Independent Expenditure Program

Spokane REALTORS® Spur Much-Needed Housing Development with Pro-Growth Candidates

In Spokane, Washington, the inventory of available housing stock is at its lowest point ever in city records; housing prices have seen double-digit increases in recent years; and apartment vacancy is below 2%. In the midst of the crisis, the Spokane Association of REALTORS® recognized an opportunity to tackle the barriers to creating more housing:  they championed a challenger to the mayor’s office, as well as five candidates for the City Council, hoping to dislodge the long-entrenched incumbent politicians who were decidedly anti-growth. With help from the REALTOR® Party, they ran six independent expenditure campaigns, winning four – including the mayoral race.

Tom Hormel, a Spokane REALTOR® who is the current Washington state RPAC Committee Chair and incoming president of Washington REALTORS®, was spokesperson for the efforts. “NAR’s help was instrumental in the recent success in the mayoral race in Spokane,” he says. “They not only provided monetary assistance, but the polling and planning help they provided made a huge impact. We could not have been as successful without their assistance.”

For Darin Watkins, Spokane REALTORS®’ Government Affairs Director, it was trial-by-fire.  After only a few months on the job early last year, his Association Executive, Rob Higgins, had suggested he attend the AE Institute, where he learned about all the various programs and resources of the REALTOR® Party. “They really are interested in affecting politics at the local grassroots level,” he says. “They understood the reality that, in places like Spokane, there isn’t a single social issue that doesn’t involve housing, from job stability to the public schools.” A single conversation with NAR staff set the plan for the independent expenditure campaigns in motion.

Watkins received great support from the state association, which handled all the disclosure filings and made sure that the Spokane Association was in compliance with all the rules associated with independent expenditure campaigns–which can be complicated. He is especially grateful for advice from Nathan Gorton, the state GAD, who urged him to draft talking points early on.  “These became our playbook, because the campaigns were about ideas and issues, not about candidates.”  In fact, the candidates backed by the REALTORS® were from both sides of the aisle, and were carefully vetted by a bipartisan team of Spokane REALTOR® interviewers. Nadine Woodward, the successful mayoral candidate, had actually attended the REALTORS®Candidate Training Academy a few years earlier. “When asked how she would solve the housing crisis,” reports Watkins, “she said she didn’t have the answers, but she would form a task force and wanted REALTORS® to be on it. That was what we needed to know.”

Support from the REALTOR® Party began with polling to devise strategies and develop messaging, then extended to creating mailers and digital advertising, all of it positive. When some of their candidates’ opponents began crying ‘foul’ over a national organization being involved in local elections, the REALTOR® Party quickly produced a cartoon counter-ad, strategically placed in local media to address the negative messages directly. Ground teams of door-knockers and email and text-alert campaigns helped drive voters to the polls.

“There’s no question, it was a real sleigh ride!” admits Watkins. “But I’d urge other local boards not to be scared off. The tools that NAR has are very effective, and their team did so much of the heavy lifting. We always felt that we were in the driver’s seat, but they definitely took a lot of the stress out of running six independent expenditure campaigns.” The results – including a brand new mayor – are going to make a pivotal change for Spokane, he says.

To learn more about how the Spokane REALTORS® are working to elect officials who will seek ways to create much-needed housing in their city, contact Darin Watkins, Government Affairs Director, at 509-326-9222.

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2019 Election Results are in…

Independent Expenditures

The State and Local Independent Expenditure (IE) Program was used in 244 races in 2019. Of those races, 115 were for primary or general elections occurring before Nov. 5, and had a win/runoff rate of 76.32%.  On Nov. 5, there were 129 state or local elections. To the right are current stats on our results.


Of the 129 races, incumbents were supported in 66 (51.16%) and challengers were support in 14 (10.85%). Open seat candidates were supported for the remaining 49 (37.98%) races. It is of note that state and local REALTOR® associations usually support incumbents in 65% of races. But this year, they shifted more resources to open seat and challenger candidates.

Of the 129 races, 25, or 19.38%, were in support of REALTOR® candidates, which is on-par with previous years. Here are the stats for REALTOR® running for office.

Election Results

  • Wins (65.12%)
  • Run Offs (0.78%)
  • Too Close To Call (5.43%)
  • Losses (28.68%)

REALTOR® Candidate Results

  • Wins (52%)
  • Run Offs (4%)
  • Too Close To Call (4%)
  • Losses (40%)

Highlights for November 5 Election Night
Updated November 13, 2019

  • REALTOR® Champion Tate Reeves picked up the open Mississippi governor’s seat in a tight race.
  • Despite a lot of sweeping change in Virginia, REALTOR® Champions still won 75% of their races.
  • The New Jersey REALTORS® won or protected 70% of their targeted legislative seats.
  • REALTOR® Allan Domb was re-elected to the Philadelphia City Council in a campaign that many consider a pre-cursor to running for mayor in 2023.
  • REALTOR® Champion Erin Mendenhall was elected mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • REALTOR® Champion Buddy Dyer was re-elected mayor of Orlando, Fla.
  • REALTOR® Champions won three out of four races in Spokane in an election that received a lot of press coverage regarding our activity.
  • REALTOR® Scott Delano was elected to the Mississippi State Senate in this program’s first “do-over” election.

2019 State & Local Independent Expenditure Program Totals

This gives the 2019 program a combined win/runoff rate of almost 70.48%, which the highest win/runoff rate for this program since 2016. That number may move slightly with races to be called.

  • Wins (57.38%)
  • Run Offs (13.1%)
  • Too Close To Call (3.28%)
  • Losses (26.23%)
  • Pending (0.01%)
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Prince George’s County Mounts Winning Campaigns for County Council Candidates — Times Three!

When the association representing the Maryland region due east of the nation’s Capital gets behind a County Council candidate, it doesn’t do so lightly. This spring, the Prince George’s County Association of REALTORS® (PGCAR) successfully backed three REALTOR® Champions: two REALTOR® members and one former REALTOR®, all three more than ready to tackle the private property issues facing the county in the upcoming 2019-2023 term.

“This was no small task, says PGCAR Executive Vice President Mike Graziano. “There were formidable opponents in each race, and we put plenty of thought in to our decision to back candidates. By the time we went to the REALTOR® Party for help, we were already heavily vested in these candidates.” PGCAR had conducted a Candidate Training Program late in 2017, in partnership with the Southern Maryland Association of REALTORS®; it was attended by one of the PGCAR members who won a seat in last month’s election. PGCAR also put together a REALTOR® ballot to guide and inform its 3,000 members, listing those it supported and endorsed in all of the county and state races. And then, with the support of the REALTOR® Party, it ran Independent Expenditure campaigns for the three REALTOR® Champion candidates running in open seats.

Dwayne Mingo, PGCAR’s Government Affairs Director, says “I’ve been involved in plenty of campaigns in my time, but this was my first rodeo with the REALTORS®. The Campaign Services team at NAR assisted me through the process the entire way. I made our pitch to the REALTOR® Party Trustees for Campaign Services Committee, and they turned it around quickly for us: we had our response the next day, complete with a suggested strategy and ideas about graphics.” A campaign was built to increase the branding and name recognition of each of the three candidates. Mingo worked closely with the team at NAR on language for the online advertising and the two carefully timed mailers promoting each one:

Jolene Ivey, a REALTOR® member who had represented Prince George’s County in the Maryland General Assembly, won her seat for District 5.

Monique Anderson-Walker, running against a current state delegate with significant name recognition, won the seat for District 8.

Sydney Harrison, a former REALTOR® who’d been supported by PGCAR in his successful 2014 bid to unseat the 18-year incumbent for the county Clerk of Court position, won the County Council seat for District 9.

Harrison’s election, in particular, was a very close shave: he won by a matter of just 55 votes. “There’s no doubt that the REALTOR® Party support helped to push Sydney over the top,” says Graziano. “We’d recognized during his first election, four years ago, that Sydney’s dedicated community spirit meant he was in this for the long haul. We know he’ll be a voice for REALTOR® interests for years to come, and we’re proud to have helped him to achieve his political aspirations this far.”

“Of course PGCAR was elated that our involvement assisted to elect three REALTORS® to our local County Council. This means that our voice will always be heard and relevant on property rights and land use issues. The process to make the IEs happen was simplistic but the results — social media posts and thousands of top quality mailers in three legislative districts — was huge and we believe made a big difference in putting these REALTOR® Champions over the top in tough races. Thank you to NAR’s Campaign Services Team,” said Cheryl Abrams Davis, 2018 PGCAR President.

PGCAR has a tried and tested process for vetting candidates for endorsement and support, including a comprehensive questionnaire on real estate issues. But, because of the strict rules prohibiting communication between candidates and independent expenditure campaigns, the support of the REALTOR® Party comes as a major surprise when it hits the mailboxes and screens of the chosen candidates, themselves. Says Mingo, “I saw Monique Anderson-Walker at a meeting not long after the election, and she gave me a big hug, telling me how shocked she’d been. Our vote of confidence and tangible support will clearly stay with her as she works for real estate issues in the coming four-year term.”

Those issues, says Mingo, will include such challenges as re-writing the county’s zoning regulations for the first time in 30 years; forming a comprehensive housing strategy; and keeping one of the highest transfer tax rates in the state of Maryland from getting any higher. While the REALTORS® did not conduct an independent campaign for the new County Executive, they did make a significant RPAC contribution to her campaign, notes Graziano. With three new champions on the Council, and a favorable relationship with the County Executive-elect, Prince George’s County REALTORS® can be assured that the issues that matter to them are in good hands.

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Prince George’s County are using REALTOR® Party resources to support REALTOR® Champions, contact Government Affairs Director Dwayne Mingo at 301-306-7900.


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Telluride REALTORS® Elect Three REALTOR® Champions to Town Council

In the mountain town of Telluride, Colorado, ten candidates were running for four available seats on the Town Council. The 175-member Telluride Association of REALTORS® (TAR) made the most of the opportunity to promote candidates who espoused the values of affordable housing; sustainable growth and development; economic vitality and vibrancy; civility and collaboration; and who favored the construction of a community recreation center. With an Independent Expenditure from the REALTOR® Party, TAR conducted a joint campaign for four REALTOR® Champions, three of whom won seats on the council.

“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 the TAR board conducted an annual Candidates & Issues Forum that drew record attendance and reached even more of the community via radio broadcast.

Once TAR had vetted and identified the candidates it would be supporting, the board voted to apply for a grant from the REALTOR® Party to mount an independent expenditure campaign to support all four individuals.  Matthew Hintermeister, the association’s RPAC and Government Affairs chair, can’t say enough good things about his first experience working with NAR’s Campaign Services team. “We provided them with our details, and they took it from there,” he 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; for example, when we asked them to implement Spanish language ads: no problem!”

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 and full page ads in the local newspaper, and live GOTV phone calls.  Of the candidates TAR supported, three won in landslide voting: one, a TAR affiliate member; another, whom TAR had previously supported in a mayoral race; and a third described by Pale as “a like-minded business woman.” As there was no advance polling, Hintermeister says he was definitely nervous watching the returns, but notes that in the end, “the opposing slate, all incumbents, received only eleven more votes in total than our strongest candidate.”

According to the next day’s Telluride Daily Planet, “If there was one message that came through loud and clear on Tuesday night, it was that Telluride voters were not looking to be saved by the [opposing slate of] candidates.”

“This campaign was a big move forward for us,” says Hintermeister, adding that, overall, it improves the standing of REALTORS® in the community.  “Telluride has some big housing and zoning challenges on the horizon, and it’ll be interesting to see how they play out; 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.”

To learn more about how the Telluride Association of REALTORS® is making a difference in the vitality of its town by supporting Town Council candidates who align with core REALTOR® principles, contact Robyn Pale, TAR Executive Vice-President, at 970-728-5172; or Matthew Hintermeister, RPAC and Government Affairs chair.

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Independent Expenditures

The State and Local Independent Expenditures (IE) Program is an exciting program to assist state and local associations that want to get involved in local and state elections. The program provides each state with funds that can be used to support candidates for political office who support REALTORS® and the real estate industry.


Application Process

If you are interested in running an independent expenditure campaigns, please review the following steps then contract Mitchell Norton at

Choose your Candidate
Does your association want to support someone whom has helped with previous issues? Do you have a REALTOR® who wants to run for public office? The first step is for your association to choose who will make a great candidate to support.

Develop your Campaign Plan
Once you select your candidate, what can you do to support their election efforts? Whether you choose to conduct polling, consider messaging or develop direct mail, this program can provide your IE campaign the resources for success. See sample Independent Expenditure campaign materials.

Design your Budget
You have developed your campaign plan, now decide what your budget will be for this independent expenditure campaign. Will your association be contributing funds to the IE, with RPAC money or other funds? You will need to know this to apply for the IE program.

Fill out the Application Form
The online application will allow you to give NAR all of the information needed to get your IE request underway.

Committee Review
The REALTOR® Party Trustees for State and Local Campaign Services Committee considers all state and local association requests to run an IE. The Trustees will review the application for the IE, as well as information regarding the race to make a recommendation about supporting your IE.

Run the Campaign
If your IE is approved by the REALTOR® Party Trustees for State and Local Campaign Services Committee, then it is time to implement your campaign plan. The Campaign Services staff will help make sure all the parts of your campaign plan come together to support your candidates who support the real estate industry.

Report on your Results
Win or lose, NAR wants your feedback on how the IE Program worked in your area. Tell us your campaign story. What tools were effective? How can we approach campaigns differently to make the IE program even better? Your feedback will be an important part of improving the IE program.

Questions? Contact Mitchell Norton at 202-383-1091.

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Central Oregon Restores Balance to City Council with IE Program

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.

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