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Melissa Gilbert wins SAG presidency

Actress Melissa Gilbert in a press conference early Saturday morning
Actress Melissa Gilbert in a press conference early Saturday morning  

From Jim Vojtech

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- After a heated election, actress Melissa Gilbert won the much-contested presidency of the Screen Actors Guild, a SAG spokesperson announced in the early hours of Saturday.

The ballot was a re-vote ordered by a SAG election committee after it found violations during the election last fall by the guild's staff, as well as problems with the voting system. Gilbert won the November election, as well.

Gilbert, best known for playing "half-pint" Laura Ingalls on the television show "Little House on the Prairie," won by more than 8,700 votes over Valerie Harper, also a 1970s television star known for her role as "Rhoda" on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

The election has taken on the tone of a political race, with accusations flying between supporters of both Harper and Gilbert via e-mail and full-page advertisements. The heated debate has divided many members of the guild.

But Gilbert said the dramatic election had a bright side.

"The silver lining in all of this is that more of the membership turned out for this (vote) than has turned out in any recent election," she said, shortly after hearing the news of her victory.

"What that tells me is the membership is interested in what we are doing, and I hope that momentum moves forward and I hope it carries on as we focus on the work that is ahead of us."

More than 91,000 ballots were sent February 11 to eligible members of the guild, which has over 98,000 members. Nearly 38,000 ballots were returned by the deadline, Friday morning.

Gilbert received 21,351 votes and Harper received 12,613. The remaining votes were divided among two other candidates.

In a statement released by SAG, Harper accepted the results.

"In this election, re-run in a fair and uniform manner, the real winner is the democratic process," she said, noting that she would continue her role on the guild's board of directors.


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