Half-pint is fighting to go from the Little House on the Prairie to the House on the hill. Capitol Hill.
Melissa Gilbert, a Michigan mom of two, is running as a Democrat in the state’s 8th District, hoping to win the party’s nod to take on anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, right-wing Republican Congressman Mike Bishop, who recently voted to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
Gilbert seized on that vote to draw sharp differences between her and the GOP-er and strengthen one of her signature issues.
“Mike Bishop and the House GOP voted to defund Planned Parenthood. Their vote put health care for thousands of women in Michigan at risk. Let’s tell Mike Bishop and the GOP to stop trying to defund Planned Parenthood, and get back to work!” Gilbert posted on Facebook.
Gilbert, 51, whose sister is “The Talk” host Sara Gilbert, 40, was a huge backer of the #StandWithPP social media campaign earlier this week and has also spoken out on domestic violence issues.
Abortion opponents have taken note and are equally trying to turn the Planned Parenthood controversy over fetal tissue medical tissue research back on her.
Her campaign is “backed by the abortion industry” a headline on LifeSiteNews.com recently said.
“The audacity of Hollywood elite amazes me – that someone like Melissa Gilbert, who has never even served in the state legislature, can suddenly run for U.S. Congress just because she was once a famous child star,” anti-abortion speaker Rebecca Kiessling and the head of Save The 1, told the site.
Gilbert is, in fact, trying to leverage those entertainment industry ties to her advantage.
The actress, a two-term former president of the Screen Actors Guild has old and new Hollywood on her side.
Stars like the legendary Patty Duke, 68, and Morgan Fairchild, 65, have tweeted support for Gilbert, who is Jewish.
My friend @GilbertforMI ‘s first big campaign finance deadline is up Wed. Please contribute @ http://t.co/XVJca7XFlOpic.twitter.com/qfxhaTwaOw— Patty Duke (@pattyduke_id) September 27, 2015
My friend @GilbertforMI ‘s 1st campaign finance deadline is on Wednesday: Pls contribute! http://t.co/U3VPgdcZFYhttp://t.co/mdf6xljr1c— Morgan Fairchild (@morgfair) September 27, 2015
So has talk queen Rosie O’Donnell, celeb chef Rocco DiSpirito, and “American Horror Story” star Sarah Paulson.
My friend @GilbertforMI ‘s first big campaign finance deadline is up Wed. Please contribute @ http://t.co/Jsbpfc1P3wpic.twitter.com/fSogOKz05a— Rosie (@Rosie) September 27, 2015
My friend @GilbertforMI ‘s big campaign finance deadline is coming up: Please contribute here: http://t.co/fQkkV7FOzMpic.twitter.com/z8le1Su6xG— Rocco DiSpirito (@roccodispirito) September 27, 2015
Susan J. Demas, publisher and editor of Inside Michigan Politics, notes that Gilbert has a few things that could make taking on Bishop difficult.
The biggest? Gilbert and her third husband, actor/director Timothy Busfield, owe the feds big bucks, it was revealed after the star announced her run in August.
“She’s an inexperienced candidate who owes $360,000 in back taxes to the IRS. The fact that a big-time Hollywood actress won’t be coughing up all the money right away will surely gall some middle-class voters just struggling to hang onto their houses,” Demas has written.
And Bishop is off and running with that. His spokesman, Stu Sandler, said: “Hollywood actress and IRS tax cheat Melissa Gilbert owes hundreds of thousands to the IRS and wants to get a government paycheck. Melissa Gilbert can afford to have a stylist for her dog, but cannot pay her taxes. Her values are out of whack with the district.”
Demas notes that the Republican party’s response to Gilbert in the majority GOP 8th district has been curious.
‘I’m surprised the GOP would deem Gilbert such a serious threat, but maybe her ability to attract national money is worrisome,” she wrote on MLive.com.
Just how well Gilbert did should be revealed in a few weeks when the just closed quarter fundraising tallies are made public.
“There’s also the concern that Bishop won’t fare well against an attractive female opponent,” she added.
“So maybe, just maybe, we’ll have an interesting congressional race here after all.”
John Oswald is The Forward’s deputy digital media editor.