Endorsement Decision Proves the WRA's Process Works

 Michael Theo, WRA president and CEO  |    October 03, 2022
Endoresement Decision

The state of Wisconsin is heading into the final month of the election cycle for 2022, and two of the most important elections on the ballot are for governor and attorney general. Because these two offices have a significant impact on the real estate industry, the WRA recently performed a comprehensive evaluation of the candidates to determine which will be the best on REALTOR® issues like property taxes, economic development, property rights and general real estate transaction issues. At the end of this process, the WRA made endorsement decisions based on the evaluation. This article provides an overview of why the WRA endorses candidates, the WRA endorsement process, and an explanation of the WRA’s endorsement decisions in the 2022 races for governor and attorney general.

Why the WRA endorses candidates  

Being involved in the endorsement process is one of the most important aspects of the WRA’s advocacy efforts. This is especially true when considering that almost every aspect of a real estate transaction and a REALTOR®’s business is regulated at one or more levels of government — federal, state or local — by people who are elected or hired by those who are elected. Everything from the requirements to obtain a real estate license, the forms that can be used in a transaction and who can complete them, where open house signs can be located, what REALTORS® can be held liable for, and what REALTORS® must and must not disclose to various parties in a transaction are just a few examples of the government-imposed regulations on real estate practice. And then there are regulations affecting how property can be used, policies affecting how much property will be taxed, and all the other decisions affecting the quality of life in our communities and viability of our real estate markets. Closely examining the backgrounds and the philosophies of the candidates running for office helps the WRA elect to office those candidates who will be best for the real estate industry. This is why the WRA generally endorses candidates in most Wisconsin races, including state legislative races, congressional and U.S. Senate seats, the office of the attorney general and governor, as well as state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court seats. 

The WRA generally endorses in the governor’s race because the governor has many responsibilities that impact property owners and the real estate industry, including enforcing state laws, signing bills into law, or vetoing those passed by the legislature and issuing executive orders. Additionally, the governor appoints judges and justices when vacancies occur, recommends the individuals who serve as secretaries of state agencies, and appoints board members throughout the various state agencies. For example, the governor appoints members to the Real Estate Examining Board (REEB), which is a section of the Department of Safety and Professional Services that grants licenses, promulgates administrative rules relating to practice, regulates practice, and issues the state-approved (WB) forms required to be used by Wisconsin real estate licensees. Moreover, the governor appoints the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources. As a state agency, there is none more powerful when it comes to creating administrative rules that can affect property rights. 

The attorney general’s office is equally important as the “top cop” in Wisconsin. This office decides which cases are important to move forward with litigation and defends state agencies taken to court when interpretations, decisions and other disputes are challenged. This office also decides when Wisconsin should become a party to a federal case impacting our daily lives. Having a good relationship with the attorney general is paramount to our successful advocacy efforts.

Our voice and advocacy in these two offices are imperative to ensure oversight for the state that is positive to the industry, your business and property owners. 

The WRA’s endorsement process    

For more than three decades, the WRA has built an endorsement process that is often regarded as the “gold standard” for organizational endorsements in the Badger State and beyond. 

This process has been followed to help select the candidate that will be of most benefit to the association’s legislative priorities, the industry and property owners. 

Rather than simply relying on a questionnaire, the WRA drafts specific questions pertaining to our industry for each elected office in which the organization will make an endorsement. 

These questions are delivered to the candidate in a live interview, either in person or virtual, so that immediate answers can be given without the ability to conjure responses over time that may not reflect their true beliefs. 

The interview process is purposely thought-provoking for the candidate on real estate issues. As an organization, the WRA does not take an endorsement lightly.

When determining whether to endorse a candidate, the WRA considers three criteria:

  • The candidate’s record.
  • The candidate’s electability.
  • The impact of the WRA’s endorsement.

A candidate’s record includes the voting record of the individual, the responses to the interview questions, and the past support the candidate has shown to the WRA’s issues.

Dissecting a candidate’s electability is both an art and a science, and such considerations include the candidate’s ability to win the race, the potential impact of an endorsement on the WRA’s brand, and the association’s ability to influence the outcome of the race. 

The last area of consideration is what the impact of the WRA’s endorsement in the race will have on the WRA’s advocacy efforts and what the consequences will be of endorsing a winning or losing candidate.

The WRA’s endorsement decision in this year’s races  

In this year’s races for governor and attorney general, the WRA board of directors looked back at the last four years and the records of Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul. The board also looked to the future and evaluated the responses from the two incumbent candidates as well their challengers, Tim Michels and Eric Toney, to questions asked during personal interviews.

Over the years, the WRA has consistently and historically supported candidates and elected officials who have embraced the issues important to our members. This year is no different.

In fact, for the first time since 1986, the WRA has made the decision to not endorse in these races. All four candidates showed strong support for our issues. All four candidates demonstrated that they would be receptive to our advocacy efforts and would help facilitate a bright future for our industry.

Gov. Evers has worked well with the WRA in the past, passing budgets with $650 million in property tax cuts for Wisconsinites, allocating $125 million for broadband expansion grants, and making REALTORS® essential in the beginning days of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, his record on REALTOR® issues is not perfect. He vetoed two of the WRA’s legislative priorities that received unanimous support in both houses of the legislature and included several items in two state budgets he introduced that would have been harmful to the real estate industry. 

Michels’ pro-economic development platform was well-received by the board of directors. As a successful businessman who built a construction company that employs 8,000 people, Michels cited a goal of bringing that success to the people of Wisconsin as governor. However, he has never held office and thus does not have a proven track record on REALTOR® issues such as property taxes and professional licensing.

Attorney General Kaul has been supportive of the issues important to the WRA, and Toney as well was impressive with his focus on law enforcement and criminal justice as it pertains to our industry.

The decision not to endorse a single candidate illustrates that despite the differences being played out about the candidates on TV, in the mail and on your computer screen, when it comes to issues of importance to the WRA, the real estate industry and property rights — we can and will be able to work with any eventual winner on November 8. 

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