Two openly gay men are vying to move onto the November ballot as the Democratic candidate for the Second County Commission District. It’s the first time in Ingham County history that two out gay candidates have battled for the same seat.
Ryan Sebolt, 33, and Wyatt Ludman, 21, want to replace outgoing Commissioner Rebecca Bahar-Cook. The district leans heavily Democratic and the winner of the August primary is expected to win in November against Republican Patricia Muscovalley.
The district stretches across Lansing’s downtown into the east side. Most of the district lies north of I-496, but there is a section jutting south of the highway, which includes REO Town and the Moores River Drive neighborhood. That section also includes the embattled Scott Park property, where the Lansing Board of Water & Light wants to build a controversial new power substation.
Sebolt graduated from Albion College in 2005 with dual majors in psychology and gender studies. Ludman expects to graduate from Michigan State University's James Madison College with a degree in social relations and policy next year.
But both men have been active in Democratic politics for years. Ludman said his first taste of politics was in 2008 at the age of 13. He volunteered to knock doors for the Obama presidential campaign and after passage of the Affordable Care Act passed, Ludman worked to enroll people.
Sebolt has been working in various political campaigns locally and nationally knocking doors and stuffing envelopes for years. He works for a Democratic state representative’s office, as does Ludman.
In interviews, City Pulse asked them to identify one specific measurable goal by which voters could judge them during re-election time in two years.
Sebolt joked about finding the bathroom, then pivoted to a promise to push for measurable progress on regional cooperation.
“I would like to be able to sit down two years from now and say we started x-project, x-project and x-project, because of the county and these communities,” Sebolt said. “I would like to point to concrete actual regional efforts that have gone on — cooperation, joint services — and be able to point to those.”
Ludman said one of his goals would be to push to relocate the county jail into Lansing. That proposal is something he said he has heard a great deal of support for while knocking on doors. Positioning the jail in Lansing would reduce duplication of lock-up services for the city as well as make it easier for city residents to travel to the jail for visits and pick-ups.
“That’s a big decision and it’s something that everyone pays attention to,” he said.
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero has said he would like to see the jail located along Martin Luther King Boulevard Jr. west of the state capital complex.
Both men also expressed concerns about how park millage money is distributed. Approved in 2014, the millage over its six-year lifespan is expected to net the county about $20 million, said Commissioner Teri Banas, who chairs the County Trails and Parks Task Force.
After two years of collecting the revenues, the county this spring finally approved a way to release some of that banked cash to address programs. However, the proposal would require municipalities to pay for upgrades first and seek reimbursement. Lansing Parks and Recreation Director Brett Kaschinke told the task force that the proposal would not work. Lansing has a significant need for the tax cash to fix places like the River Trail.
Said Ludman: “That’s something we need to continue working through and not put off how we are going to allocate the money — hopefully in a way that makes a little bit more sense for Lansing.”
Sebolt said he has been a big “proponent” of the millage.
“The money is there, let’s fix it,” he said. “We know what needs to be fixed and in what priority it needs to be fixed.”