Campaigns to Model for Midterm Advocacy Success

Rally member support for candidates who support REALTOR® Party issues.

On Nov. 6 this year, Americans will vote to fill all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives, 33 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, and countless state and local positions. Ballot initiatives and legislation affecting the real estate market, housing development, property taxes, zoning, and more are up for consideration. No doubt the elections this fall will be a major opportunity for positive change. How is your association making its voice heard? With training and financial support from the National Association of REALTORS®, associations of any size can make an impact. Here are three case studies in successful campaigns that you can implement in your own backyard to elect candidates who support your positions, defeat ordinances that hamper members' businesses, and ensure that homeowners retain their property rights.

Association works to seat REALTOR® Champions on town council

A small budget and a small pool of volunteers isn't a barrier to political advocacy. Just take a look the 175-member Telluride Association of REALTORS® in Colorado. Last fall, with four seats on the town council up for grabs, the Telluride association made the most of the opportunity to promote candidates who espoused the values of affordable housing, sustainable growth and development, and economic vitality and vibrancy. TAR conducted a campaign that helped elect three REALTOR® Champions.

We are so grateful for the support and guidance from the national association, and ecstatic about the outcome of the election,͟ says Robyn Pale, TAR executive vice president. In October, she and several members of her board conducted a candidate-and-issue forum open to the public that drew record attendance and was broadcast via local radio.

Once TAR had vetted the candidates, the board voted to apply for a grant from the REALTOR® Party to mount an independent expenditure campaign to support all four individuals. (IE campaigns expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate but are made independently of any campaign, candidate, political party, or their agents.)

"We provided [NAR's campaign staff] with our details, and they took it from there," Matthew Hintermeister, the association's RPAC and Government Affairs chair, says. "The campaign they put together was so well orchestrated and well designed, and rolled out quickly. They really took the time to listen to our feedback and were highly responsive to our requests."

The grant from the REALTOR® Party amounted to about $3,600 per candidate, funding a campaign called "Telluride Matters" that was composed of three mail pieces, a month of online advertising, full-page ads in the local newspaper, and live GOTV phone calls.

"Telluride has some big housing and zoning challenges on the horizon, and it'll be interesting to see how they play out," Hintermeister said. "Our REALTOR® members and affiliates will certainly be breathing easier knowing that they have some champions on the town council. Ultimately, it will be good for the whole community."

Association ensures re-election of longtime supporter

When Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley faced a tough re-election race in 2017, he knew he could count on the support of the Cincinnati Area Board of REALTORS®, the organization that endorsed and campaigned for him in 2013. "He is a true REALTOR® Champion," says Mark Quarry, CABR's director of government affairs, "often seeking our opinion and involving our organization on key issues facing the city of Cincinnati."

Cranley often heaps praises on the organization and the National Association of REALTORS® for helping him win so decisively in 2013, says Quarry.

The two independent expenditure campaigns that the Cincinnati Area Board, with grant support from NAR, ran in support for Cranley were similar. "We utilized all of the normal steps of the IE—polling, formulate a story and strategy, direct mail, online advertising, and get-out-the-vote calls," says Quarry. Yet, when compared with the earlier campaign, the 2017 one needed to be more targeted because both candidates on the ballot were Democrats and they were both sitting Cincinnati elected officials. "NAR is so experienced in conducting IEs that they had no problem fine-tuning the overall process to be more specific and dialed-in."

Conventional wisdom is that Cranley is well positioned to next run for a statewide Ohio office, possibly governor, says Quarry. "We're excited about his next political step because we know that Mayor Cranley understands how important and influential the REALTOR® Party is when it comes to advocating for property rights and issues important to homeowners."

Association rallies members to oppose restrictive ordinance

When the city of Scottsdale, Ariz., proposed a restrictive sign ordinance last fall, the Scottsdale Area Association of REALTORS® reacted with a Call for Action that generated nearly 500 letters to City Council members. That got the city's attention; and with a Land Use Initiative review provided by the -REALTOR® Party, the REALTORS® helped the city see reason.

Scottsdale's proposed sign ordinance sought to restrict the number of post-and-panel signs at any given property in a calendar year, and it would also have imposed problematic setback requirements for all yard signs. "Here in Scottsdale, where many of our structures were built right up along the original dirt roads, a 15-foot setback from the curb would put For Sale signs in many people's living rooms," explains association CEO Rebecca Grossman.

SAAR requested revisions to the proposal, but the City Council met them only halfway, prompting the association to issue a call for action to its 8,000 members. The nearly 500 resulting letters got the attention of the City Council. The proposal was pulled from the agenda and returned to the city͛s Planning and Zoning Department for further review, followed by discussions between the REALTORS® and council members and city staff.

Within days, SAAR had applied for and received a REALTOR® Party Land Use Initiative Grant, and within about two weeks, the analysis provided by Robinson & Cole, the firm retained by NAR to review land-use legislation, became a key resource as the city reconsidered the draft ordinance. The process had evolved into a productive collaboration, says Grossman.

"The Robinson & Cole report, citing existing case law protecting signage, clearly substantiated the REALTORS®͛ position," says Suzanne Brown, director of community and government affairs for SAAR. "At the end of the day, we were able to give the city the information it needed to protect homeownership rights. We received grateful feedback from the city's own Economic Development Department, which conceded that it hadn't understood the full impact of the proposed ordinance on local economic growth."

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