The Virginia Association of Realtors and the Realtors Political Action Committee of Virginia have announced endorsements for statewide candidates in the 2009 election:

* For Governor, Bob McDonnell
* For Lieutenant Governor, Bill Bolling
* For Attorney General, Steve Shannon

We chose these candidates for a variety of reasons — but reasons that relate to a single concern: their support of VAR, for Realtors, and for the real estate issues that impact our members and the clients they serve.

We realize that not everyone will support these same people. Elections are personal things, and voters have many reasons for picking a candidate.

But your RPAC trustees’ responsibility is to choose who they feel are the best candidates for the real estate profession. It matters not what the candidates feel about gun control, or health care, or leash laws, or any of the myriad issues that individuals consider when choosing whom to vote for.

VAR and RPAC focus only on representing and protecting your real estate business.

All that matters: Who will best support Realtors®’ issues? Because when it comes to politics, we believe you should support the people who support you. That is, the candidates whose philosophy and voting record we think best reflects the business needs of Realtors®.

But past history isn’t always a good indicator of future performance. Besides considering the candidates’ voting records (where possible), each statewide candidate filled out RPAC’s extensive questionnaire that asked their positions on issues like housing affordability, smart growth, and transportation. Finally, there is the live interview in front of the 23 trustees. In that forum, the candidates outlined their overall positions and answered real estate-specific questions from the RPAC trustees. (Five of the interviews were in person; Creigh Deeds’s was done by telephone at his campaign’s request.)

All three of these endorsees share some important qualities. Most notably, they’re known quantities; they have a proven track record of support for your real estate business. We have a history with them — a history that shows us, rather than tells us, how they will stand on important issues impacting your business.

Governor: Bob McDonnell

Bob McDonnell

Bob McDonnell

Both McDonnell and his opponent, Creigh Deeds, are eminently qualified for the office they seek. But we were most impressed by McDonnell’s detailed knowledge of the issues that concern the real estate community, and by the specifics he offered, in particular regarding transportation policy. Although we may not agree with his entire plan, the fact that he presented a concrete and detailed one demonstrated an important understanding of the issues.

McDonnell has consistently supported the real estate profession, and he shares our core philosophy: the need to support and defend property rights. And he, like VAR, is opposed to over-regulation of business. Virginia consistently ranks as one of the best (often the best) state for business, and that’s important to our members, many of whom are small-businessmen and -women.

“I have a long established record of protecting private property rights,” he said. For example, on eminent domain, he pointed out that “I worked with your staff from the Virginia Association of Realtors® to develop reasonable legislation that would protect Virginia citizens from the government taking their property for economic and tax enhancing benefits.”

Further, looking at development, McDonnell believes in more-centralized control of growth — statewide standards that keep regulations consistent across jurisdictions. “At this time I believe that local governments have the authority they need to regulate growth,” he said. “I am not supportive of efforts to expand [it]” — a position VAR generally shares.

When it comes to transportation, McDonnell said he wants to spend $1.4 billion to upgrade Virginia’s infrastructure — and to do this, he said, “Without raising significant general fund taxes” and instead rely on bonds and what he hopes will be a budget surplus under a McDonnell administration.

And on the issue of proffers, McDonnell pledged to work with Realtors® and others to “devise an alternative that is meaningful and will garner support from the General Assembly,” because “the proffer system that has evolved was clearly not the intention of the General Assembly that created it back in the 1980s.”

Most important, though, was McDonnell’s clear willingness to continue to work with VAR and Realtors® on the broader economic issues facing us.

“I will make the housing industry part of my economic recovery plan and include you and your colleagues in the process,” he said. And more specifically, he promised to develop an executive branch housing policy, and to “make sure that all state agency representatives are taking the housing policy into account and any impacts their activities could have on housing as they conduct the day-to-day business of the Commonwealth.”

Lt. Governor: Bill Bolling

Bill Bolling

Bill Bolling

Bill Bolling and the Virginia Association of Realtors® have a long-time relationship — one stretching back to 1995 when the Mechanicsville resident was first elected to the Virginia Senate. He has been a consistent supporter of Realtors®’ positions, and has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to your causes and issues.

For example, Bolling has shown his interest in housing growth, but done properly: “I am a strong supporter of efforts to embrace aggressive smart growth strategies in Virginia,” he said, “including proposals to advance more cluster development and infill development projects.”

One aim of “aggressive smart growth” is something important for the long-term health of the real estate industry: affordable housing, and Bolling’s position matches VAR’s: “Moving toward the implementation of more aggressive smart growth strategies and cluster development will help reduce the cost of housing,” he said.

Bolling is also behind us when it comes to proffers and the changes we feel are needed, saying, “I believe that some reasonable controls need to be placed on the cash proffers that are currently being implemented in many Virginia localities.”

For that reason, he is “a strong supporter of the Dillon Rule, which promotes some continuity of policy making from locality to locality.”

He’s also a supporter of open space, although he admits that finding the money to help preserve it might be difficult, at least in the short term.

The bottom line is that Bill Bolling has been a consistent supporter of the real estate profession throughout the Commonwealth, he has worked with us many times in the past, and we can look forward to working with him in the future.

Attorney General: Steve Shannon

Steve Shannon

Steve Shannon

Shannon is also someone VAR has worked with for years; he is currently a member of the General Assembly, representing the 35th district, part of Fairfax County. We know him well, and his policies — and, more important, his voting record — jibes well with VAR’s positions.

He supports our vision of growth, for example, and doesn’t want to put on unnecessary restrictions, especially now. “We have seen the real estate market flatten throughout Virginia, particularly in Northern Virginia,” he said. “I believe that new restrictions on residential or commercial property at this time will hinder economic growth and should not occur.”

We also like Shannon’s view on smart growth — especially that it should be managed locally. “I believe that looking at growth from a regional perspective can sometimes yield the best results,” he said, and plans to work “to facilitate a regional framework that encourages smart regional planning.” And Shannon also believes that framework needs to include preservation of open space.

Perhaps what impressed us the most was Shannon’s pledge to work with Realtors®, not just at our request, but proactively as well, “reaching out to the leadership of VAR for advice as I review bills introduced in the legislature that could affect the real estate market.” He also promised to “bring stakeholders from the real estate community and local government together” when discussions of policy are held, ensuring our members a seat at the table. Our history with him tells us we can rely on him to follow through.

If you’re voting for your business, the RPAC trustees urge you to vote for these candidates. They’re right for real estate and they’re right for Virginia.