Another Election Cycle in the Books


 Nathan Conrad, WRA director of advocacy, and Joe Murray, WRA director of political & governmental affairs  |    October 31, 2022
Another Election

With three top-of-the-ticket races this year for U.S. Senate, governor and attorney general as well as a record number of open state legislative seats, it’s time to step back from the political season. Political experts will dissect the results from election night for weeks to come. 

There are, however, a few big highlights from the 2022 election cycle worth noting as we look ahead to the upcoming legislative session in Washington, D.C., and Madison, and the next election for Wisconsin Supreme Court in April 2023. 

31 open legislative seats in 2022

According to statistics from the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, the number of members of the Wisconsin Legislature who are retiring or giving up their seat to run for higher office in the 2022 midterm election is at its highest level since 1942.

By June 1, 2022, 31 state legislators decided to leave voluntarily or run for another office: 24 Assembly members and seven Senators. More than a quarter of lawmakers did not run again for their seat in 2022.

With this kind of turnover, the WRA staff had a lot of work to do during the summer and fall to vet the candidates running and support those candidates who support the WRA and the real estate industry at large. Members and staff from local boards all over the Badger State set up candidate interviews to discuss the candidates’ opinions on policy issues related to real estate. Endorsed candidates received financial support through the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) and the Direct Giver program and were included in the 2022 WRA Voter Guide as well.

The candidate-vetting process is extremely important to our future legislative success. A big thank you goes to all members who participated in the candidate interviews.

Record election year spending

It goes without saying that one could not turn on a television or radio over the last six months without being inundated with advertisements for or against candidates running for public office in Wisconsin. Once again, a record year of political spending was thrust on the voters in Wisconsin. 

According to the media-tracking firm AdImpact, more than $344 million was spent on political races across Wisconsin. This group predicted $159 million to be spent on the air in the U.S. Senate race between Ron Johnson and Mandela Barnes as well as $129 million in the governor’s race between Tony Evers and Tim Michels. To put that into perspective, in 2018 — just four short years ago — more than $98 million was spent on the governor’s race alone. That is more than a 30% increase in political ad spending in a single race in less than a full presidential campaign cycle.

This number, while unbelievably large, may be short of what was spent on advertising. The projections were done early in the election cycle and were based on historic spending levels for races in the Badger State. It may come to be that the numbers far eclipsed the initial projections. With issues that cut to the core of individuals’ political ideologies being battled out by proxy in local and statewide races, it would be of no surprise if the amount of money that was spent by campaigns and third-party allies of candidates is potentially tens of millions of dollars higher than the original projections. 

The AdImpact projections do not consider mail and direct voter contact as a part of the spending on these races. As many mailboxes, missed calls and unknown texts on voters’ phones can attest, there was a lot of money spent reminding people to vote, and whom to vote for.

Supporting those who support the industry

During the election cycle, RPAC dollars are imperative to get positive messaging out regarding those candidates supported by the WRA; this is especially true when a candidate comes from within the fold and is actually a REALTOR®. This was just the case in the race for Senate District 25 in northwestern Wisconsin.

The district is one of the largest in the state and encompasses all or parts of Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Dunn, Iron, Polk, Price, Sawyer, St. Croix, Vilas and Washburn counties. The 13 counties just mentioned spread across the northwestern corner of the state, and traversing them can be a handful during a highly charged election year.

During the lead-up to this race, it became apparent that having another voice in support of REALTOR® priorities in the state Senate was a necessity. It was clear that REALTOR® Romaine Quinn was the best choice to support in the November election.

With the understanding that Quinn could win or lose by the slimmest of margins, and after endorsing him in the race, the Wisconsin REALTORS® Political Fund moved into action to help support Quinn’s Senate race. The Wisconsin REALTORS® Political Fund helped engage voters in the 25th Senate District to support Quinn by utilizing aggressive mail, digital, texting and radio efforts in the district. Several pieces of mail were sent to voters in the district. These pieces highlighted his support for lower property taxes and the expansion of rural broadband. 

This independent expenditure — a type of program set up to directly support a candidate without working directly with the campaign — also blanketed the airwaves in the district with positive advertising that highlighted Quinn’s background in the Assembly and his time as the mayor of Rice Lake. 

The digital program wasted no time filling the screens of voters’ phones, tablets and computers with more examples of the benefits of electing Quinn to the open state Senate seat.

The WRA and its advocacy arm have and will continue to provide support to candidates who have shown that real estate-related issues are a priority. This campaign on behalf of Quinn is a simple example of how hard work and smart targeting of voters as well as a well-thought-out and executed plan can help candidates leading up to election day.

RPAC investments matter

The purpose of RPAC is clear: voluntary contributions made by REALTORS® are used to help elect candidates who understand and support our issues. These are not members’ dues; this is money given freely by REALTORS® in recognition of the importance of the political process. RPAC is the key to protecting and promoting the real estate industry. Here are a few victories made possible through your support for the REALTORS® Political Action Committee:

  • Time of sale requirements prohibited
  • Liability protection on two-year statute of limitations
  • Opinions of value protected
  • Not liable for fraudulent third-party misrepresentation
  • Landlord-tenant law reform
  • State preemption of local regulations to brokers
  • Rent control prohibition in Wisconsin
  • Keeping real estate essential

RPAC gives REALTORS® a powerful voice on issues that matter to you and the real estate industry. Thanks for your support!

Wisconsin’s never-ending political cycle, the spring 2023 Supreme Court race

In April 2023, Wisconsin voters will decide who will replace longtime Justice Pat Roggensack on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Three candidates have entered the race: Dane County Circuit Judge Everett Mitchell, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz, and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly. Kelly was appointed by former Gov. Scott Walker in 2016 and was defeated by current Justice Jill Karofsky in his first election bid in April 2020. The April 2023 race will decide whether judicial conservatives or liberals will control the court, and this means the election will break all previous fundraising and spending records for a seat on the state’s highest court.   

The WRA will interview the candidates in late 2022 or early 2023 and make a recommendation to the full WRA board of directors. Watch for more information on this election in the months to come.  

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