Happy Birthday, George Takei!

George Takei for City Council!
As we celebrate George (“Hikaru Sulu”) Hosato Takei’s 76th birthday on April 20th, I thought it would be nice to take a brief look back on Mr. Takei’s brief foray into Los Angeles City Council politics.  Folks may recall that back in 1973, George Takei ran for City Councilman in Los Angeles’ 10th City Council District, a mid-City district, and one of fifteen City Council Districts in L.A.  The 10th District had become vacant when that District’s incumbent, Mr. Tom Bradley, had become elected the new Mayor in the L.A. municipal election held on May 29, 1973.  By becoming the new Mayor, Bradley had to vacate his 10th City Council District seat.  Mr. Takei was one of several individuals who threw his hat in the ring in a Special Election that was held in September of 1973 to fill the vacant spot.  Mr. Takei ran under the title of “Television Moderator” as his election ballot description.  (He was co-producing and co-hosting with actress Beulah Quo the KNBC-TV Channel 4 public affiars program Expression East/West that was airing at the time.)  In the end, Mr. Takei came in second–losing out to Mr. David Cunningham.  Since it was a Special Election, there did not need to be a run-off; Cunningham won the election with a simple plurality.  (Cunningham actually had been endorsed for the seat by his predecessor Mayor Tom Bradley–so Cunningham had a bit of an inside track.)
David Cunningham           8,199    (41.86%)
George Takei                   6,552    (33.45%)
Jordan Daniels, Jr.           2,412    (12.31%)
Herb Carter                              1,388          (7.09%)
Joe Evans                       1,037      (5.29%)
Others                                  0      (0.00%)

The Star Trek tie-in to all this is that in an odd election commission ruling, since the cartoon version of George Takei would be “appearing” in the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series “Beyond the Farthest Star,” right in the middle of the campaign, television station KNBC-TV Channel 4 in Los Angeles would have been obligated to grant “equal time” to all the other candidates running against Mr. Takei in the election. (Or, I suppose they could have created cartoon versions of the other candidates and put them on board the starship Enterprise.) So, to circumvent this “granting equal time” problem, on Saturday morning, September 8, 1973, while the rest of the country saw the series premiere episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series “Beyond the Farthest Star,” KNBC simply locally aired the second planned episode “Yesteryear” instead—an episode in which, conveniently, Mr. Takei didn’t appear. KNBC also then aired “Yesteryear” again the following Saturday, too—September 15, 1973; so Angelenos got the same Star Trek: The Animated Series episode two weeks in a row. Fortunately, the City Council election was held on Tuesday, September 18, 1973, so KNBC didn’t have to do any further episode reshuffling for the locals. It wasn’t until a couple of months later, on December 22, 1973, when “Beyond the Farthest Star” was shown as a re-run for the rest of the country that Angelenos finally got to see that episode.
Interestingly, the full story doesn’t end there.  Mr. Takei ventured out of the world of Los Angeles City politics, and tried to make a go of it in California State politics–and this “equal time” issue would haunt him again.
In 1980, Mr. Takei threw his hat into the ring to campaign for the California State Assembly (the lower of California’s two Legislative houses). Mr. Takei entered the race for California State Assembly District 46–one of California’s 80 Assembly Districts. (The 46th District is, logically enough, one of the Assembly Districts located in Mr. Takei’s hometown of the greater Los Angeles area.)

Mr. Takei attempted to mount a Primary challenge against Democrat Mr. Mike Roos in February of 1980. Mr. Roos was the incumbent in the 46th Assembly District, so Mr. Takei would have an uphill battle. But Roos had only been elected “recently” in 1976, so Roos wasn’t too entrenched yet in California politics, and Takei had hopes of a successful primary challenge. Unfortunately, Mr. Roos had other ideas.

At this point, Starlog magazine, Issue Number 43 from February of 1981 picks up the story better than I could.


Actor George Takei decided during the
past election season to take the road a
number of actors have taken recently— to
follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan and
enter politics. But Takei’s Star Trek role
caused him to give up that dream. A fifty-
year-old law that requires politicians to be
given equal time on the airways was his

In his bid to become a state assemblyman
in the last election, Takei’s opponent, Mike
Roos, insisted on equal time from local sta-
tion KTLA, Los Angeles, on which episodes
of Star Trek are rerun. The station, instead of
giving in to Roos, considered two other al-
ternatives: taking the series off the air alto-
gether during the election season or blacking
out episodes in which Takei appeared. Rather
than see the series tampered with, Takei
decided to withdraw from the race.

“It wasn’t just my earnings that were af-
fected,” Takei explains, referring to the
residuals the actors receive from reruns, “but
those of all the people involved in the show.”

Takei felt that Roos’ insistence for equal
time with his Star Trek performances was ter-
ribly unjust. “If he really wanted equal
time,” Takei postulates, “he should have
gotten into my costume and mouthed my
words. Besides there are episodes where I am
zapped by an alien force and act erratically or
catch an alien disease and go crazy. Would
that help me with voters?”

This isn’t the first time Takei has run for
office and been charged with having an unfair
advantage because of his Star Trek image. In
1973, he ran for the Los Angeles City Council
and encountered similar problems.

“Let me tell you how ridiculous this law
is,” Takei says. “When I ran for the city
council, an animated series of Star Trek had
to be blacked out in Los Angeles because my
voice accompanied an idealized drawing of

So, after meeting with Roos and resolving whatever points of contention were drawing Takei into the Primary race, Takei did, indeed withdraw from the 1980 California State Assembly race.  He evidently didn’t want to compromise the re-runs of the Star Trek series.  Although any monies from residuals probably had long since dried up for members of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), members belonging to other guilds such as as the DGA, WGA, AFTRA, IATSE, ASCAP, or BMI, are also impacted by residual payments and might have stood to lose income if Star Trek had been pulled of the air to some degree. 

By the way: Mr. Roos went on to win the November 4, 1980 election, and he served in the California Assembly until 1991.

November 4, 1980 election results
California State Assembly District 46

Mike Roos Democrat 65.8%
Alon Cory Republican 28.1%
Johnnie R. Garner Libertarian 6.1%

At any rate, a very happy, birthday to you, Mr. Takei!


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Author Greg Schnitzer

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