In a hotly contested mail-ballot vote, Academy Award winner Patty Duke was elected president of the 58,000-member Screen Actors Guild (SAG) after getting strong support from Ed Asner, outgoing guild president, it was announced Tuesday.
She defeated Ed Nelson, a television actor backed by Charlton Heston, by a margin of 10,838 (56%) to 7,419 (38.3%).
There were two other candidates in the race: stunt man Tony Cecere, who received 735 votes, and actor Charles Holden, who got 289 votes.
Asner won a seat on the 99-member board of directors, getting 4,811 votes, second to Robert Guillaume, who received 5,131 votes. Guillaume plays Benson on the television show of the same name.
There were 13 openings in the Hollywood section of the board, and Duke’s supporters won 10 of them. The remaining results from New York and other branches of SAG will be announced today.
The other two national offices were also won by Duke supporters: Yale Summers, the incumbent treasurer, defeated Leslie Hoffman to retain his office, while incumbent recording secretary Sumi Haru defeated Barrie Howard.
Son of Robert Mitchum
The only major victory for the Nelson slate was the election of Christopher Mitchum as first vice president. The son of Robert Mitchum narrowly defeated the incumbent, Joseph Ruskin.
The election campaign focused more on the longstanding rivalry and political differences between the forces of the liberal Asner and the conservative Heston than on Duke and Nelson.
The election was also seen as, in effect, an indirect referendum among the nation’s actors on the policies of President Reagan, who served as SAG president himself from 1947 to 1952, and again from 1959 to 1960.
Asner and Duke are harsh critics of Reagan, while Heston and Nelson support him.
Duke, 38, won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1963 for her role as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker.”
Last year, she played the lead role in a television series, “Hail to the Chief,” in which she portrayed the first female president of the United States.