2020: What a Year It has Been

 Joe Murray  |    November 09, 2020

As the 2019-20 election cycle comes to an end, there are several aspects of this year’s political environment that stand out, and each was a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic and caused WRA members and staff to respond.
Every election year requires robust political fundraising, many hours of planning and work to meet candidates running for office, and a wide variety of political tasks related to state legislative and congressional elections, which only stop long enough to count the votes before the process starts all over again.
Here are four unique developments from the 2019-20 election cycle that stand out from my perspective.

RPAC fundraising grinds to a halt

When Gov. Tony Evers issued the ‚ÄúSafer at Home‚ÄĚ executive order on March 24, virtually all RPAC and Direct Giver fundraising stopped. The uncertainty of what would happen in the real estate market and how this would impact REALTORS¬ģ in 2020 was the important question. From the end of March through most of June, RPAC fundraising events were canceled, and members and staff worked hard to navigate the real estate world in the age of COVID-19. Despite a three-month hiatus, our RPAC and Direct Giver fundraising was finishing strong when this article went to press. Local board RPAC chairs and staff got the job done, and our year-end political fundraising numbers are quite good given the unique and often difficult circumstances everyone faced in 2020. Thanks for a job well done!

Candidate interviews through Zoom 

Every election cycle, the WRA conducts candidate interviews in most open legislative and congressional districts. In 2020, candidate interviews with members and staff took place using Zoom in 15 of the 20 open state legislative districts instead of in-person interviews in each district. For the most part, these candidate interviews worked well; what they lacked, however, was that human touch that comes with meeting someone in person, shaking their hand, and watching their body language or eye movement when they answer questions. I look forward to the future when we can once again participate in face-to-face meetings and events around the state. Politics is a people business and relationship-building business, and Zoom is only a good alternative if you can’t get together in person. 

Campaigns in the age of COVID-19

In 2020, Democrats campaigned almost exclusively from a virtual approach while Republicans campaigned using the more traditional methods of in-person campaign events and door-knocking to meet voters. Both parties advertised and massaged their positions through mail, digital, radio and television channels, but Republicans put far more effort into personal voter contact than Democrats this cycle. Democrats argued that campaigns in the age of COVID-19 should be virtual, while Republicans believed they could still meet voters and be extra cautious. Who benefited the most will be dissected and discussed for months, but once COVID-19 disappears, you can bet that in-person campaigns will return in full force on both sides. Personal voter contact is still the preferred option for both parties. 

Real estate was deemed essential

When homebuyers, home sellers and real estate professionals look back at 2020, it should be no surprise that the single most important moment for the industry was our status as an ‚Äúessential‚ÄĚ service under the ‚ÄúSafer at Home‚ÄĚ order. Many businesses were required to discontinue operations or operate remotely without meeting in person. Not Wisconsin real estate. As noted by one thankful REALTOR¬ģ: ‚ÄúLife‚Äôs basic needs are food, water and a roof over your head, which makes real estate an essential service.‚ÄĚ This was a very big victory for the real estate industry.

Joe Murray is Director of Political and Governmental Affairs for the WRA. 

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