‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Melissa Gilbert’s 2016 Congress Run Was Ended Due to Freak Accident Injuries

by Jennifer Shea

Actress turned politician Melissa Gilbert had a stroke of bad luck in 2016 while she was running for Congress. The former “Little House on the Prairie” star had to withdraw from her race to recover from a surgery to deal with her spinal problems.

Gilbert had two herniated discs from injuries she suffered in 2012, according to People magazine.

Back then, Gilbert had fallen on “Dancing with the Stars.” She got a concussion and whiplash as a result. Several months later, she suffered another concussion and needed stitches when the balcony of a house she was renting collapsed onto her head. As a result of that accident, two previously healthy discs in her neck became compressed.

‘Little House on the Prairie’ Star Had a History of Back Problems

Gilbert told People she had a “long history” of neck and spine problems. In 2003, she underwent surgery to fuse a herniated disc.

Between 2012 and 2016, Gilbert said, her injuries led to nerve damage that brought with it unbearable pain.

“I have numbness in my right hand, shooting pains in my right arm and numbness in my neck,” she told People. “So, after years of care, my neurologists are sending me to a neurosurgeon because I need to have another spinal surgery.”

Doctors told Gilbert the recovery process required at least three months. So in May of 2016, she pulled out of the race.

“It’s indescribable to have to make this decision because I had my sights set on my opponent and a lot of people around me felt that I could win,” Gilbert said at the time.

Gilbert Withdrew from the Race Prior to the Primary

Gilbert had intended to run against incumbent Republican Mike Bishop in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District. The district had been safely Republican, at least up to that point, according to Ballotpedia. She withdrew from the race before the primary election. In the general election, Bishop defeated Gilbert’s replacement, Democrat Suzanna Shkreli. He also beat out the Libertarian, Green and Natural Law Party candidates.

Gilbert raised roughly $803,685 in contributions during that period, according to Federal Election Commission data. Bishop raised about $1,643,481, FEC data show.

Shkreli, Gilbert’s replacement, was able to take over from Gilbert once election officials declared Gilbert physically unfit to run, according to the local NPR affiliate, Michigan Radio. Democrats had targeted the district as a possible turnover that year, but after Gilbert withdrew, they failed to flip the seat.