Two Gay Men Vie for Same Seat on Ingham County Commission

LANSING — Two openly gay men are vying to replace Democrat Rebecca Bahar-Cook on the Ingham County Commission.
Democrats Ryan Sebolt, 33, and Wyatt Ludman, 21, will face off on the Aug. 2 Democratic primary. The winner of that primary is expected to win in November because of the makeup of the district.
The two men's ages aren't the only differences between the candidates. Sebolt graduated from Albion College in 2005 with a bachelor's degree 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.
The MSU student said he has the experience of putting political rhetoric into action — and wants to put that to work at the commission.
"It is relatively easy to make a lot of noise and posture on policy issues, especially in the age of social media," he observed. "What I believe makes me unique for this position is that I don't stop with advocacy. I have a history of working to bring about positive change. My experience and education is extensive and relevant to the work of the Ingham County Commission."
For Sebolt, his extensive roots in the community are key to why he thinks he will be successful if elected as county commissioner.
"Having lived in the area nearly my entire life, I have long been an advocate for, and promoter of, Lansing," he wrote in response to questions. "I have also worked for the state Legislature since 2007, which has given me the opportunity to interact with various levels of government including the local and county level. My work experience has given me insight into the legislative and budgeting processes which I can draw on while performing the duties of a county commissioner."
Ludman cut his teeth with a fellowship with the Obama re-election campaign, followed by work implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He too is currently employed by the state Legislature.
From that perspective, as well as serving as chair of the MSU College Democrats and as the secretary of the Ingham County Democratic Party, Ludman said he had witnessed the importance of openly LGBTQ leadership in political offices.
"As a member of the LGBTQ community, I have witnessed, firsthand, how important it is that community members and elected officials establish a commutative dialogue," he said. "This establishes mutual accountability and diligence. If elected, I will use this experience to ensure that I am taking into consideration the experience of the individual constituent when making decisions. This has driven me to ensure that I am making decisions that take into consideration the personal rights of each individual in the district."
The 2004 ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage in Michigan was a key issue in driving Sebolt's drive for social justice, he said.
"The 2004 ballot initiative to ban same-sex marriage in Michigan prompted me towards political involvement and led me to be an advocate on issues of equal protection and social and economic justice," he said. "Moving forward I will continue to be a voice for the fair and equal treatment of all people."
He has served on the board of directors of the Suits in the City LGBTQ business and social mixer group in Lansing for the last five years.
As for priorities, Sebolt said regionalism was key for him.
I hope to build on successful regional cooperation efforts, such as Potter Park Zoo, to help provide the level of services and quality of life that attracts a talented workforce," he said.
And taking a swipe at rural commissioners who have been pushing to put cash from a two year old parks and trail millage towards the development of trails within their municipalities, Sebolt said he favors upkeep over building new.
"I believe we should protect the investments we have made by prioritizing maintenance of existing trails and pathways infrastructure," he said.
Ludman said he would push to expand the county's healthcare millage, as well as be a voice for employees and work to address the issues of homelessness and criminal justice involvement in the county.
"Although the PPACA has extended coverage to many individuals who were once covered by the Ingham County Health Plan, this service continues to play an important role in many people's lives," he said. "In addition, I hope to work to explore ways to educate the public on the service provided by the county, including STI and HIV screening services, etc."
Ingham County has one of the highest HIV rates in the state.
"Another of my goals is to find ways to fully utilize county resources to better deal with homelessness and criminal justice," he said. "The county offers many services, directly and indirectly, that attempt to combat homelessness. I hope to bring attention to the numerous scenarios that increase the chances of homelessness (among them being a member of the LGBTQ community) and work to implement more programs that treat these contributing factors."


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