Melissa Gilbert Talks Running for Congress in Michigan – with a Little Help from Her Famous Friends

"It's great that Rosie O'Donnell is taking an interest in the 8th Congressional District in Michigan," Melissa Gilbert says

Photo: Getty

With donations from famous friends like Jennifer Garner, Alec Baldwin and Michael Douglas, Melissa Gilbert‘s campaign for Congress in Michigan’s 8th district is off to a well-financed start.

That said, the 51-year-old actress, who rose to fame for playing Laura Ingalls Wilder in the 1970s hit TV series Little House on the Prairie, is facing a tough battle in the swingy, gerrymandered district that encompasses the roughly 100 miles of farmland between the state capital of Lansing and the upscale suburbs of Detroit. The district hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. House since the 1990s.

The actress, who moved to Michigan in 2013 after marrying her third husband, Thirtysomething actor Timothy Busfield, isn’t shying away from using her star power to bolster her campaign. I’m “really glad that George Clooney’s been a friend of mine for 30 years,” she tells The Washington Post in a new interview. And “It’s great that Rosie O’Donnell is taking an interest in the 8th Congressional District in Michigan.”

But Gilbert tells the Post that 80 percent of her donors are small-dollar locals, and one of her first big donors was a Republican.

The actress began her political career by helping out with the 2014 Michigan gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Mark Schauer. Schauer lost the election but Gilbert’s involvement in the campaign helped her find a place in the hearts of locals.

“People were knocking on our doors and she was taking the time to deal with them,” Busfield says. “People were saying, ‘My mom is dying.’ And I would be like, ‘Where are you going?’ and she’d be, ‘I’m going to their house. Their mom wants to meet me.’ I kept seeing somebody who belonged in service It seemed natural from there that [people] would come to her and say, ‘Can you represent us, and are you interested in doing it?’ ”

Gilbert announced her candidacy last summer after she and her husband moved to a secluded country home in Brighton, Michigan. The state Democratic party cleared the field for Gilbert, making her only opponent first-term Republican Rep. Mike Bishop.

“I’m so impressed with her,” says Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who represented Michigan’s 8th district in the 1990s and encouraged Gilbert to run. “She’s been involved in a number of different issues around health care and children and families, and she’s very, very bright, very astute. She’d be a terrific congresswoman.”

Here’s a sampling of Gilbert’s campaign donors, per The Washington Post:

Clay Aiken, $1,000

Alec Baldwin, $1,000

Tom Bergeron, $1,000

Gabrielle Carteris, $500

Sara Gilbert (her sister), $1,363

Quinn Cummings, $250

Michael Douglas, $3,500

Polly Draper, $2,000

Shelley Fabares, $303

Jennifer Garner, $5,400

Seth Green, $2,000

Arlo Guthrie, $500

Florence Henderson, $550

Marshall Herskovitz, $1,500

Peter Horton, $1,625

Laura Innes, $1,000

Jane Kaczmarek, $1,000

Jeffrey Katzenberg, $2,700

Juliette Lewis, $500

Bryan Lourd, $2,700

Seth MacFarlane, $5,400

Rosie O’Donnell, $5,400

Ken Olin, $1,500

Daniel Palladino, $2,700

Amy Sherman-Palladino, $2,700

Sarah Paulson, $1,000

Elizabeth Perkins, $1,000

Linda Perry, $2,000

Matthew Perry, $5,400

Sam Raimi, $1,500

Jeremy Ratchford, $500

Melissa Rivers, $1,500

Katey Sagal, $500

Sherri Shepherd, $1,050

John Slattery, $2,700

Aaron Sorkin, $1,000

Daniel Stern, $500

Kiefer Sutherland, $5,400

Steve Zahn, $250

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