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Howard narrowly defeats Richardson for president of SAG-AFTRA

Howard narrowly defeats Richardson for president of SAG-AFTRA
Ken Howard has won another two-year term as president of SAG-AFTRA. (Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Ken Howard, the veteran actor who starred in the 1970s TV series "The White Shadow," defeated "Home Improvement" actress Patricia Richardson to remain president of Hollywood's largest entertainment union.

In a close race, Howard won 54% of the vote, compared to 46% for Richardson, the union said Thursday night.

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In a victory for Richardson's camp, however, her running mate, stuntwoman Jane Austin, defeated Howard's running mate Jenny O'Hara by a vote of 53% to 47% to become secretary treasurer of the union.

The election gives Howard, who was first elected in 2009, another two-year term as president of SAG-AFTRA. The union has a budget of about $100 million and represents 160,000 actors, singers, dancers, broadcasters and other performers in the film, television and radio industries.

Howard leads a faction of moderates that successfully pushed for the merger of the Screen Actors Guild with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in 2012.  He was credited by his supporters, who included Tom Hanks and George Clooney, with bringing stability and unity to a once deeply divided union.

But he faced a strong challenge from Richardson, who was backed by a more strident group  that opposed the merger and had accused Howard's slate of being too soft on management.  Her A-list backers included Ed Harris and Martin Sheen.

Richardson tapped into growing anxieties among actors over shrinking residuals at a time when more shows are being streamed online, as well as frustrations at the slow pace of merging the union's health and pension plans.

Richardson also had faulted the guild's handling of a change in its method for calculating dues of highly paid actors in 2011. In a Times story this week, Richardson said the guild did not properly communicate the change to members.

Howard disagreed and said the new methodology was initiated by some of the guild's highest-profile members who wanted to pay their share of dues. In an email to members, Howard accused his opponents of making "empty promises" and taking divisive positions that would weaken the union.

Twitter: @rverrier

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