Today the race for SAG-AFTRA’s first leadership election since the unions merged last spring unofficially began. Jumping the gun on the official candidates list that the union is expected to be released in the next week or so, the New York-based Unite SAG-AFTRA Nationwide slate revealed its list today. “We decided that we would launch today to give members time to become familiar with the candidates,” current NY Local Co-President Mike Hodge told me today. The USAN slate is holding a meet-and-greet event this afternoon with current SAG-AFTRA National Co-President Ken Howard in attendance. Hodge is running for both a National SAG-AFTRA board seat and for NY Local President. While not formally part of the slate, Howard endorses the USAN candidates and is endorsed by them in his declared bid to become the first solo National President of SAG-AFTRA. Howard is also making the same deal with the West Coast United For Strength slate which he helped lead for the past four years. The cutoff for voting eligibility was June 17. Ballots will be mailed out to members in good standing July 16 with the deadline for all ballots 6:30 AM on August 15. Here’s the USAN release:

USAN today announced its candidates for the 2013 SAG-­‐AFTRA National and New York Local Boa r d Elections. Topping the ticket is Mike Hodge for NY Local President, Rebecca Damon, Maureen Donnelly, Jay Potter, and Liz Zazzi for NY Vice Presidents. USAN will also be offering a slate of board candidates listed below.

“Mike Hodge knows what’s important to working members because he is one,” said SAG-­‐AFTRA National Co-­‐President Ken Howard. “He knows first-­‐hand the challenges we face and has a no-­‐nonsense approach to getting things done, no matter how tough. I’ve always counted on Mike’s leadership because he comes through for NY members time and again. If I were a New York member, I’d be voting for Mike Hodge as president.

“Early next year we begin contract talks for Film, TV, Cable, and New Media and no one will fight harder to protect actors than Mike Hodge and USAN. Their integrity and commitment make them a valuable asset not just for New Yorkers, but for all SAG-­‐AFTRA members. They are the leaders I trust.”

“When hard work needs to be done, I’ve always depended on Mike Hodge, Rebecca Damon and the rest of the USAN team,” SAG-­‐AFTRA Executive Vice President Ned Vaughn declared. “In the tough fights ahead -­‐ in areas like cable TV and new media -­‐ Mike and USAN will stand strong. Their record of success and credibility with members make them the easy choice in New York.”

New York Local Co-­‐President Mike Hodge noted, “When I ran for SAG NY President, it was to help deliver merger to the New York members. Your overwhelming support made one union happen and it’s the first step to making SAG-­‐AFTRA more powerful. I’m unwavering in my efforts to bring more jobs to NY members and I won’t back away from the fight to stop the spread of non-­‐union work. Ken Howard, USAN & I will continue to deliver.”
USAN brings ov e r a decade of proven leadership to SAG and now SAG-­‐AFTRA. Along with Los Angeles sister organization Unite for Strength and colleagues throughout the country, they restored productive relationships between the Guild and fellow entertainment labor unions. Most notably, they repaired the historic partnership between SAG and AFTRA, paving the way for merger.

USAN leaders participated in the nationwide Presidents’ Forum for One Union Listening Tour, were key leaders in the Group for One Union (G1), and serve SAG-­‐AFTRA members through various boards, foundations and related organizations including the SAG Foundation, AFTRA Foundation, Actors’ Equity Association, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), The Actors Fund, Screen Actors Guild Motion Picture Players Welfare Fund, Industry Advancement Cooperative Fund (IACF), Women in the Arts & Media (WAM) Coalition, Episcopal Actors’ Guild, and The Lambs.

The USAN candidates for the 2013 National and NY Local Boards of Directors: Rebecca Damon, Ma u re e n Do n n e lly , Traci Godfrey, Mike Hodge, Verania Kenton, Ezra Knight, Christine Nagy, Janice Pendarvis, Jay Potter, Kevin Scullin, leslie Shreve, and Liz Zazzi. USAN also endorses Samantha Mathis and Linda Powell. Additional NY Board candidates include: Manny Alfaro, Dave Bachman, Edoardo Ballerini, Marc Baron, Gene DeFrancis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Sandra Karas, Jeff Knapp, John Leyman, Jack Mulcahy, Buzz Roddy, Keith Randolph Smith, Jamal Story, and Rick Zahn.