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Bishop: Yanking Gilbert from ballot sets bad precedent

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Mackinac Island — U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop said Thursday a “dangerous precedent” would be set if his Democratic rival Melissa Gilbert is allowed to get her name removed from the November general election ballot for vague physical health issues.

Gilbert, an actress and the childhood star of “Little House on the Prairie,” abruptly announced last week she will ask the Secretary of State’s office to remove her name from the ballot under an untested state law allowing a candidate to drop out if they are “physically unfit” to run for office.

The Howell Democrat cited neck and head injuries from two unspecified 2012 accidents that have hindered her ability to campaign for the 8th Congressional District seat against Bishop, a freshman Republican from Rochester.

“There’s no precedent for it and it would be a dangerous precedent to set,” Bishop said in an interview at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s policy conference on Mackinac Island. “I think the Secretary of State will look at it and reject it immediately.”

Gilbert will attempt to drop out of the race after the Aug. 2 primary, in which she is the only Democratic candidate on the ballot.

“She’s made it clear that she has a debilitating condition that will make her physically unable to serve,” said Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party. “While there may not be precedent for it, I think it’s clear she will meet the criteria under the law.”

The Secretary of State’s office has not taken a position on Gilbert’s eligibility to exit the race after the primary because she has not formally requested it and can’t do so until after the primary, State Elections Director Chris Thomas said.

State election law doesn’t define any specific health conditions that qualify a candidate to be deemed “physically unfit,” Thomas said.

“The law just says ‘physically unfit,’ it doesn’t say for what,” Thomas said Thursday. “Frankly, it’s a post-primary issue and we haven’t really done anything with it and don’t expect to anytime soon.”


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Twitter: @ChadLivengood