SAG_logoUPDATED: I’ve received permission from both Unite For Strength’s Ken Howard and Membership First’s Anne-Marie Johnson to run their email exchange about holding a debate between both presidential candidates. Problem is, each candidate wanted different formats. Howard wanted a written debate of questions and answers posted on a website. Johnson wanted a live debate. “I had concerns about the format she was insisting on and asked twice if we could speak to discuss it and perhaps find a mutually agreeable arrangement,” Howard emailed me. “However, I did suggest that Anne-Marie and I take questions together on public radio. She agreed and volunteered to speak with producers about it.” Johnson informed me KPCC had no time because of the fires to do what Howard suggested. Since these emails were sent, KTLA Morning Show reporter Sam Rubin challenged Howard to debate Johnson live on air. It hasn’t happened. The emails are in reverse order so start at the bottom of the post:

From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Date: August 25, 2009 10:53:12 PM PDT
To: [KPCC]
Subject: SAG presidential interview

Hello Aimee;

Brian Watt was nice enough to forward your email address.

I’m running for president of SAG. I’ve tried to arrange for a debate but unfortunately my opponents have refused. One of my opponents, Ken Howard, suggested a joint in-studio interview on the Patt Morrison show. Instead of waiting for his people to pursue this idea, I’m taking it upon myself to reach out to you to see if there would be any interest.

The ballots were mailed today, August 25th. I was thinking about sometime during the first week of September.

Do you have any thoughts/interest?

Please let me know as soon as you can.

Thank you,
Anne-Marie Johnson

From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Date: August 21, 2009 7:42:43 AM PDT
To: Brian Watt [KPCC]
Subject: contacts


I hope all is well.

Could you please provide me with the contact information for the bookers for the Larry Mantle and Pat Morrison shows? I am trying to put together some kind of in-studio debate/joint Q&A with my opponent. I am running for SAG prez and I’d like to discuss the issues facing SAG, reaching as many members as I can.

Can you provide some contact info?
My cell is [deleted]

Take care and thanks for any leads you can provide.

From: Ken Howard
Date: Tue, Aug 25, 2009 at 9:08 AM
Subject: Debate
To: Anne-Marie Johnson

Anne Marie,

I look forward to our radio debate.

I noticed that you made no mention in your email of the idea I had originally proposed for an online exchange of views. Are you telling me that we either do it your way or do nothing at all?

Again, I really think it would be best if we had a conversation to try and work something out. Please let me know when and where I can reach you.


From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Date: Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 7:58 AM
Subject: Re: Update on Debate
To: Ken Howard

Good Morning;

I will contact the KPCC producers and provide them with possible dates. I’m assuming you agree that any interview must take place in person, in-studio and not over the phone. Hopefully we’ll be able to find a date between Sept. 1-4 that’ll work for both of us. I’ll keep you posted.

With regard to the main issue, it is clear that you have little to no interest in debating, live, in the traditional sense, in front of invited guests/members. I find your concerns regarding decorum and/or security interesting. If we are to be leaders, we have to be prepared to anticipate and handle anything that is thrown in our direction. The good and the bad. Whether partisan or not, the members deserve the right to observe candidates in situations they will ultimately face while holding the position as president.

I find it unfortunate that you have refused to participate in a traditional debate. I know I speak for many.

I will contact you once I’ve secured a date for a mutual, live appearance on a KPCC radio show.


From: Ken Howard
Date: Fri, Aug 21, 2009 at 3:02 PM
Subject: Re: Update on Debate
To: Anne-Marie Johnson

Thanks for contacting KPCC – I’m glad we’ll be moving ahead with that. Due to travel and other commitments next week, the Sept. 1 – 4 time frame works better for me.

With regard to your debate proposal, I still have concerns. A debate before partisans and policed by a parliamentarian and security officers doesn’t strike me as what this campaign needs. You and I know from membership meetings and our experience in the boardroom that admonitions about decorum are frequently ignored as passions run high. In any event, my interest doesn’t lie in putting you or any other candidates “on the spot” but rather in offering measured and substantive expressions of our views. That’s why I continue to believe that the online exchange I’ve proposed would work best.

Rather than continuing to trade emails, it would be more productive for us to speak about these options. What’s the best number for me to reach you?


From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Date: Fri, Aug 21, 2009 at 8:08 AM
Subject: Update on Debate
To: Ken Howard

August 21, 2009

Good Morning:

I am more than willing to participate in a joint, in studio, radio appearance on either the Larry Mantle and/or Pat Morrison on KPCC. I am available anytime between August 27th and September 4th

With regard to my suggested debate format, I really don’t see the logic in your concerns. For decades political debates have been televised, live, viewed by millions. Many believe it is the best way for voters to witness their prospective leaders perform on “the spot”, so to speak. As with our open board meetings, caucuses and general membership meetings, it is very simple to maintain a level of strike decorum. It will be made clear beforehand and at all times during the actual debate, that there will be zero tolerance for any disruptive behavior. Absolutely no speaking from the audience. We will have security to ensure complete adherence with the rules. The professional moderator will also police the proceedings.

I would also suggest that the debate be recorded and then posted, unedited, on our respective websites to allow for viewing after the fact.

With regard to written answers and questions, each of our slates operate a website and can easily post what ever we care to post.

I believe a live, streamed debate, as well as joint radio appearances, posting answers and questions on our websites and/or any other form of communication, providing as much information to our members as possible, will only encourage and generate greater participation in the voting process.

I am more than willing to compromise. I hope you are too.

I have made contact with KPCC and would need to know your availability before moving forward. August 27th, 28th, September 1st through the 4th would work for me. Please let me know by 5:00 pm. today, how you would like proceed.

Anne-Marie Johnson

From: Ken Howard
Sent: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 10:11 AM
To: Anne-Marie Johnson
Subject: Re: debate

Dear Anne-Marie,

Thanks for your response to my invitation. I’m glad you share my feeling that we should publicly exchange views about the direction of SAG’s future. I doubt, however, that the alternative you’ve proposed would better serve members. Debating before an audience of cheering and jeering campaign supporters is likely to be long on theatrics but short on clear information about how each of us intends to lead the Guild.

Even if archived on the Web, I expect that considerably fewer members would watch a long videotaped debate between us versus the number who could make use of a concise, written exchange. That format would allow members to quickly find and read about the issues of interest to them, and has the added benefit of being easily reproduced and circulated by print and email. I’m confident that far more members would learn our views this way.

I believe the format I’ve proposed would work best for the membership, but I would also like to accommodate your desire for a live exchange. So how about doing an online written exchange and then also arranging a joint appearance on a radio program? Given the importance of SAG to Los Angeles, I expect we could get Larry Mantle or Pat Morrison at KPCC to devote a program to the election with the two of us on as opposing guests. Their programs are streamed and archived, so members across the country could listen.

I look forward to hearing from you soon about this idea.


From: Anne-Marie Johnson
Date: Fri, Aug 14, 2009 at 8:43 PM
Subject: Debate Invitation
To: Ken Howard

August 14, 2009

Dear Ken,

Thank you for inviting me to participate in a written exchange of questions and answers, to be shared with the members of The Screen Actors Guild via our respective websites and/or a mutually agreed upon neutral website.

Although I do agree that our members should be given the opportunity to receive as much information as they can before casting a vote, I don’t believe the non-spontaneous and somewhat restrictive format you have suggested would be the most conducive. Suggesting a format that does not provide live, informative, unrehearsed and unfiltered give and take between the candidates will certainly not offer our members the opportunity to witness, first hand, each candidates ability to answer questions, communicate with members and demonstrate overall knowledge of Guild governance, contracts and other key issues.

On that note, I would like to invite you to a formal debate, to be held in a local theatre in the Burbank area and streamed on the internet. A licensed parliamentarian has been secured to serve as moderator. Questions will come directly from our members and standard rules of debate will be applied. Each candidate will be provided a limited number of guests, leaving the majority of the seats available for members at large on a first come, first served basis. A professional videographer will be hired to ensure fair, balanced and unedited coverage. All cost incurred will be shared equally by each candidate.

Although I believe all candidates should have the opportunity to share their goals and ideas to the members, I am, at this time, extending this invitation to you. I believe that our candidacies and the size of our slate of Hollywood board candidates, requires a debate concentrating on our respective platforms.

I sincerely hope you consent to participate in this debate format. A live presidential debate, made available to a large number of members via the internet, will provide SAG members an opportunity to witness an open and organic exchange, free of the questionable authenticity of posting written and edited questions, answers, rebuttals and counter rebuttals from the candidates.

Anne-Marie Johnson

Date: August 27, 2009
Time: 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Place: The Actors Repertory Theatre
2811 W. Magnolia Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91505

From: Ken Howard
Date: Tue, Aug 11, 2009 at 6:17 PM
Subject: Invitation to Debate
To: Anne-Marie Johnson, Seymour Cassel, Asmar Muhammed

Dear Anne-Marie, Seymour, and Asmar,

Our candidacies for Screen Actors Guild president will present members with an important choice. Although our approaches to leading the Guild may differ sharply, I’m sure we all agree that members should have the opportunity to make a fully informed decision. To that end I’d like to invite the three of you to join me in an online debate about the future direction the Guild should take.

To ensure a serious and substantive exchange of views that can be accessed by the greatest number of members possible, I suggest the following format: We each pose a specified number of written questions to one another, provide written answers to those questions, then provide rebuttals and finally, counter-rebuttals. After agreeing on a timeframe and word limit for responses, we can post the unedited exchange on our respective campaign Websites or on a neutral site that we can easily create for that purpose.

I look forward to your responses.

Ken Howard