Actress Melissa Gilbert to run for Congress in Michigan

Melissa Gilbert's Childhood on the Prairie

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Former "Little House on the Prairie" star Melissa Gilbert announced her candidacy for a Michigan congressional seat on Monday, saying "fresh voices" are needed to help improve the economy for people who have fallen behind.

The 51-year-old Democrat, who moved from California two years ago after marrying actor Timothy Busfield, will run for the 8th District, which stretches across three counties from the northern Detroit suburbs to the state capital of Lansing and has been in GOP hands for 15 years. First-term Republican Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester 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 in a statement. "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."

PHOTOS: See Melissa Gilbert through the years:

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Actress Melissa Gilbert to run for Congress in Michigan
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured: Melissa Gilbert -- Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 25: Actress and national spokesperson of Drugfree.org Melissa Gilbert visits the New York Stock Exchange on September 25, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 1408' - During the Trio dance, a 'DWTS' first, each couple was allowed to add an extra professional dancer to their routine. The second dancer was chosen from a pool of eliminated pros and members of The Troupe. In addition to their regular criteria for judging dance routines, the judges paid extra attention to how well each celebrity was showcased in the performance with an extra dancer in the mix, on 'Dancing with the Stars,' MONDAY, MAY 7 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on ABC. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty images) 
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 1407' - The seven remaining couples competed to famous pieces of classical music and returned to the ballroom floor later in the night for their always entertaining Team Dances, on 'Dancing with the Stars,' MONDAY, APRIL 30 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on ABC. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images)
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 1404' - Bringing lots of leather and lots of fire, the remaining ten couples performed to some of the greatest Rock songs of all time when Rock Week returned, on 'Dancing with the Stars,' MONDAY, APRIL 9 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty images) MELISSA GILBERT, MAKSIM CHMERKOVSKIY
DANCING WITH THE STARS - 'Episode 1401' -- This season's spectacular new cast of celebrities brought the glamour, the glitter and -- most importantly - the savvy dance moves during the two-hour Season 14 premiere of 'Dancing with the Stars,' MONDAY, MARCH 19 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. Dancing either the Foxtrot or the Cha Cha, the couples surprised audiences with exciting performances throughout the evening when they hit the ballroom floor for the first time on live national television. (Photo by Adam Taylor/ABC via Getty Images) MELISSA GILBERT, MAKSIM CHMERKOVSKIY
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -- Season 4 -- Pictured: (l-r) Melissa Gilbert as Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, Lindsay or Sydney Greenbush as Carrie Ingalls, Melisssa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls Kendall -- Photo by: Ted Shepherd/NBCU Photo Bank
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -- Pictured: Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -- Pictured: Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -- 'The Campout' Episode 9 -- Aired 11/19/1975 -- Pictured: (l-r) Alison Arngrim as Nellie Oleson, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls Wilder -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
DANCING WITH THE STARS - MELISSA GILBERT - Multi-talented Melissa Gilbert partners with Maksim Chmerkovskiy, who returns for his 12th season. The two-hour season premiere of 'Dancing with the Stars' airs MONDAY, MARCH 19 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Bob D'Amico/ABC via Getty images)
DANCING WITH THE STARS - REHEARSALS - This season's dynamic lineup of stars will perform either the Foxtrot or the Cha Cha for the first time on live national television with their professional partners during the two-hour season premiere of 'Dancing with the Stars,' MONDAY, MARCH 19 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Rick Rowell / ABC via Getty Images) MAKSIM CHMERKOVSKIY, MELISSA GILBERT
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Actress Melissa Gilbert visits the SiriusXM Studio on December 8, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 02: Melissa Gilbert attends the 'Little House On The Prairie The Musical' Broadway rehearsal and photo call at The New 42nd Street Studios on September 2, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/WireImage)
NBC NEWS -- Melissa Gilbert Book Signing -- Pictured: Melissa Gilbert Signs copies of her new book Prairie Tale at Borders Books in Time-Warner Center on June 9, 2009 (Photo by Giacinta Pace/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 22: Actress / producer Melissa Gilbert arrives at the 1st Annual 'Party With A Purpose' Viewing And After Party at Mr. Chow on February 22, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/WireImage)
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -- Season 8 -- Pictured: (l-r) Melissa Gilbert as Laura Elizabeth Ingalls Wilder, Michelle Steffin as Rose Wilder, Dean Butler as Almanzo James Wilder (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE -- Pictured: (l-r) Melissa Sue Anderson as Mary Ingalls, Lindsay/Sidney Greenbush as Carrie Ingalls, Melissa Gilbert as Laura Elizabeth Ingalls (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Melissa Gilbert during The Actors Fund 'There's No Business Like Show Business' Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Gregory Pace/FilmMagic)
Jennifer Garner and Melissa Gilbert 8505_KM10_102.jpg (Photo by Kevin Mazur Archive 1/WireImage)
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Gilbert, who has never held public office, campaigned for Michigan gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer in 2014. She was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001-05 after playing Laura Ingalls on "Little House" in the 1970s and 1980s.

She and Busfield recently moved from Howell to nearby Brighton, 35 miles northwest of Detroit, according to her campaign.

Bishop campaign spokesman Stu Sandler called Gilbert a "tax cheat," noting that she owes $360,000 in back taxes to the U.S. government and $112,000 to California.

"Melissa Gilbert can afford to have a stylist for her dog, but cannot pay her taxes," he said in a statement. "Her values our 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 IRS.

Bishop is among 23 incumbents - and the third from Michigan - to be designated as the National Republican Congressional Committee's most vulnerable.

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