Alec Baldwin has endorsed Ken Howard for the SAG-AFTRA presidency along with the United Screen Actors Nationwide slate in New York as campaigning heats up for the union’s first election.

Ron Perlman, S. Epatha Merkerson, Susie Essman, Phylicia Rashad, Margo Martindale and Isiah Whitlock Jr. also issued endorsements for the USAN slate, led by New York president Mike Hodge. Ballots went out Tuesday to the 160,000 members of the performers union and must be returned by Aug. 15.

Ken Howard, Mike Hodge and USAN are the clear choice to lead SAG-AFTRA to a strong future,” Baldwin said. “From job-creating N.Y. production incentives to the overwhelming success of our merger, they have achieved some important goals and have demonstrated leadership we can count on.”

Merkerson noted that the election — the first since the March 2012 merger that created the union — will have an impact on the negotiations on a successor deal to the current master contract, which expires June 30.

“It’s crucial that we are fairly paid in cable television and new media,” she said. “With negotiations coming up, it’s Mike and USAN I trust.”

Notable USAN candidates include Rebecca Damon, Maureen Donnelly, Samantha Mathis and Liz Zazzi.

Howard is heading the Los Angeles-based Unite for Strength slate, which has endorsements from Perlman, Octavia Spencer, Holland Taylor, Clark Gregg, Adam Arkin, Jon Cryer and Lily Tomlin.

SEE ALSO: Octavia Spencer, Ron Perlman Endorse Ken Howard’s SAG-AFTRA Faction

Hodge and USAN are opposed in New York by current SAG-AFTRA co-president Roberta Reardon, who is heading the New York Coalition for Unity slate.