THURSDAY, Nov. 3 — Just like big-name politicians have their major donors — such as hedge-fund founder George Soros on the left and venture capitalist Peter Thiel on the right — on a smaller scale, so do three ultra-conservative candidates for the Grand Ledge school board.
The trio has received nearly 25% of their campaign funding from Haslett residents Terry and Valerie Applegate. Terry Applegate's father founded Applegate Insulation, in Webberville, which according to Cision PR Newswire is "the world's largest family-owned cellulose insulation manufacturer." Established in 1978, Applegate has 10 production plants across the country, according to Cision. Efforts to reach the Applegates for comment were unsuccessful. This year, Applegate merged with Greenfiber, of Charlotte, NC.
Campaign finance records show the retired couple each donated the maximum amount of $1,050 to each of the three Grand Ledge candidates, Kim LaForet, Ashley Oneil and Jason Devenbaugh.
The combined donations of $2,100 to each campaign equals 24.72% of Kim LaForet’s $8,492 haul. It represented 25.89% of Ashley Oneil’s $8,110 total fundraising, and 25.42% of Jason Devenbaugh’s fundraising take of $8,260.
Devenbaugh had $5,265.55 on hand, while LaForet had $4,795.93 and Oneil had $5,090.03. Altogether the trio raised $24,862. The records show they shared costs on the purchases of yard signs.
The trio has been tagged with the moniker “The Kitty Litter Caucus” by local political activists. They have accused the school of placing litter pans in the bathrooms for self-identified "furries," who are people who identify with and often dress like animals, but have presented no evidence. The school has also denied this has happened.
LaForet has denied she has made such accusations, despite a video of her statements during a school board meeting. In an Oct. 22 post on Facebook, she wrote, “I never said they were in the schools, I merely spoke up for a teacher that saw one in one of our schools earlier this year but was too afraid to question it due to the vitriol and ‘cancelling’ (sic) they would receive for even questioning it.”
Devenbaugh has admitted, after previously denying it, that he has anger issues and did have a personal protection order against him out of Jackson Circuit Court. The order was given to his second ex-wife during their divorce proceedings.
“She filed for divorce claiming violence and anger issues,” Devenbaugh wrote on his Facebook campaign page. “The Friend of the Court recommended she file for a PPO. There was no violence and no police reports claiming any violence.”
The Ap'plesgates have a history of donating to anti-LGBTQ politicians, including thousands of dollars to Tom McMillin, a former state representative who now serves as a member of the elected state Board of Education, according to the website Open Secrets.
Also, according to Open Secrets, Terry donated $360 to the Constitution Party in 2007 and 2008. The Constitution Party (previously the Taxpayer’s Party) has a theocratic philosophy including bans on abortion in all cases, opposition to same-sex marriage, criminalization of homosexuality including implementation of the death penalty for LGBTQ people and more, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The U.S. Taxpayers Party of Michigan, which identifies as the Michigan affiliate of the Constitution Party, passed a resolution in April 2016 condemning Michigan Board of Education's plan to create more inclusive policies for LGBTQ students. The resolution reads, in part, "Whereas USTPM finds the LGBTQ sexual behavior dangerous, unhealthy, and immoral, Whereas the Michigan Constitution requires the teaching of religion, morality, and knowledge, therefore Be it resolved that USTPM stands opposed to embracing the adoption of this policy in schools, and calls for the resignation of SBE members who support the proposed policy."
The trio also received donations from the Mid-Michigan Women for Conservative Values, $230, and the Eaton County Republican Committee, $333. School board races are nonpartisan. Each also received $500 from Dr. David J. Smith, a family practice physician in Grand Ledge who lives in Charlotte.
The other trio on the ballot includes Denise Dufort, Toni Glasscoe and Ashley Kuykendoll. Campaign finance reports show Kuykendoll raised $8,583.03. Glasscoe raised $3,116.02, and Dufort raised $5,162. The reports show Glasscoe had no cash on hand rolling into the final weeks of the campaign, while Kuykendoll had $2,283.83 on hand and DuFort had $1,116.18 on hand.
Dufort, the only incumbent on the ballot, received a $300 donation from the MEA-PAC. Glasscoe, who was appointed to the board in February, received $300 from the MEA-PAC. She also loaned, and forgave, her committee $1,022.63 for the purchase of yard signs. Kuykendoll also received an MEA-PAC check for $300. She also received a check from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Voluntary PAC for $250.
Those filings also show Kuykendoll has loaned her committee $1,209.92. That is still an outstanding debt for her campaign.
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