Little House star Melissa Gilbert launches Congress bid

Gilbert played Laura Ingalls Wilder on the hugely popular 1974 to 1983 show.
Gilbert played Laura Ingalls Wilder on the hugely popular 1974 to 1983 show.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US actress Melissa Gilbert is seeking to parlay her television stardom on Little House On The Prairie into a big seat in the House of Representatives.

Gilbert, who played pint-sized Laura Ingalls Wilder on the hugely popular 1974 to 1983 show, said Tuesday she will run as a Democrat challenging the Republican incumbent in Michigan's 8th District.

"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, 51, said in a statement on her 2016 campaign website.

"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."

The show was a loose adaptation of the children's book series of the same name written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, a real-life pioneer who wrote of her settler childhood in her home state of Wisconsin and in Kansas.

Gilbert became a child star for her decade-long portrayal of little Laura. The show also starred Michael Landon as father of the clan.

Gilbert has never held political office, but she served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild, a post actor Ronald Reagan held before turning to politics and eventually winning the US presidency in 1980.

Gilbert, who went on to act in dozens of television series and TV movies, was raised in California but moved to Michigan in 2013 after marrying actor Timothy Busfield.

Celebrity bids for Congress are nothing new.

Last year, Clay Aiken, the runner-up in season two of TV talent show American Idol, ran for Congress from North Carolina, but lost to a Republican incumbent.

Fred Grandy served four terms in Congress after playing Gopher, the purser in 1970s and 1980s cruise comedy The Love Boat, while Ben Jones was elected in 1988 after his stint as Cooter in TV series The Dukes Of Hazzard.

Al Franken, a long-time star of famed late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live, is currently a US senator.