In the space of a single campaign season, a 380-member association representing three counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore went from being quietly a-political to being all-in, no-looking-back, politically involved. It was a one-day REALTOR® Party program on identifying REALTOR® Champions that lit a fire under the Bay Area Association of REALTORS® (BAAR), and of the thirteen candidates it endorsed in the general election, twelve were victorious in their races for County Commissioner, Sheriff, and State’s Attorney – all elected offices that have the potential to affect the local real estate market.
Bob Friday, the association’s Executive Vice President, credits his former Government Affairs Director with encouraging BAAR to apply for the REALTOR® Party training program. “A few of our members were vehemently opposed to our becoming politically engaged,” he says. “But our Board examined the opportunity carefully, and determined that it was in the best interests of the industry and our association to endorse candidates who share our values and positions regarding real estate and private property rights. We simply did the best we could to reason with our dissenting members; regrettably, we did lose two,” he notes. “It’s unfortunate, but our members need to understand the purpose of our organization. If we’re not going to walk the walk, then forget it.”
The REALTOR® Party’s Candidate Training Academy is offered just a few times every year, and BAAR felt lucky to get it, says Friday. “We invited the neighboring Mid-Shore Board of REALTORS® to join us at the training session, where a terrific consultant came up from North Carolina to show us all what to look for in a REALTOR® Champion,” he explains. Five BAAR REALTORS® who’d participated in the training became the association’s candidate selection committee, in addition to Friday, who served without a vote.
The BAAR selection committee then sent invitations to all candidates in the three counties it covers who were in challenged primary races for local offices. They interviewed a total of thirty-six candidates, reports Friday, and decided to endorse eleven candidates, ten of whom made it through to the general election; in the general election, BAAR endorsed thirteen candidates of whom twelve won the offices they were seeking. The REALTORS® signaled their endorsement through a full-page ad in the local newspaper supporting all its chosen candidates. “Needless to say, we were very pleased with the outcome of our selections, and grateful for the tremendous help NAR provided in teaching us the do’s and don’ts of this process,” says Friday.
He adds that having publicly endorsed candidates has given BAAR an entirely new level of visibility and respect in the community. “Those elected are extremely grateful, and some have approached us seeking to appoint our members to various boards and commissions in the counties we serve,” he reports. “At least one has said to me, ‘I wouldn’t have won without the REALTORS®’ endorsement.’”
To learn more about how REALTORS® are helping to shape local politics affecting real estate- and property rights-issues in three counties in eastern Maryland, contact Bob Friday, Executive Vice President of the Bay Area Association of REALTORS®, at 410-758-4866.