood Division for seats on the national board of directors.

Months ago, Rosenberg stated provisionally that he will seek a third term, but first national vp Anne-Marie Johnson or another candidate could heed the call to represent MembershipFirst in the elections.

On the eve of MembershipFirst announcing its slate Sunday during a scheduled fundraiser, the Unite for Strength candidates took direct aim at and issue with their political opponents of the past year.

"This election offers members a stark choice between two leadership approaches: Attempt to go it alone or unite for strength," Howard said. "From 2005-08, SAG experienced the divisive, go-it-alone approach of MembershipFirst. They went to war with AFTRA, sought to marginalize New York and the branches and repeatedly alienated other entertainment unions.

"With increasing consolidation of media companies and new technologies transforming our business, we will pay dearly if we're not smart and strategic about our future," he added. "I'm running for president as a Unite for Strength candidate because I believe the only way actors will get our fair share of the pie is if we're united both internally and with our labor partners. If SAG members elect me and my fellow Unite for Strength candidates, we'll make a clean break with the divisive leadership approach of MembershipFirst and focus on building maximum unity with AFTRA and other entertainment guilds to give us real power when we sit down to negotiate contracts."

Thursday was the last day individuals and groups could file petitions stating intent to run for office in the fall elections. The guild does not make the names official until Aug. 10, when it will announce qualifying candidates for open officer and board seats.

In addition to the president and secretary-treasurer positions, a third of the 69 national board seats are open.

Ballots are scheduled to go out to members Aug. 25, with results due Sept. 24. The newly seated board will meet for the first time Oct. 5.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. delivered a report that none-too-subtly implied that the outcome of SAG's fall elections will be critical to the health of film and TV production during the next year-and-a-half.

"The balance of power between the moderates and the hardliners will be important as late in 2010 a TV contract will have to be negotiated," the report said.

Veteran LAEDC economist Jack Kyser indicated that self-described moderates maintaining control of SAG's national board would be a better development for the Los Angeles film community because the Hollywood recession has been amplified by a nine-month contract impasse while MembershipFirst hardliners were in power.

Candidates on Unite for Strength's national board slate include incumbent Hollywood Division board members L. Scott Caldwell, Gabrielle Carteris, Assaf Cohen, Tim DeKay, Dule Hill, Clyde Kusatsu, Doug Savant, William Smitrovich, Richard Speight, Stacey Travis, Ned Vaughn and Marcia Wallace.

Joining them are actors Michelle Allsopp, Christian Clemenson, Ellen Crawford, Patrick Fabian, Richard Fancy, Jason George, Clark Gregg, Hill Harper, Gregory Itzin, David Lawrence, Dawnn Lewis, John Carroll Lynch, D.W. Moffett, Jenny O'Hara, Michael O'Keefe, Mandy Steckelberg, Amir Talai and Nancy Travis; background and motion-capture artist Woody Schultz; voice actor Bob Bergen; and stuntman/coordinator Conrad Palmisano.

Howard, elected last year to the national board, is Emmy-nominated for the HBO telefilm "Grey Gardens." He has been a theater, TV and film actor for 40 years.

Aquino, who has acted in the business for two decades, has been a guild vp and board member.

The union's outgoing board will hold a national plenary Saturday by video conference.

AFTRA will hold officer elections Aug. 8 during its convention, with results available that night.