How REALTORS® Turn Around Elections

Whether aiming for the city council, statehouse, or Congress, supported candidates all understand the importance of healthy real estate markets.

September 14, 2016

When Utah Governor Gary Herbert embarked on his bid for reelection earlier this year, he faced a steep hurdle. Despite receiving bipartisan praise for his stewardship of the state during its six-year economic recovery, he faced a surprising challenge from within his own party. Businessman Jonathan Johnson, founder of the national website Overstock.com, forced a primary matchup, rallying party activists at the state Republican convention in April by outpolling the governor, 55-45, among delegates. (Candidates need at least 60 percent of the vote to win the nomination outright.) Two months later, though, Herbert topped his opponent by 44 points in the Utah primary, and he’s now favored to win in the general election on November 8.

REALTORS® played an important role in turning back the challenge to Herbert, a veteran real estate professional who was president of the Utah Association of REALTORS® in 1995. Tapping state and national REALTOR® Party resources, an advocacy team at the Utah Association of REALTORS® identified people in the state who weren’t registered and extended help to them to become registered voters. “We knew if we could drive a large voter turnout, Gov. Herbert would win walking away because he’s had seven years of being an incredible governor,” says Chris Kyler, CEO of the Utah association.

Among the resources UAR tapped for the election was a REALTOR® Party program for identifying households to receive targeted outreach. UAR used the program to identify residents who were likely to vote if they could first be helped through the registration process. “We were able to identify people with unbelievable precision,” Kyler says. “That helped us get a lot of bang for the buck.”

Should he win reelection, Herbert says, he’ll continue to use his years of experience as a real estate professional to help him guide the state. “I can tell you I’m a better governor because I was first a REALTOR®,” Herbert said in a recent interview on Real Estate Today, NAR’s nationally syndicated consumer radio show. “It allows me to keep appropriate perspective when we develop policies in government.”

In hundreds of races around the country, from governorships to state legislatures to city councils, REALTORS® are getting involved in support of REALTOR® Champions—candidates who understand the importance of real estate in creating vibrant communities. This year, many of these REALTOR® Champions are REALTORS® themselves.

“It’s especially important for REALTORS® to be involved now because we’ve spent years trying to recover from the recession, and what we don’t want are new taxes or regulations that would stall growth,” says Sam Licklider, chief lobbyist for Missouri REALTORS®.

Missouri REALTORS® held a fundraiser and sent out voter mailings during the primary season on behalf of Hannah Kelly, a past president of the Ozark Trail Board of REALTORS® who is running for a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives. Kelly, an associate with Earth Outdoor Properties in Mountain Grove, credited REALTORS® for making the difference in her 45-vote margin of victory in the primary. “I cherish the relationships that I’ve developed with my buyers and sellers over the last ten years, but after this campaign journey, I cherish the relationships of my fellow REALTORS® on an even higher level,” says Kelly, a Republican, who is now running unopposed in the general election. “My REALTOR® family believed in this 28-year-old broker from southwest Missouri and helped make this dream a reality.”

Kelly says her background in real estate is critical to how she’ll approach her role as a legislator. “Beginning my real estate career at the age of 18 taught me numerous things early on, but none more important than bringing people together.”

Gwen Pangle, a REALTOR® who’s been selling real estate in the historic town of Leesburg, Va., for almost three decades, is leveraging her business experience as she makes her first run for public office, a seat on the city council. “The strongest suit I have is my 28 years in real estate, all of it in this community,” says Pangle, founder and broker of Pangle & Associates. “My logo and branding are well-known, my office is right on Main Street, and I’ve sat on many, many local committees.”

The Dulles Area Association of REALTORS® held a fundraiser for Pangle, a Democrat, and the Virginia Association of REALTORS® has plans for polling, a mailing, and running online ads. “We need smart growth in downtown Leesburg, and Gwen has the experience in real estate to help the city grow in the right way,” says Beckwith Bolle, owner and principal broker of Carter Braxton Preferred Properties in Leesburg and a director of the Virginia Association of REALTORS®.

In California, REALTORS® are using state and national REALTOR® Party resources to produce mailings, buy online ads, and conduct polling on behalf of the reelection of Cathleen Galgiani, a veteran state lawmaker who sits on key banking and housing committees in the state Senate and is widely acknowledged for her work helping home owners and small businesses in the wake of the state’s foreclosure crisis.

“Her district was ground zero for the housing crisis,” says Don Scordino, CRS, GRI, chair of the political action committee for the California Association of REALTORS® and an associate with Realty Concepts Ltd. in Fresno. “I think that’s one of the reasons she sees real estate issues as such a priority; she has seen the rise and fall of the housing market firsthand.”

Scordino says the PAC is taking a lesson from its REALTOR® members in how it’s approaching the mailings for Galgiani, a Democrat. Instead of adding to the flood of fliers voters will be receiving in the final weeks of the general election race, the PAC began sending out mailings in July and will continue with mailings once a month until October. There are also mailings targeting REALTORS® in Galgiani’s district, which includes parts of Stockton and other Central Valley areas and parts of Sacramento. “We’re going out with our mailings early, when no one else is,” says Scordino. “We’re taking the same approach we use as agents to introduce ourselves in new neighborhoods. We get our message out when no one else is inundating their mailboxes. We’re taking a page from our own book.