Esai Morales Running for SAG-AFTRA President (EXCLUSIVE)

Esai Morales is running for the presidency of SAG-AFTRA as the head of the Membership First slate.

Morales, a national board member best known for his role in “NYPD Blue,” is running on a ticket with Jane Austin, who is seeking re-election to the secretary-treasurer slot as part of the slate. Morales ran for the presidency unsuccessfully with Austin four years ago against Ken Howard.

“I’ve thought about this long and hard,” Morales told Variety. “I think I can bring people together and that I’m a fair-minded person.”

Ballots for the national, Los Angeles, and New York elections will go out July 25 with an Aug. 24 deadline for receipt of ballots. Those contests will determine the president, secretary-treasurer, and most board members; an exec VP and seven other VPs will be elected at the SAG-AFTRA convention in October.

The deadline for submitting nomination petitions is June 23. The union, formed five years ago through the merger of the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA, has about 165,000 members.

To receive a ballot, a member must be dues-current. Turnout in SAG-AFTRA elections is usually between 20% and 30% of eligible members.

Stuntman Peter Antico announced his run for the two-year presidency in March. Current SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris was named by the national board in April, 2016, to succeed the rest of Howard’s term after he died. Though Carteris is expected to run, she has not yet indicated if she will seek the post.

The self-styled progressives in the Membership First faction ran Patricia Richardson as their presidential candidate in 2015. Howard won 53.7% of the vote.

Morales and Austin both said their campaign will not have any component to it that could be perceived as under-mining the SAG-AFTRA negotiators while they are bargaining on a successor deal to the master contract for film and TV. Negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers began several weeks ago under a press blackout. The current three-year deal expires on June 30.

“SAG-AFTRA is currently in the midst of a watershed TV/Theatrical negotiation with our industry partners at the AMPTP,” Morales said. “At this time, we feel that any campaigning that would explore differences in our leadership styles and objectives would be inappropriate. We wish to offer the negotiating team our unconditional support, and look forward to engaging the membership in more meaningful discussions of the issues that affect performers at the appropriate time when it would best serve our membership.”

Morales is currently filming “Imprisoned,” in which he plays the governor of Puerto Rico. His first major role came in 1987’s “La Bamba” opposite Lou Diamond Phillips.

Recent credits include Netflix’s series “Ozarks” opposite Jason Bateman and the independent comedy “Senior Moment” opposite William Shatner.

The Membership First faction currently holds 10 seats on the 73-member board. Besides Austin, Morales, and Richardson, Membership First is repped by Ed Asner, Joanna Cassidy, Joe d’Angerio, Frances Fisher, David Jolliffe, Diane Ladd, and Martin Sheen.

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