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Gilbert will try to remove name from ballot following primary win

Actor Melissa Gilbert has won a prize she no longer wants. Gilbert was the only candidate in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District primary. Now she’s going work to get her name off the November ballot.

Gilbert says she’s not healthy enough to campaign and to serve, if elected. But her campaign to unseat incumbent Republican Mike Bishop has also struggled.

The child star of "Little House on the Prairie” avoided media interviews and community events, and ran into criticism over comments she made on national TV shows as well as tax troubles. 

But Gilbert told People magazine in May that it’s a spinal injury that requires surgery that’s forcing her out of the race:

"My doctors said there's no way for me to continue to deal with the incredibly rigorous demands of a congressional campaign without continuing to do harm to my body."

That is, if she can get out.

Michigan allows candidates who win a primary to withdraw for health reasons, but sets up no process for how to do that.

Republicans are expected to push back. Many say Gilbert is now trying to skip out on the campaign now that she’s realized how tough politics can be.

“Somebody declaring for office, raising money for office, running for office, and then deciding they are physically incapable? There’s a not a precedent for that in our state,” says Sarah Anderson of the Michigan Republican Party. “I’m not really sure exactly how the process is going to go, but the Michigan Republican Party has retained outside legal counsel to help us sort of navigate this unprecedented situation.”

Anderson says one of the concerns is setting a precedent that would allow political parties to remove and replace a candidate in the middle of a campaign simply because they’re losing.

Democrats hope to replace Gilbert on the ballot with newcomer Suzanna Shkreli, an assistant prosecutor in Macomb County.


It will be up the state Bureau of Elections to make a determination once the primary results are formally certified and Gilbert submits her request to withdraw from the race. 

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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