The West Michigan DeVos family which owns numerous companies including The Windquest Group and Amway, have
Many of the races are taking place in “safe” Republican districts, meaning the primary winners are likely to end up in Lansing.
In Michigan’s 82nd state House district, nine different DeVos family members made maximum $1,000 donations to Lapeer County GOP Chair Jan Peabody, a nurse who is locked in a four-candidate race that includes Todd Courser, an attorney by trade and one that nearly unseated Michigan Republican Chairman Bobby Schostak in 2013.
Then again in the 98th district, where DeVos’ gave a combined $9,000 to Midland businessman Karl Ieuter, who is running against social conservative Gary Glenn, co-author of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
Greg McNeilly, 42, left of Grand Rapids, attempting to marry his
longtime partner Doug Meeks, 37, of Lansing,
outside the Ingham County courtroom
“If you look at the DeVos role and engagement in Michigan politics
Courser is also facing opposition from the Great Lakes Education Project, a DeVos-backed group that filed a campaign finance reform complaint against him because he used a campaign email to solicit donations for Glenn and fellow House candidate Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell. The Great Lakes Education Project is working to install Common Core Education into our State School system.
Todd Courser said, “If we can get some conservatives in the right spots, that’s going to mean something going forward. That will mean a bulwark in the state House, even if it’s just one or two willing to stand up against the tide of the progressive left.”
GLEP executive director Gary Naeyaert said the organization is not necessarily targeting tea party members but is not a fan of Courser. He noted that GLEP has endorsed a total of 56 state House and Senate candidates this fall, including a few that have backing from tea party groups. For Gary Maeyeart to say he isn't targeting Tea Party members doesn't make sense as it is the Tea Party that is fighting to stop common core from being installed in our school system.
“We care about a broad array of issues, and education is our primary focus,” Naeyaert said. “Most political organizations don’t get involved in a lot of primaries. We get involved because we’re willing to take some risks to make sure the best candidates are nominated.” Which means that Naeyeart needs to get enough progressive Republicans in office to install Common Core.
Tea party leaders believe a handful of affiliated candidates could fare well in their respective primaries, setting the stage for a larger presence in Lansing. Their spirits were buoyed by U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's surprise primary loss in Virginia early last month.
The local push has been fueled by three key votes in the state Legislature this session, according to Jim Lefler of the Madison Project Michigan, which has endorsed several tea party candidates and social conservatives in their Republican primaries.
“We see Medicaid expansion as government expansion,” said Lefler. “The Detroit bailout, we don’t think was fiscally responsible, and Common Core is an expansion of centralized government power over locals. Those are three issues we really picked up on.”
The DeVos family has also donated to at least five incumbent lawmakers who will go up against tea party challengers next week: State Reps. Al Pscholka of Stevensville, Frank Foster of Petosky, Lisa Posthumus Lyons of Alto and Klint Kesto of Commerce, along with Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake. These candidates have been singled out for their views and votes on common core, medicaid expansion, the health exchange and potential tax increases on gas and internet purchases.
In addition Republican incumbent Rep. Frank Foster of Petoskey has become a crusader for the homosexual agenda. Foster has requested language for a bill which would add homosexuals to the Michigan civil rights code.
Lisa Posthumus Lyons, daughter of former Lt Gov Dick Posthumus is facing an uphill battle with tea party activist Angela Rigas in the 86th house district.
Klint Klesto who has been a major tea party disappointment could very well lose his seat to Lakes Area Tea Party founder and former 9th Republican Congressional District Board member Deb O'Hagan in the 44th house district.
Pscholka is locked in a competitive race with conservative activist Cindy Duran, while Christian school teacher Lee Chatfield has gained some traction in his bid to unseat foster, who he’s criticized for supporting an update to the state’s anti-discrimination law to protect gay residents.
Several tea party candidates — including Courser, Chatfield and Glenn — have contributed large sums to their own campaigns. Glenn has spent upwards of $60,000 of his own money on the race, according to campaign finance documents.
Several incumbent state lawmakers already align with the tea party, most notably Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton. And regardless of how many seats the tea party wins, observers say the movement has already had a significant impact in Lansing.
The establishment/tea party debate will also play out lower down the ticket on the primary ballot, where voters will select precinct delegates, who could end up deciding Gov. Rick Snyder’s running mate at the Michigan GOP’s August nominating convention.
Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is facing a challenge from RetakeOurGov.org founder Wes Nakagiri, and his campaign committee has launched an extensive percent recruitment operation. The Michigan Freedom Fund, run by DeVos operative Greg McNeilly, has also been recruiting precinct delegates.