A Strong Night for REALTOR® Champions
November 4, 2020
Although votes are still being counted in many areas and analyses are far from over, REALTOR® candidates for state and local office had a strong showing in the 2020 election. From the latest available information, REALTORS® won 41 races and lost 20.
Additionally, there will be two runoff elections, while seven races involving members of the National Association of REALTORS® were still too close to call.
Of 16 ballot measures nationwide that NAR’s Issue Mobilization Committee supported with grants, the pro-REALTOR® position prevailed or is currently leading in eight of them. These grants ranged from $4.8 million for the effort by the California Association of REALTORS® to pass California’s Proposition 19, increasing the portability of property tax rates, to $5,000 for the Baldwin (Alabama) Association’s efforts supporting a transportation bond initiative.
Early voting and mail-in ballots took on a larger role than ever. Nearly 100 million Americans opted to vote before Election Day—42% of the total population eligible to vote.
Among REALTORS®, the percentage of early voters was even higher. Out of 1.4 million members, 767,020 REALTORS®, or 55% of the total membership, voted early in 2020, according to data provided to NAR by political consulting firm REAL Strategies. In 2016, the first year the percentage was tracked, 41% voted before Election Day. The four REALTOR® champions profiled in REALTOR® Magazine in September all won on Tuesday.
In Florida, REALTOR® Lauren Melo was victorious in her bid to become the state representative for House District 80, serving Naples and the surrounding area. The Republican took in 62% of the vote over her Democratic challenger. Running what was called a “low-key reelection campaign” by the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper, Republican Jason Shoaf easily held onto his seat as representative for House District 7, a 10-county area in the Florida Panhandle, winning 73% of the vote.
Shoaf expects that the shift to early voting made necessary by the pandemic will become the norm in future campaigns. “There were no long lines to vote in Florida, no major voting issues, and the results came back in a reasonable time,” he said. “It’s going to change elections. Candidates will be spending more and will be more engaged and active as voters make their decisions earlier in the process.”
The campaign was even more straightforward for Texas Republican Cody Harris, who was unchallenged in his reelection bid for a seat representing District 8 in the Texas statehouse. District 8 is a rural area surrounding the town of Palestine. The road to victory was considerably narrower for Democrat Vikki Goodwin, who took 49.3% of the vote in her reelection campaign to represent Texas House District 47, just 1 percentage point more than her Republican challenger, an Austin police officer.
The pandemic made the campaign far more challenging than that of a typical election year. “It was tough, not being able to meet with voters in person. Virtual campaign events don’t have the same impact,” Goodwin says.
With the election over, she is already looking forward to resuming her work in the Texas House of Representatives, addressing some of the issues that have starkly divided people in her district and state. “People right now aren’t as willing to speak to the other side and understand their perspectives, but we all have the same needs, basic things that we all must have in order to build a strong economy: access to quality education and health care,” Goodwin said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Among the ballot initiatives voters considered in California, Proposition 19 passed with nearly 52% of the vote. The measure, which was supported by the California Association of REALTORS® in addition to the grant from from NAR®, provides new tax breaks to seniors and disabled homeowners by allowing them to sell their primary residence and transfer its tax base to a different primary residence of any value anywhere in the state.
The goal is to increase the inventory of homes for sale in California’s tight market while providing much-needed revenue to help state and local governments fight wildfires, among other purposes. It will go into effect in February, although some aspects of the complex measure still need to be clarified by the state legislature.
Other ballot measure wins for REALTORS® include:
- A rent control measure in Sacramento, Calif., that proponents had been pushing for more than two years was overwhelmingly defeated, 37% in favor and 62% opposed.
- A transfer tax increase in Albany, Calif., was defeated.
- A charter amendment in Montgomery County, Md., that would change how property tax increases are calculated, and was supported by the Greater Capitol Association of REALTORS®, is leading, and likely to win.
Updated: November 25, 2020