Amy Aquino, Ned Vaughn will also seek re-election

Ken Howard will seek a second two-year term as president of the Screen Actors Guild after spending the past two years pushing for a merger beteween SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

Howard’s running mate, secretrary-treasurer Amy Aquino, will also seek re-election as will board member Ned Vaughn, the public voice of the Unite for Strength faction.

Howard had indicated in interviews that he was leaning toward seeking re-election and confirmed that Tuesday in a statement to Variety.

“I’ll be running again, along with Ned Vaughn and Amy Aquino, because we’re committed to achieving the goal that performers so clearly need — for SAG and AFTRA to become one union,” he said. “Working with other dedicated leaders, we’ve made crucial progress toward that goal and we’re looking forward to bringing members a merger plan to vote on early next year.”

Howard won the 2009 election with 47% of the vote over Anne-Marie Johnson with 33% and Seymour Cassel with 18% while Aquino narrowly beat incumbent Connie Stevens. Unite for Strength candidates, who have stressed merger and pragmatism, dominated in last year’s election over the self-styled progressives of Membership First.

No other candidates have been announced with a Friday deadline for submission of letters of interest to the national nominating committee for the president and secretary-treasurer. The election will take place in September.

The first formal merger meeting between reps of the AFTRA and SAG has been set for June 17-19 in Silver Spring, Md. It’s the first of four confabs that will take place as part of the official process of delivering a merger plan by next January.

A member vote could take place by this time next year by the 120,000 members of SAG and the 70,000 members of AFTRA — with 45,000 members belonging to both.

Approval requires a 60% super-majority from those voting in both unions. SAG members rebuffed similar efforts in 1998 and 2003 amid concerns that a merger would cause SAG to lose its unique character as an actors union and that a combo could negatively impact the health and pension plans.

Howard, a 40-year showbiz vet, is probably best known for portraying the coach in TV series “The White Shadow.” Just before winning the SAG presidency, he won an Emmy for “Grey Gardens.” He’s also in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar Hoover biopic, portraying Harlan F. Stone.

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