Recently, AG columnist Erica Ramus published an editorial entitled, “Realtor Party? Count Me Out,” which stirred passionate support from Realtors across the nation while simultaneously drumming up disagreement from local boards, state associations and the National Association of Realtors itself.
Ramus’ premise was that belonging to the Realtor Party is a pledge of allegiance to support candidates and ideas that the party deems worthy instead of making her own independent decision, an assertion that NAR strongly disagrees with.
NAR weighs in
Tom Salomone is the 2012 director of Realtor Party activities, and is a Realtor from Coral Springs, Florida. Salamone tells AG that “Realtors are some of the most active citizens in their communities throughout the country — fighting for candidates, issues, laws and regulations that positively affect not only the real estate community, but the community at large.”
“When necessary, those local Realtors reach out to the national Realtor Party for financial assistance in their endeavors,” Salamone added. “The local Realtors decide what’s important in their communities. Realtors on the street decide which candidates are best for their communities after thorough research and vetting. The national association does not decide for them. You won’t see the national association dictating to the local members who they should vote for or which party to support.”
One of Ramus’ key opinions is that belonging to the Realtor Party is a mandate to contribute to the Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC), as the Realtor Party website says, “As a member of the Realtor Party, you … invest in RPAC.”
Salomone responded to this point, noting that “The initiatives and campaigns Realtors take on are partially funded by voluntary investments in the Realtors Political Action Committee (RPAC). The key word here is ‘voluntary.’ The wonderful thing is that once Realtors hear about the amazing campaign and community outreach successes from fellow Realtors across the country, they invest in RPAC willingly.”
Realtors in support
Memphis Realtor Joe Spake said of the Realtor Party, “I am with you 100 percent, Erica. I have built my business on doing what is best for consumers and not what is best for NAR.”
“I don’t agree with putting us all in one sack either,” Iowa City Realtor Denise Hamlin said. “We’re as diverse in our thoughts, ideas and motivation as the rest of the nation. Being members of NAR doesn’t mean they get to tell us what to think. We can do that all on our own.”
Julia Odom, a Chattanooga Realtor, weighed in about Ramus’ opinion piece, saying, “What is good for Realtors is not necessarily good for the country, and I’m not going to advocate for my interests over the greater good.”
One state association’s point of view
Brandon Alderete, government affairs communications manager at the Texas Association of Realtors, tells AG, “We’re not telling anyone who to vote for. When you see a candidate is endorsed by the Texas Association of Realtors, it’s because of her position on issues related to private-property rights, homeownership and the real estate industry. We’re the association of Realtors … not the association of every single issue out there.”
“The other point is that this isn’t staff sitting around an office picking names out of a hat,” Alderete added. “Candidates are interviewed by Texas Realtors across the state. That group sends recommendations to the state association, where it’s reviewed by several other panels of Texas Realtors before being approved.”
On political advocacy, Alderete noted, “Another interesting angle is how much legislators rely on relationships with trade associations. You can’t expect a lawmaker, who, say, owns a sporting goods store, to know how every single bill might affect real estate. But he has to vote on it. That’s why political advocacy is so important … it’s about making sure our members have a voice when important decisions are being made that could affect the real estate industry, private-property owners and consumers.”
One Realtor’s point of view
In response to Ramus’ editorial, young Realtor Drew Fristoe opined in a blog on the Fredericksburg Area Association of Realtors’ blog in a post called “Realtor Party – Count Me In!”
“I have been a Realtor for a little over four years,” said Fristoe. “I have been involved as a Realtor, even before my license was back. My first Realtor event was ‘Day on the Hill’ in 2008. From that day on, I was hooked. I am on an FPC team for a state congressman in Virginia and I am an RPAC contributor.”
Many young and new Realtors come prepared to buck the system, so Fristoe’s support of the Realtor Party stands out to us. In response to Ramus’ assertion that homeownership is not a guaranteed human right, Fristoe said, “I actually agree with that statement, but I think everyone should have the option if they want it. It is our job as Realtors to be able to help our clients make the decisions that are best for them. If our client does not have the ability to purchase, we need to have them speak to the right people to figure that out. Then, over time, help them to get in a position to buy a home, if that is what they want. At the end of the day, we are individuals who can make our own decisions and should help our clients to do the same.”
Fristoe argues that the Realtor Party does not require allegiance to vote how they deem mandatory, but rather, the Realtor Party “was created as another tool in informing Realtors about the issues that affect your business, which will in turn affect your life.”
While Ramus stirred up a tremendous deal of support for her position, the attitude of the associations is that of a defensive yet optimistic posture.
Salomone demonstrates this best in his statement about NAR. “We are an organization built from the grassroots up, not from top to bottom. We believe that homeownership is a privilege and we support sustainable homeownership. While acting on Realtor and citizen issues, Realtors show amazing resolve. Often, it will be a long, hard fight to win on issues that support homeownership and the citizens of our country. I applaud those who don’t give up and who continue to work diligently within their communities to protect the American Dream. Our association members have long declared they are the ‘voice for real estate.’ It’s always great to see them put their money and their efforts where their mouths are. Most people in life don’t.”
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