Nathan Gorton, government affairs director for the Washington REALTORS®, gave an interesting look at how the state association allocates its RPAC funds to support real estate-friendly candidates for state and local offices during an RPAC forum at the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C.
The Washington RPAC is changing its strategy, focusing on funding fewer candidates with larger amounts of money to have more influence on tight races. “Say we have $300,000 to use for independent expenditures and 20 candidates we want to support,” Gorton said. “That’s roughly $15,000 per candidate. That’s good because you’re supporting more candidates, but it doesn’t pay for a campaign effectively.”
Independent expenditures help pay for mailers, phone banks, and TV, radio, and print ads for candidates. But these efforts are costing more and more money. So, Gorton said, “our strategy is to pick four or five candidates that need the most help and drop six figures into their campaign. You help fewer people but have a larger impact on the race.”
They focus mainly on swing districts where RPAC dollars could push a REALTOR®-backed candidate over the edge, and they steer away from races in districts that are more solidly Republican or Democrat. “If [you're a candidate who has] the best views on private property rights I’ve ever heard but you’re in a race that is a solid district one way or the other, it doesn’t make much sense to spend $100,000 on you,” Gorton said.
Only once has the Washington RPAC funded candidates on both sides of the same race because they both were equally strong on real estate issues, “but I don’t like to do that because it’s often a waste of money,” Gorton said. A rule of thumb for other RPAC chapters to follow, he added, is that in races with two strong candidates where one is the incumbent, support the incumbent. “The fact is, incumbents win elections more often than not. So if you have a tie on who to support, go with the incumbent.”