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Sunday 4 December 2016

Little House star Melissa Gilbert seeks move to Capitol Hill

Published 11/08/2015 | 01:58

Actress Melissa Gilbert is bidding for a US Congress seat
Actress Melissa Gilbert is bidding for a US Congress seat

Former Little House On The Prairie star Melissa Gilbert has her eye on a much bigger pad - the US House of Representatives.

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The 51-year-old Democrat has announced she is running for a Michigan seat in the US Congress, saying "fresh voices" are needed to help improve the economy for people who have fallen behind.

Gilbert, who moved to Howell from California two years ago after marrying actor Timothy Busfield, will run for the 8th District, which stretches from the northern Detroit suburbs to the state capital of Lansing and has been in Republican hands for 15 years.

The actress, who played gutsy youngster Laura Ingalls on TV's Little House in the 1970s and 80s, must defeat first-term Republican Mike Bishop of Rochester, who won last year after then-House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers decided not to seek re-election.

"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.

"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."

Gilbert, who has never held public office, campaigned for Michigan governorship candidate Mark Schauer in 2014. She was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001-2005.

She and Busfield have now moved from Howell, 45 miles north west of Detroit, to another area of Livingston County.

But Mr Bishop's campaign spokesman Stu Sandler called Gilbert a "tax cheat", noting that she owes 360,000 dollars (£232,000) in back taxes to the US government and 112,000 dollars (£72,000) to California.

"Melissa Gilbert can afford to have a stylist for her dog, but cannot pay her taxes," he said. "Her values are out of whack with the district."

Gilbert has blamed the tax debt on a stalled acting career, the economy and divorce. She told The Detroit News in June that she had negotiated a payment plan with the Internal Revenue Service.

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