Normally when you hear about a celebrity – or simply a buffoon – running for office you expect the story to have come from Minnesota. (Sorry about that, Ed…) But it seems that the infection is spreading across the Midwest and has landed in Michigan. Many of you older readers, along with those who enjoy nostalgia or watching TV Land, are no doubt familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder, the delightful little girl from Little House on the Prairie. The actress who portrayed her, Melissa Gilbert, has announced that she will be running for the Democratic nomination to replace Rep. Mike Bishop in the 8th district, which covers northern Detroit and the state capital of Lansing. This should be simply fascinating. (Seattle Post Intelligencer)
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…
“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.”
Gilbert, who has never held public office, campaigned for Michigan gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer in 2014.
Bishop is in a fairly vulnerable district and has to take any challenge seriously. Given the fact that this is the greater Detroit area, it’s tough to find a Democrat politician without a bunch of scandal attached to them, so it actually wouldn’t be all that surprising if they backed a celebrity instead. (Gilbert’s entire elected office history seems to consist of being president of SAG.) But even going outside of the political pool entirely, the Democrats may have some explaining to do regarding Gilbert’s history. It appears that she’s had a bit of trouble getting her taxes paid. Actually… a lot of trouble. (Detroit Free Press)
In June, the Daily Press & Argus in Livingston County reported that the IRS filed a lien against Gilbert, alleging she owes more than $360,000 in back taxes, a point that Michigan Republicans were quick to point out as she announced her campaign.
Bishop’s campaign spokesman Stu Sandler sent out a statement saying Gilbert “can afford to have a stylist for her dog, but cannot pay her taxes. Her values are out of whack with the district.”
“The truth is I got caught in a perfect storm of financial difficulty, which is why I initiated a conversation with the IRS, told them I was having trouble and together we set up a payment plan,” Gilbert said in a statement to the Free Press. Asked for additional details about the tax bill, a campaign spokesman declined, saying, “The statement is the statement.”
The amazing part of her “explanation” here is that she isn’t even claiming that there was a mistake by the IRS, a challenge to the amount owed or some sort of chicanery on the part of her accountants. She simply didn’t pay her taxes because she couldn’t afford them. While that may be a story which many Americans of modest means can relate to, if you owe more than a quarter million in taxes you must have been making some money at some point. The sympathy level tends to go down a bit in that case.
Of course this may not prove to be a disqualifying feature for Democrat voters in the area. They’ve been electing officials for years who seem to have no clue whatsoever as to how to manage a budget or get their bills paid on time. One need only look at Detroit’s history of superb fiscal management to get a sense of that.
The fact that Gilbert has zero experience in elected office shouldn’t be a barrier. In fact, I’m not opposed to complete outsiders taking a shot at government leadership roles. If you are a business person such as Herman Cain or Donald Trump you can at least point to your understanding of the free market, trade and the tax codes as background to get into the game. Even a physician like Ben Carson can highlight his intelligence in such a challenging field as well as his direct experience with the health care system (as well as running the business of a medical practice) when making his case to the voters. But what precisely does a left coast actress bring to the table? Will she talk about her ability to relate to the beleaguered Hollywood elite and their struggles in the current economy?
Well, good luck, I suppose. And good night, John Boy.