Actress Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls Wilder in the TV show "Little House on the Prairie," is running as a Democrat for Michigan's 8th District, she announced Monday afternoon.
"I’m running for Congress to make life a little easier for all the families who feel they have fallen through the cracks in today’s economy," Gilbert wrote on her campaign site . "I believe building a new economy is a team effort, and we need to bring fresh voices to the table to get the job done."
GOP Rep. Mike Bishop won the seat by nearly 13 points in 2014. Before that, Republican Mike Rogers had held the seat since 2000. Mitt Romney carried the district by 3 points in 2012, while President Barack Obama carried it by 6 points in 2008.
The National Republican Congressional Committee selected Bishop for its Patriot Program , which provides fundraising and organizational help to incumbents who represent districts in which Democrats have done well.
"She'll probably be as good a candidate as we can get," acknowledged one Democratic operative, who said Gilbert has been exploring a bid for several months.
National Democrats are a little more excited about Gilbert's candidacy.
“Congressman Mike Bishop’s uninspiring tenure has earned him a spot on the national Republican most vulnerable list because they know his days in Congress are numbered," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Communications Director Matt Thornton said in a statement Monday. "Now with a top-tier candidate, Melissa Gilbert in this race, the chances of real change for Michigan’s hard working families go up dramatically."
Gilbert served as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the early 2000s. She moved to the district after marrying actor Timothy Busfield, an East Lansing native. While she's never run for political office, Gilbert was involved in Democratic former Rep. Mark Schauer's 2014 gubernatorial bid, and one Democratic source suggested that sparked her interest in electoral politics.
In response to Gilbert's candidacy, the NRCC blasted out a June Detroit News story about Gilbert being $360,000 behind in federal taxes, while the state Republican Party tweeted a story about Gilbert's dog having its own stylist.
Gilbert has a stylist for her dog, but can’t pay her taxes? http://t.co/91e8bjClg9— Michigan GOP (@MIGOP) August 10, 2015
“Hopefully tax delinquent Melissa Gilbert didn’t sell her little house on the prairie, because with $360,000 owed to the IRS, she certainly won’t be moving into the House of Representatives," NRCC spokesman Chris Pack said in a statement emailed to reporters. "I've set up an installment plan to fully pay off my debt and will continue to work as hard as I can to erase this debt and dig myself out of this hole," Gilbert told the Detroit News.
"Little House on the Prairie" ran on NBC in the 1970s and 1980s and was adapted from the popular children's book series authored by Wilder about her family's experience moving to the Midwest during the late 1900s.
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