Melissa Gilbert wins SAG election

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  March 9, 2002 at 1:09 PM
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LOS ANGELES, March 9 (UPI) -- Melissa Gilbert -- who was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild in a flawed election last fall -- has won the election re-run, and will serve a two-year term as head of the actors union.

SAG announced the results of the mail-in balloting Saturday morning, ending a sometimes bitter campaign between Gilbert and Valerie Harper, who had urged the re-run election because of irregularities in the original balloting last year.

Elliott Gould ("M*A*S*H"," "Ocean's 11") and Kent McCord ("Adam 12") were elected as recording secretary and treasurer, respectively. Both had won the original election as well.

Gilbert -- best known as one of the stars of the long-running NBC family drama "Little House on the Prairie" -- received 21,351 of the 37,742 ballots cast for president. Harper -- best known as Rhoda Morgenstern on the CBS comedies "Rhoda" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" -- received 12,613 votes.

"Our membership has once again spoken," said Gilbert. "I'm honored to have been trusted by the SAG membership."

"I want to sincerely thank everyone who supported my candidacy," said Harper. "In this election, re-run in a fair and uniform manner, the real winner is the democratic process."

Harper remains a member of the guild's board of directors.

"I look forward to immediately focusing on the crucial issues facing the membership of our Guild," she said.

One of the major issues is the tentative new deal changing decades-old rules defining the relationship between SAG actors and agents. Gilbert supports the deal, while Harper characterized it as a sellout that could lead to actors becoming employees of agents and agencies.

The new deal allows talent agencies to buy stock in, and receive investments from, advertising firms. It would replace an agreement -- in place for six decades -- that was designed to prevent conflicts of interest by barring agents from owning any part of the companies for which their clients work.

The guild board is scheduled to vote on the agreement on Monday.

The Gilbert and Harper factions have some fences to mend.

Gilbert supporters charged during the re-run campaign that Harper was trying to hijack the election by challenging the original outcome based on relatively minor irregularities that did not affect the results. Harper maintained that she was only interested in preserving the integrity of the voting process.

Gilbert's victory seems to reflect a desire among SAG members for a more moderate approach to union relations with studios, advertisers and talent agents. Harper and her team had pursued the harder line taken by former SAG president William Daniels.

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