“August recess” sounds like a lovely month of downtime, but for hardworking members of Congress, it’s one of the busiest times of year, packed with constituent meetings and events in their home districts. In North Carolina this summer, NC REALTORS® experienced the phenomenon first-hand through a series of “Congressional Road Shows” that gave them rare access to Representatives across four districts. The opportunities capitalized on, and gave REALTORS® members a glimpse into, the successful workings of the state’s Federal Political Coordinators (FPC).
NAR’s Federal Political Coordinator program takes political advocacy to the halls of Congress and makes it personal. Each state association pairs a knowledgeable REALTOR®, the Federal Political Coordinator, with a member of Congress in a one-on-one relationship, in which the FPC can effectively advocate for favorable real estate industry policies, and serve as a resource and educator on housing issues in a given state or district. Often, the FPC and his or her Congressional counterpart have an existing relationship, making the working bond even stronger.
Kevin Green, the FPC working with Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina’s 6th District, including Greensboro and Asheboro, reports that the Congressman and his staff were excited to participate in this summer’s “Town Hall” type meeting. “He was able to interact with his constituents, answer real-estate specific questions and share with us his view of the mood in D.C. The FPC program allows us to personally connect with our Congressman, and also gives him a resource for real-estate related economic data and demographics in his district.”
Bill Aceto, who is paired with Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Winston-Salem, agrees that the mutual value of the FPC relationship is invaluable. “There are very few, if any, other industries I know of that have this kind of access, and such positive relationships with members of Congress across the board; of course, it doesn’t hurt that RPAC provides such generous support. Our representatives look to us as a reliable resource,” he continues, “with good industry data and our fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in the district. They know that we’re not lobbyists, but volunteers: we are citizen advocates!”
Troi Bachmann, Local Government Affairs Director of the Winston-Salem area, helped to coordinate the event with Representative Foxx, working with Katharine Wendt, NC REALTORS®’ State Grassroots Coordinator and Regional Government Affairs Director. “Our members were thrilled,” says Bachmann. “It was so powerful to see our elected Congresswoman here in our REALTOR® association office, in conversation with our own Bill Aceto, talking through a pre-approved agenda based on NAR’s guidelines; it really showed our members the power of the REALTOR® brand. Bachmann, who is a shared GAD with the local Homebuilders Association, arranged for its members to attend the event, as well, and Representative Foxx addressed issues of concern to both industries. These ranged from the National Flood Insurance Program, to association health care reform, to a shortage of skilled building labor. The hour-long event seemed to make an impression on the Congresswoman, too, says Bachmann. “She asked us to make sure we do it again!”
Also making themselves available to their REALTOR® constituents were Representatives Ted Budd and David Price. According to Wendt, who began planning the Congressional Road Shows more than four months in advance, they were lucky to get as many as that: “We reached out to each of the 13 Congressional district offices in the state, and some were already booked for every minute of the August recess!” she recalls, adding that members who sit on the Homeland Security Committee advised them that, during hurricane season, they’d have to cancel if FEMA called…. On the strength of the success of this year’s Road Show, NC REALTORS® is going to repeat the effort next year, and will start planning even earlier. “Now that we’ve built connections with the schedulers in each office, we should have a leg up,” says Wendt. The value of opportunities like this, she adds, is that it’s not feasible for all REALTORS® to attend the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in May and travel to the Capitol for National Legislative Day visits coordinated by the FPCs. “This gives them a chance to be involved closer to home, advocating for issues close to the heart of their industry and communities.”
In addition, FPC Bradley Cohen was asked by his Congressman Richard Hudson to participate in a small business round table organized by the 2020 Trump Campaign, part of a larger effort by the Trump campaign asking business leaders across the country about the economic impact of their industry. NAR Political Representatives and Research staff helped prepare Bradley Cohen with appropriate North Carolina-specific real estate data. Trump Campaign Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany prompted many questions directly to our FPC during the panel. He was able to lead the conversation around a myriad of housing issues including: the economic impact on the average home sold, improving home ownership rates, tax reform with the 20% deduction for independent contractors, opportunity zones, affordable housing, and association health plans.
To learn more about how NC REALTORS® are working with their elected officials to make a difference for the state’s property owners, the real estate industry, and small businesses, contact Katharine Wendt, State Grassroots Coordinator and Regional Government Affairs Director, at 919-573.0988 x388.