The 85-year-old Asner received the third-highest number of votes of 44 candidates for the national board from Los Angeles region members after SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard and Patricia Richardson. Howard headed the moderate Unite For Strength slate and was re-elected president with 53% of the vote over Richardson, who headed the self-styled progressive Membership First slate.
Three other Membership First candidates — three-time Oscar nominee Diane Ladd, Frances Fisher and strategist David Jolliffe — won national board seats while Howard’s allies took the remaining 13 open seats for the 70-member board.
Asner served as SAG president from 1981 to 1985; Fisher is best known for starring in “Titanic” and Ladd received Oscar nominations for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” “Rambling Rose” and “Wild at Heart.”
Ladd received the fourth-highest number of votes, followed by Fisher. Recognizable stars tend to attract the most votes in the union elections.
Notable Unite For Strength members who were re-elected to the national board included “ER” cast member Ellen Crawford, “Being Mary Jane” star Lisa Vidal, “Avatar” actor Woody Schultz, Gabrielle Carteris (“Beverly Hills, 90210”), Jon Huertas (“Castle”), Elizabeth McLaughlin (“Pretty Little Liars”), Autumn Reeser (“The O.C.”) and Clyde Kusatsu.
Unite For Strength has dominated SAG-AFTRA politics since the 2012 merger. But Membership First’s Jane Austin, who defeated Howard’s running mate Jenny O’Hara for secretary-treasurer, narrowly defeated Kusatsu for the Los Angeles local presidency by 105 votes out of more than 11,000.
Esai Morales won the First VP slot and Ellen Crawford won the Second VP post.
During his time in office as SAG president, Asner was criticized for making political statements about U.S. involvement in El Salvador, which may have led to CBS cancelling the series “Lou Grant.” Asner has won seven Emmys, five for portraying Lou Grant; he received SAG’s Life Achievement Award in 2002, two years after winning the guild’s Ralph Morgan Award for service to the guild.
In 2013, Asner served as the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against SAG-AFTRA alleging extensive mishandling of $130 million in unpaid residuals and foreign royalties. The suit was dismissed in early 2014 but the federal judge in the case indicated that the plaintiffs could file again.