'Little House on the Prairie' Star Melissa Gilbert Launches Congressional Bid

by Raphael Chestang and Philiana Ng 4:25 PM PDT, August 11, 2015
Playing 'Little House on the Prairie' Star Melissa Gilbert Launches Congressional Bid

From Little House on the Prairie to House of Representatives, actress Melissa Gilbert is running for Congress.

The 51-year-old actress announced her congressional bid in a statement on Tuesday.

"Here in Michigan, I know people are doing their best to make a good life for themselves and their families. When it comes down to it, I think that's what we all really want," said Gilbert. "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. 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."

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Gilbert is a Democrat running against incumbent Representative Mike Bishop, a Republican. Following her stint as Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, Gilbert was president of the Screen Actors Guild for four years.

Bishop is already going after Gilbert. A spokesman for the politician pointed out that Gilbert owes $360,000 in back taxes to the IRS.

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Gilbert has reportedly negotiated a payment plan. According to the California native, she was caught in a "perfect storm of financial difficulty."

"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," she said in a statement back in June. "I am absolutely positive that I can do it."

Former American Idol finalist Clay Aiken, who lost his bid for Congress in 2014, weighed in on the challenges that may face Gilbert moving forward, most notably her owing taxes.

"That message that she gets out to respond to this particular issue is probably the most important thing she does in the next few weeks," Aiken told ETonline. "That's something that is going to be ripe for an attack ad from the opposition, and the opposition has already started hitting her on that. She's got to start swinging already and that's a challenge that's beyond celebrity."

The 36-year-old said that this may be Gilbert's biggest obstacle, more so than her "celebrity" status. He did credit Gilbert for having leadership and political expertise.

"She's got the expertise in knowing how to campaign and the expertise in how to run a non-governmental, but political, organization so she's going into it with more experience than I did," he added.

Aiken noted that Gilbert may have time on her side when it comes to overcoming the issue of her back taxes.

"If there is a saving grace for her, it is that scandals don't tend to last that long in the political world," he said. "Her opponent was probably irresponsible to bring it up now. She has between now until next October to answer to it, clean it up, fix it."

Philiana Ng contributed to this report.