HOLLYWOOD — The third time won’t be a charm for Valerie Harper, who has decided against challenging Melissa Gilbert for SAG president.
“A lot of people have asked me to run, but I simply want to stay on the board,” said Harper, who ran and lost against Gilbert in late 2001 and again in a rerun in early 2002 after the first election was invalidated due to rule violations. Harper won a two-year term to the SAG national board last fall and is serving on its election committee.
As expected, Gilbert was tapped last week as a candidate for president by SAG’s nominating committee.
Harper’s name had recently surfaced as a challenger due to her active campaigning against the proposed SAG-AFTRA merger, which SAG members spurned last week as it fell 2% short of the required 60%. Gilbert was an avid backer of the deal.
Other possible presidential candidates who campaigned against the deal include SAG treasurer Kent McCord, secretary Elliott Gould and board member Frances Fisher, but none have yet indicated if they will move forward. Three-term board member Eugene Boggs, who has run three times for president, has indicated he will not seek the presidency again.
With Gilbert’s incumbency and 58% of SAG voters backing the merger, the former “Little House on the Prairie” star would seem to have the upper hand in retaining the presidency. But Harper contended that much of the support for the merger stemmed from extensive campaigning by SAG staff, which is explicitly barred from any campaign activity in the upcoming election.
Petitions to run for president, secretary-treasurer and the board are due July 24, with ballots mailed Aug. 26 and results announced Sept. 23. The nominating committee also named board member and Gilbert ally James Cromwell as a candidate for secretary-treasurer last week.
In a related development, SAG CEO Bob Pisano and AFTRA national exec director Greg Hessinger have told their staffs there are no immediate plans to close any of the 30-plus SAG and AFTRA offices outside Los Angeles and New York. Union execs had admitted last month that such an option was going to be considered as a cost-cutting measure if the merger vote failed (Daily Variety, June 19).
“It’s the status quo for right now,” said SAG deputy national exec director Pamm Fair. “We plan to collaborate and see what can be done.”