The city of Bend, Central Oregon’s principal metropolis, was already growing at a rapid rate when Men’s Journal singled it out in 20
15 as one of the “Ten Best Places to Live Now.” The latest projection is that Bend will gain approximately 30,000 residents in the next twenty years, a statistic supported by the current reality of about five people arriving to live in Bend every day. Yet, responsible growth in Bend has been deterred by one of the more restrictive land use systems in the country, and by a City Council that was largely anti-growth and out of touch with issues affecting its citizens. The recent election presented an opportunity for much-needed change, and the Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® (COAR) threw all its weight behind a REALTOR® Champion who would bring balance and sound judgment to the governing body.
Tyler Neese, COAR’s Government Affairs Director, explains why the association backed candidate Justin Livingston with funds from its own PAC as well as a substantial Independent Expenditure grant from the REALTOR® Party. “With this type of growth taking place—and a further boom in population on the horizon—it’s critical for us to have leadership in the community that understands key issues like land use, transportation and affordable housing. Justin is passionate about making Bend an affordable place to live and raise a family. He’s had successful careers in real estate, manufacturing and construction. He has served on several municipal committees, focused on matters from street maintenance to affordable housing. His depth of understanding and his connection to the community are just what Bend needs.”
Oregon is one of the few states that allows independent expenditure campaigns to be coordinated with the candidate, which, Neese points out, enabled COAR to make the most efficient use of the support it received from the REALTOR® Party. “We were able to provide resources and support where Justin’s campaign needed it most,” says Neese, listing radio ads, Facebook and pre-roll video as the big budget items funded by the grant.
The National Association of REALTORS® identified target sites for the online advertising. It also advised COAR on strategic timing for some of the campaign’s communications, which Neese notes is especially important in a state like Oregon, where voting is all conducted by mail. “You want to get your message in front of your target universe at the critical moment, but about one-third of voters send in their ballots on the first day, another third sometime mid-cycle, and the last third drop them off at the last minute. NAR’s strategists had the sophistication it takes to understand these complexities of voter behavior, and helped us plan accordingly.”
When the ballots were counted, Justin Livingston had handily won a four-year term on the Bend City Council, receiving 76% of the vote. COAR had also backed another candidate for the City Council with funds from its RPAC and a more modest Independent Expenditure campaign, as well as RPAC support for the re-election of one incumbent. Both candidates also won their races. “We’re optimistic,” says Neese. “It was critical to restore balance to City Council. We’re proud to have helped that happen, with the support of the REALTOR® Party. We look forward to smart growth, fiscal responsibility, and sound solutions to the challenges our growing city faces. It’s a tall order, but the right people will be at the table to make it happen.”
To learn more about how REALTORS® in Central Oregon are strengthening the city of Bend and helping to achieve balance on its City Council, contact Tyler Neese, Government Affairs Director, at 541-382-6027.