Melissa Gilbert visits Barnes & Noble on Jan. 21, 2014 in New York City.
Photo by Steve Mack/FilmMagic/Getty

Melissa Gilbert announces she’s running for Congress in Michigan

Actress Melissa Gilbert – who played Laura Ingalls Wilder on the acclaimed NBC television series “Little House on the Prairie” – announced Monday that she will run for Congress in Michigan’s 8th District.

Gilbert, 51, will run as a Democrat in a district that has been controlled by Republicans since 2001, when Republican Rep. Mike Rogers replaced two-time Democratic Rep. Debbie Stabenow. Gilbert will run against incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Bishop in a district that includes Ingham county, Livingston county – where Gilbert lives with her husband, East Lansing native Timothy Busfield – and the northern part of Oakland county.

“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 said in a statement released on her website. “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.”

The race will mark Gilbert’s political debut. However, from 2001 to 2005, she served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild.

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Just as soon as Gilbert announced her campaign, Bishop’s campaign spokesperson Stu Sandler started slinging mud, calling Gilbert an “IRS Tax Cheat” over reports that the actress owes more than $360,000 in back taxes. She “can afford to have a stylist for her dog, but cannot pay her taxes. Her values are out of whack with the district,” Sandler said.

Responding to reports about her debt, Gilbert issued a statement in June citing a “perfect storm of financial difficulty.” She blamed factors including the recent recession, a lack of employment and a costly divorce.

Gilbert was born in California and moved to Howell, Michigan, in 2013.

Michigan and Pop Culture

Melissa Gilbert announces she's running for Congress in Michigan