Michigan Democrats — May 25, 2016 at 7:03 am

Melissa Gilbert drops out of MI-08 race a month after the filing deadline leaving Democrats flat-footed


Actress Melissa Gilbert created a momentary stir last August when she announced her candidacy for the 8th Congressional District. However, since then, she’s remained all but silent and recently began cancelling appearances and declining to debate incumbent Republican Mike Bishop.

Last night, Gilbert’s campaign announced that, a month past the filing deadline, Gilbert is dropping out of the race. She released this statement:

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.

Despite her pledge to “vacate the Ballot in accordance with the law”, Gilbert’s name will remain on the primary ballot in August and she’s the only Democrat that will be. Her departure from the race means the local County Democratic Parties will have to choose someone else to run as the Democratic challenger in November but that’s small consolation given that Bishop is the incumbent in a Republican-leaning district and it’s very late in the race for someone else to jump in and have any chance to compete. What’s most puzzling is why Gilbert waited so long.

The Michigan Democratic Party put a good face on it, releasing a statement saying the race remains a top target for them:

Michigan law is clear: 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.

It’s always been a surprise to me that we haven’t been able to field a solid challenger in the 8th District. The broad and heavily-gerrymandered District includes Lansing which has all sorts of ambitious and talented politicians in it. People like State Rep. Sam Singh and former State Rep. Mark Meadows, both former and/or current mayors of East Lansing, come to mind. Or Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (a Bernero/Bishop match-up could be epic, actually.)

Gilbert’s chances of winning were always pretty remote. Almost immediately after announcing her candidacy, news broke that she owed the IRS north of a half million dollars in back taxes. It was all well and good that she was slowly paying it back but it’s pretty hard to convince a fairly conservative group of voters like those in the 8th District that you will be a watchful steward of how their tax dollars are being spent in Washington, D.C. when you can’t even manage your own finances. You have to make an incredible amount of money to be that far behind in taxes and to be on a payment plan with the IRS after amassing that much wealth and then spending it all, particularly someone being painted as yet another Hollywood liberal elitist, was never going to go over well.

At any rate, unless a miracle happens, you can get used to at least two more years of Congressman Mike Bishop. Multi-millionaire Matty Moroun must be giddy.