Melissa Gilbert has ended her campaign as the democratic Congressional candidate in Michigan's 8th district. The actress, best known for her role as Laura Ingalls in the television series Little House on the Prairie, said in a statement emailed from her campaign that health concerns make it impossible to run.
“As many of you know, in 2012 I sustained head and neck injuries from two accidents. While I have received the best treatment and therapy I could have asked for, those injuries have only gotten worse. As much as it breaks my heart to say this, my doctors have told me I am physically unable to continue my run for Congress. As the only candidate to file enough valid signatures, I plan to vacate the Ballot in accordance with the law," Gilbert said.
"Traveling and meeting with folks all over the 8th District has been a life changing and rewarding experience. Thank you to everyone who has given me your support over the past few months; we got as far as we did because of you, and I will treasure that forever."
The filing deadline has passed for the election, and Gilbert's name will remain on the primary ballot. Whether she remains on the November ballot or not, the suspension of her campaign provides a strong boost to incumbent Republican Mike Bishop in his bid for a second term.
The Michigan Democratic Party chair Brandon Dillon also released an email statement.
“Michigan law is clear," Dillon said, "Since it appears Melissa Gilbert was the only candidate who filed the requisite number of valid signatures required to appear on the ballot, her announcement means that the county Democratic parties will fill the vacancy after she removes herself from the ballot."
“Make no mistake: this district is still a top target for us. Career politician Mike Bishop continues to put special interests in front of the needs of his constituents, uses taxpayer money to line the pockets of his donors, and supports trade policies that would ship even more Michigan auto jobs overseas,” Dillon said.
Chris Pack, the regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee called the announcement a "huge blow for Democrats."
“Melissa Gilbert abruptly quitting her campaign for Congress in Michigan’s 8th District is just the latest example of the mass incompetence emanating from DCCC headquarters. After this latest high profile embarrassment, hopefully the DCCC will do us all a favor and stop pretending they have even the slightest chance of winning control of the House this November,” Pack said.
Gilbert moved to Michigan a few years ago with her husband, actor Timothy Busfield, who has recently accepted a teaching position at Michigan State University. The couple live near Howell, Michigan and generated local headlines when they arrived.
Gilbert generated national headlines when she announced her run for Congress in the Republican leaning district. Republican officials quickly went on the attack in the campaign, pointing out that Gilbert owed more than $470,000 in federal and state tax liens which she was paying off in installments.