Guild president takes second 2-year term

SAG president Alan Rosenberg has won a narrow victory over Seymour Cassel, topping the veteran indie actor by 710 votes for a second two-year term as head of the 120,000-member thesp union.

Rosenberg garnered 11,631 votes, or 47% of the 24,834 ballots cast while Cassel took 10,921 votes, or 44%. Background actor Barry Simmonds received 1,353 votes and disabled activist Charlie De La Pena took 681.

Results, announced Thursday evening, may somewhat calm Hollywood’s growing fears that actors will strike once the SAG-AFTRA film-TV contract runs out next June 30. Rosenberg was perceived as significantly more moderate than Cassel and had said that he’s not pushing for a strike — though he’s been quick to add that he’s also not taking it off the table.

Rosenberg’s campaign pledged to focus on achieving an improved TV-film contract — specifically with gains in jurisdiction and new-media platforms. He stressed the need for a united front at the bargaining table at a time when revenues from digital technologies are soaring.

But Cassel’s strong showing also reflects a significant level of member dissatisfaction with Rosenberg’s performance as president. Cassel’s campaign message promised a hardline bargaining stance, based on criticism that Rosenberg hadn’t been tough enough in cable or animation negotiations or in SAG’s jurisdictional dispute with AFTRA for signing shows shot on digital to lower-paying contracts.

“I am honored by this vote of confidence from SAG members across the country in electing me for a second term as their president,” Rosenberg said in a statement. “Screen Actors Guild’s elected leaders and professional staff will continue dedicating resources and working round-the-clock toward our number one priority: successful negotiations in 2008.”

Both Cassel and Rosenberg are part of the Hollywood-based Membership First faction, which espouses a generally more confrontational role at negotiations. The group endorsed Rosenberg for the presidency.

Rosenberg, who’s worked extensively in TV dramas, won his first term two years ago with 40% support to 35% for Morgan Fairchild and 25% for Robert Conrad. He campaigned in that contest on a platform asserting that SAG leaders — led by then-president Melissa Gilbert — hadn’t fought hard enough at the 2005 contract negotiations for gains in such areas as DVD residuals.

Weeks after that election, Rosenberg spearheaded the ouster of Greg Hessinger as exec director and the subsequent selection of Doug Allen as Hessinger’s replacement. During the past two years, he’s made major efforts reaching out to political opponents — a move that’s prompted accusations from former allies that he’s become too moderate — and strengthened ties with the WGA West.

The campaign also featured high-profile endorsements. Rosenberg’s backers included Tim Allen, Dana Delany, Morgan Freeman, Peter Gallagher, Meryl Streep and Peter Weller; Cassel’s list featured Steve Buscemi, James Caan, Nicolas Cage, Ethan Hawke, Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson.

Rosenberg’s the husband of “CSI” star Marg Helgenberger. In winning a second term, Rosenberg’s duplicated the feat of five of the last six SAG presidents — Melissa Gilbert, Richard Masur, Barry Gordon, Patty Duke and Ed Asner — who all won at least two terms.

Turnout was fairly typical at 24%, compared with 27% in 2005.

Rosenberg running mate Connie Stevens was unopposed in winning a second term as secretary-treasurer.

The results aren’t expected to lead to a significant shift in the SAG board room, where Membership First has a narrow majority. Membership First candidates won all 10 national board seats repping Hollywood, with Cassel garnering the most votes, followed by Valerie Harper, Frances Fisher, Esai Morales, Kent McCord, Nancy Sinatra, Bonnie Bartlett, Jenny Worman, Sumi Haru, Angela Watson and William Mapother.

Cassel, Harper, Fisher, Morales, McCord and Bartlett are incumbents.

Membership First candidates won 20 of the 22 alternate board seats, led by Karen Austin and followed by Peggy Miley, Scott Wilson, France Nuyen, Brett Cullen, Ron Harper, Jane Austin, F.J. O’Neil, Yale Summers, Anthony DeSantis, Paul Napier, Michael Bell, Steven Barr, David Jolliffe, Russell McConnell, Warren Berlinger, Terrence Beasor, Jeff Austin, Justin Shenkarow and Joe d’Angerio. Independents Peaches Johnson and Eugene Boggs won the other alternate seats.

SAG’s boardroom moderates continued to control the seats representing New York and the regional branches. Sam Freed won the race as New York president to succeed Paul Christie, who’s stepping down; Maureen Donnelly, Nancy Giles, Richard Masur, Sue-Anne Morrow and Mike Hodge won national board seats repping New York.

Masur’s the only newcomer of the New York winners. He served as SAG president from 1995 to 1999, then lost to William Daniels for a third term.

Mark Blum led the winners of alternate New York board seats, followed by Manny Alfaro, Ralph Byers, Joe Narciso, Dave Bachman, Ron McClary, Doug Lory, Marc Baron and Kevin Scullin.

Races for the regional branches were unopposed. Winners included Steven Fried (Arizona), Todd Hissong (Chicago), Nancy Duerr (Florida), Debra Nelson (Georgia), Roy Costley (New Mexico), Tom Chantlier (San Francisco), Abby Dylan (Seattle) and Molly Ballard (Utah). Fried, Duerr, Nelson, Costley and Dylan are incumbents.

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