Melissa Gilbert, the actress best known for her portrayal of Laura Ingalls in the 1970s and 1980s television series Little House on the Prairie, announced that she is running for Congress.
Melissa Gilbert is new to the political arena, having never held office before, but she is not new to the world of elections or administration. Gilbert was elected as president of the Screen Actors Guild in 2001, and held that office until 2005, when she chose not to seek re-election.
Competition is also not foreign to Gilbert. In addition to branching out into the administrative field with the Screen Actors Guild, Gilbert diversified her resume by participating in the television dance competition Dancing With the Stars.
Gilbert announced her candidacy via her website GilbertforMichigan.com, and on Twitter.
She is running as the Democratic candidate in Michigan’s 8th Congressional district, hoping to defeat Republican incumbent Mick Bishop in 2016. And early on, she appears to be running on a platform of helping families.
“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’s campaign said in a statement, according to NBC News. “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.”
Melissa Gilbert’s celebrity status may help her in terms of name recognition, but an authentic spirit of cooperation may be what is necessary for the celebrity-turned-politician to be successful, according to Matt A. Barreto, a political science professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.
“Name recognition can help early on, but eventually a celebrity politician will still have to run on a well-articulated agenda and set of policy beliefs, and this is where most end up falling short,” Barreto said in an interview with the Washington Post. “However, some have been able to crack into the political arena, and once they do, they face the reality that nobody can govern alone. They have to meet, negotiate, and make compromises with the other members of legislature.”
And Melissa Gilbert has had to exercise her powers of negotiation recently, as she found herself in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service, reportedly owing them more than $360,000.
“The truth is, I got caught in a perfect storm of financial difficulty, which is why I initiated a conversation with the IRS, told them I was having trouble, and together we set up a payment plan,” Gilbert said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press.
But Gilbert’s strongest asset during her run for office may be a thick skin, as Bishop’s campaign has wasted no time firing shots at her.
“Melissa Gilbert can afford to have a stylist and a Louis Vuitton collar for her dog, but cannot pay her taxes. Her Hollywood values are out of whack with the district,” said Stu Sandler, Bishop’s campaign spokesman, in a statement to CNN.
Gilbert, a California native, has resided in Michigan with husband Timothy Busfield since 2013.
[Image courtesy of Evan Agostini / Getty Images]