KENTWOOD, Mich. – Twin sisters Monica Sparks and Jessica Ann Tyson seem identical in almost every way – that is, until they start talking politics.
Jessica, a Republican, decided to run for Kent County Commissioner for the 13th district, which later inspired Monica to run for herself in the 12th district but as a Democrat.
“The reason that I’m standing as a Democrat is funny because she said the same thing but we just see through two different lenses,” Monica tells WXMI.
For two sisters that have been each other’s biggest supporters, that decision took a toll on them.
“We are not divided. Separated for a season, guess you could say because after this we will figure out whichever way it goes,” Monica says.
Jessica says having separate campaigns has brought back difficult memories for her. Monica and Jessica’s birthmother was addicted to heroin and they were later abused by their foster parents to the point of starvation.
“When we were little, we were taken away from our mother and we were separated and that was really, really hard,” Jessica says. “(Campaigning separately) isn’t the same thing but you know, that memory just took me back just a second.”
That pain from their childhood is part of what fuels their commitment to serve Kent County.
“It’s so amazing just to be able to sit here and run for county commissioner, are you kidding me?” Monica says.
Monica and Jessica were eventually adopted into a loving family that taught them to be civically engaged.
“Our parents were strict about voting,” Monica says. “You better vote. It is your right, it is your responsibility, people have died for that right.”
When they were kids and even now, the twins say their mother never allowed them to argue about politics. Jessica says growing up they didn’t even know which party their parents identified with.
“My thing is, at the end of the day our parents taught us that we need to stand and stand for something and because we stand and we stand strong, we don’t necessarily have to agree on politics or even what we’re gonna drink for the evening,” Jessica says. “We don’t have to agree on that but one thing we have to do is coexist.”
Even as adults, you can still catch them finishing each other’s sentences.
“The left wing and the right wing belong to the same bird,” Jessica and Monica say together.
The sisters say they refuse to write each other off simply because of their party affiliations.
“It takes time to get to understand people,” Jessica says. “It takes time to get to understand their experiences but if you do that I promise you, you will find more commonality than anything else.”
Monica says those commonalities include equality, justice, liberty and wanting others to succeed.
“I want make sure that we continue services for our seniors, our respected veterans, families, individuals and children,” Monica says. “I’d also like to make sure that we take care of our mental health for individuals. Where we can have strong minds, we can have strong, healthy communities.”
Those are all issues Jessica agrees with.
“I would like to see the state work with the counties better for roads,” Jessica says. “These roads need infrastructure and these roads are horrible. I’d like to see us have world class schools, schools that will educate our children to the top level, not to be somewhere just okay.”
Still, the sisters say they will stay loyal to their parties and endorse each other’s opponents.