Twin sisters in opposing parties run for office in neighboring districts

Our series, A More Perfect Union, aims to show that what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us. In this installment, CBS News' Michelle Miller meets identical twin sisters from Grand Rapids, Michigan, who are alike in almost every single way, except for one thing.


Monica Sparks and Jessica Ann Tyson finish each other's sentences and bicker, like most siblings. The identical twins are even running for the same office in neighboring districts in Kent County, Michigan.

But that's where the similarities end. Sparks is a Democrat and Tyson is a Republican.

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Jessica Ann Tyson and Monica Sparks CBS News

"When she told our dad that she was running as a Republican our dad said, 'You gotta be cotton pickin' kiddin' me.' I mean, he almost fell off his chair and it's funny because I say I stand with the Democratic Party for civil rights, liberty, justice for all, equality and equity, and she says the same thing about the Republican Party. ... So I think we just see through a different lens," Sparks said.

Sparks said she doesn't see the county commissioner position she's running for as a "seat." Instead, she's running to serve. 

The sisters feel called to serve after a difficult childhood, including a mom who battled addiction and abuse in the foster care system.

"We had one mattress we slept on," Tyson said. 

"All of us. Yeah. No cover," Sparks added.

"I remember we would have to decide like who would try to get the cereal on top of the refrigerator," Tyson said. "So now you're going into the night, and then you wake up, and you still can't get that box of cereal. So Monica would go out and she would look in trash cans." 

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When they were eight years old, Sparks and Tyson were adopted into a loving home where they learned to embrace their individuality and find common ground.
 
"Our mom never let us argue," Sparks said. "Our goal was: if we did have a difference of opinion, we had to do research on it. So she had to research my point, I had to research my point, and then we'd come together and try to figure out a solution."
 
The twins may belong to opposing political parties, but their message transcends labels.

"The left wing and the right wing belong to the same bird," the two said.

"I can like someone and not appreciate their policies, and that's what I do with her every day," Tyson said.

If they both win, the sisters would serve side by side on the board of commissioners.
 
"We have a goal, a common goal, to serve the people. ... We're not gonna agree on 100 percent of everything, but if we can find 50 percent, 60 percent … to agree on, then let's work on those things that we can agree on and then we'll try to figure out the rest later," Sparks said.

What their political differences won't do, they said, is split them up. 

The primary election is on August 7. The twins admit that they would actually endorse each other's opponents but at the end of the day, they say they are not divided, just separated for a reason.