Takeaways From the Federal Legislative & Political Forum


John Blom

Former Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi (left), moderator John Blom, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, and moderator Adam Ruiz.
REALTORS® Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo

The 2019 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo kicked off (as always) with the Federal Legislative & Political Forum. Despite its 8 a.m. start time, the room was packed with REALTORS® eager to hear from former governors Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia. The theme for the forum was “Behind the Scenes in Today’s Political Environment.”

One of the goals that both the chair, Adam Ruiz of California, and I had for the forum was to create a conversation between two well-respected figures from opposite sides of the aisle. The former governors engaged on everything from the 2020 presidential election to housing affordability, from voter rights issues to transit and smart growth.

A topic that both Barbour and McCauliffe have worked on extensively is addressing the challenge of redistricting congressional and legislative districts. McAuliffe bemoaned the fact that the redistricting completed after the 2010 census has put Democrats at a disadvantage for the last decade. 

Barbour added that of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 350 of those members live in districts that are not consistently competitive between Republicans and Democrats from one election cycle to the next. In that type of district, moderates on either side of the aisle are at constant risk of being “primaried” by a more extreme candidate. That environment discourages the type of bi-partisan cooperation that Washington truly needs to solve the problems our country faces.

On the issue of housing affordability, both speakers agreed that it was a serious problem, and one that could not be solved at the federal level. Instead, state and local governments need to take a serious look at regulatory and permitting issues that drive up the cost of housing. Not surprisingly, these comments were met with overwhelming applause.

McAuliffe also spoke about the importance of transit and smart growth. He noted that in Virginia, they are running out of space to build new roads, which is driving a need to rethink employment centers and creating communities where people can work yet still afford to live.

This kind of respectful dialogue is at the heart of what the REALTOR® Legislative Meetings and the REALTOR® Party is all about. I might be a little biased, but I think the forum was a fantastic kickoff for what will be an even more fantastic week!