Patrick Newton is the director of Advocacy and PR Communications at the National Association of REALTORS®.
Elections in the Time of COVID-19
While much about the political season is different this year, the REALTOR® Party keeps the focus on your interests.
September - October
With 33 Senate seats and all 435 House seats up for election, the National Association of REALTORS® was prepared for a busy election year. But when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, NAR’s policy priorities in Washington shifted overnight. “That was the moment all our work paid off in ways previously unimaginable,” says Shannon McGahn, senior vice president of government affairs at NAR. “Congress wanted to prevent a housing collapse. And we were positioned to help them.”
At a time when the real estate industry needed it most, years of relationship building and investments paid dividends for REALTORS®. As part of COVID-19 relief packages, NAR helped secure unprecedented benefits for small business owners and independent contractors. Not only have these policies helped the nation’s 1.4 million REALTORS® weather the ongoing public health and economic crisis, they’re playing a critical part in the nation’s overall economic recovery.
As Election Day nears, the REALTORS® Political Action Committee and the REALTOR® Party face an unfamiliar landscape. Many unknowns remain about how the electoral process will unfold in the weeks before Nov. 3: How much in-person campaigning will candidates do? Will they be able to fundraise effectively? How will increased mail-in voting affect turnout?
Despite the disruptions related to the pandemic, the association has stayed in line with projections outlined during RPAC Trustees Fundraising and Board of Directors meetings earlier this year. NAR federal investments will come in various forms, including through RPAC hard and soft dollar expenditures and federal independent expenditures, among others.
The number of targeted opportunity races has nearly doubled from 2018 to more than 90. These involve political communications specifically to REALTORS® in support of individual House or Senate candidates who do the most to support homeownership and private property rights. These campaigns allow NAR to help drive get-out-the-REALTOR®-vote efforts. This year, those efforts include direct mail, email, and online “town hall” meetings between candidates and REALTORS®.
Determining how to allocate RPAC resources and identify targets for federal independent expenditures is an ongoing process. NAR develops real estate–related messages and target audiences for each campaign. In accordance with campaign finance law, NAR’s federal independent expenditure activity can’t be coordinated with candidates or their campaigns. To ensure compliance, NAR notifies state and local REALTOR® leadership about planned independent expenditure campaigns just before the first communications become public.
Each election cycle, NAR and RPAC conduct post-election research in select congressional districts and states. We analyze the strengths and weaknesses of NAR’s targeted communications while determining how effective individual messages were in driving voter turnout. This information will prove critical for the RPAC Trustees Federal Disbursements Committee, which governs NAR’s federal electoral expenditures and related programs, as it looks toward 2022 and beyond.
Since March, the role that a home plays in the life of every American has gained renewed prominence. This attention underscores REALTORS®’ central role in their communities and in policymaking. Real estate must remains a priority for America’s lawmakers not just through Election Day but well after the pandemic is long behind us.
Wes Shaw serves as the National Association of REALTORS®’ media manager of advocacy issues. In the role, he works with NAR’s policy staff to advance NAR’s regulatory and legislative priorities.
Updated: October 23, 2020