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Three Democratic women have stepped forward in the race for the 69th District state House seat that Rep. Sam Singh can’t seek again in 2018 because of term limits.
Two are from Meridian Township: Ingham County Commissioner Teri Banas and township Treasurer Julie Brixie. Former Commissioner Penelope Tsernoglou is from East Lansing.
Banas, 60, who grew up in the metro Detroit area and lives in Haslett, is a former journalist who covered politics for the Lansing State Journal.
“I was observing things in life, but not participating,” said Banas.
She found the inspiration to get active right outside her front door.
Banas wanted her neighborhood to have a sidewalk for her children to safely walk on, so she rallied her neighbors to sign a petition to have one built.
The petition was successful and launched Banas’ political career. She was elected to the Meridian Township Park Commission in 2004. Banas was part of a wave of ascending Democrats in a reliably Republican township.
After a decade on the Park Commission, she was elected to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners.
She has garnered endorsements from Ingham County Commissioner Deb Nolan and Haslett School Board President Chris Coady.
Banas said she will push for accessible higher education and repairs to the state’s infrastructure. She also wants to further the state’s conversation about social justice.
“The Trump Administration’s attacks and prejudices have been exploding; it’s hurting us as a nation,” Banas said. “We need to talk more openly and productively about race relations.”
East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows, who held the seat before Singh, has endorsed Brixie and tagged on as her treasurer.
Brixie, 51, grew up in Chicago as the daughter of two teachers.
“They were my role models for dedicating much of life’s work to public service,” Brixie said. “Education is really a kind of public service, and it was a core value in our household growing up. My parents are probably one of the reasons why I ever got involved.”
Brixie worked as an environmental chemist before winning a Meridian Township Board seat as a trustee in 2000. She served as a trustee until 2008 when she became the township’s treasurer.
“I served Meridian Township for two decades, and after November, I decided I have to step up and do more for our state and our future,” Brixie said. “There is a great deal of anxiety for what our future holds; I’m concerned about that too, and that’s why I’m running.”
She will focus on education and environmentalism. Brixie said the Great Lakes must be “preserved and protected.” She wants to repeal the 2015 Republican Road Plan, which she cited as turning Michigan roads into a “terrible mess.”
Tsernoglou calls her 2-year-old daughter her motivation for “pretty much everything.”
Tsernoglou, 38, worked as a lawyer before becoming an activist. She got her first taste after joining the animal rights organization Friends of the Ingham County Animal Shelter. She and other citizen activists successfully lobbied to outlaw Ingham County animal shelters from selling cats and dogs for research purposes in 2004.
Tsernoglou became the owner of Practical Political Consulting in 2010. She bought the business, which is the go-to place for politicians looking for lists of likely voters, from Mark Grebner. That same year, she was elected as Ingham County’s 8th District commissioner, which covers parts of East Lansing. She served three terms on the commission, but she declined to seek reelection in 2016.
During her tenure, Tsernoglou focused on providing accessible legal representation for the poor and funding diversion programs for juveniles. She was responsible for a millage that funded the building of a new animal shelter and paying for increased staffing.
Tsernoglou is running with endorsements from leading Lansing mayoral candidate Andy Schor, who represents Lansing in the House, and Grebner.
Tsernoglou will use her law experience to spur criminal justice reform.
“Black lives do matter, and we need to address that at a state and local level,” Tsernoglou said.
Singh has made no endorsements and is likely to return to philanthropy work.
Singh said: “It’s a competitive seat, and a year should be enough time for people to get to know the candidates.”