Gilbert, who lives in Livingston County with her husband, actor Timothy Busfield, is running as a Democrat in a district that has been a Republican stronghold in recent elections: U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, won the race to replace former U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Howell, last year, beating Democrat Eric Schertzing, 54%-42%.
But someone with Gilbert’s celebrity could make a splash, especially when it comes to raising funds for her campaign. Bishop was recently added to the Republican’s Patriot Program, an effort to help potentially vulnerable incumbents maintain their seats in Congress, though it’s unclear why he was marked for such aid.
“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 released on her website, www.gilbertformichigan.com. “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.”
Her hopes could also be helped in a presidential year when Democratic turnout tends to be higher. President Barack Obama won the district 52%-46% in 2008, though Republican nominee Mitt Romney outperformed the incumbent Democrat 51%-48% in 2012.
Gilbert, 51, has not held political office before but was president of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001 to 2005, serving two terms. An actress and director, she is a native of California and moved to Howell in 2013 after marrying Busfield, who is a native of East Lansing.
There are questions she will have to address, however. 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.”
Michigan’s 8th Congressional District stretches east of Lansing through Ingham and Livingston counties and into northern Oakland County.
Contact Todd Spangler: 703-854-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @tsspangler
From the Detroit Free Press: http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/2015/08/10/gilbert-congress-run/31424715/