As the nation’s major political parties prepare to gather in Cleveland and Philadelphia next month to nominate their respective candidates for president of the United States, tensions persists on both sides, with a disconnect between the mainstream GOP establishment and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, and a vocal Bernie Sanders continuing to challenge the current Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. This discord may raise challenges for the major political parties, including their presidential nominees, in turning out the vote in 2016. State and local issues, meanwhile, may be crucial in driving voter turnout this election cycle.
While the 2008 Obama campaign executed a very effective voter turnout initiative that saw Democratic candidates win elections in traditional Republican districts, the coattails of the anticipated presidential nominees – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – may be shorter and carry less influence on down-ticket races, particularly at the state and local level. However, contested state races and hot-button issues, such as the “bathroom bill” debate in North Carolina, may actually drive voters to the polls on November 8.
While the national media focuses on the election of the person to succeed President Obama as our 45th president, the impact of state races and issues in driving voter turnout cannot be overlooked. In the 50 states, 86 of 99 state legislatures will hold elections this November. The outcome of these elections to serve as part-time legislators and policymakers could have significant influence on issues and policies that are important to NAIOP members and the commercial real estate industry. Examples of the state issues at stake for commercial real estate in 2016 include:
- Preserving historic preservation tax credits in Alabama and Ohio.
- Improving the regulatory environment in Arizona.
- Maintaining a balanced property tax structure in California and Texas.
- Reforming construction defects laws in Colorado.
- Reducing the business rent tax in Florida.
- Reducing the state general property tax in Minnesota.
- Enhancing state competitiveness through tax reform in North Carolina.
- Recognizing 1031 exchanges for tax purposes at the state level in Pennsylvania.
- Reforming the tax increment financing (TIF) programs in Washington and Wisconsin.
These state issues, along with many others impacting CRE, are expected to be at the forefront of the legislative debate at the state capitols next year. The results of these debates will be directly affected by the outcome of the 2016 races for state office.
Irrespective of the national debate surrounding the presidential candidates, NAIOP and its members need to remain active in these campaigns that are closer to home and may significantly impact commercial and industrial development and real estate. In addition, historically, the outcome of presidential elections has not followed the political trajectory of state legislative races. For example, since President Obama took office in 2009, the GOP has seen significant gains at the state level with a total gain of 913 state legislative seats.
The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee (RLCC) and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committees (DLCC) recently held meetings to outline the importance of state races for commercial real estate and the country. Each organization is organized, motivated and focused on executing grassroots strategies to increase their legislative advantage within state capitols across the country. At these meetings, political experts on state races highlighted the importance of recruiting the right candidates and developing the right message to spur voter turnout. Economic growth, workforce development and other issues related to commercial real estate were mentioned as part of developing the right message. As a member of both the RLCC and the DLCC, the NAIOP government affairs team is utilizing these organizations to build relationships and engage state legislative leaders from across the country on issues of importance to NAIOP and its members.
This year, more than most, may be the year where voter turnout is driven by the state candidates and state issues. Therefore, while the focus will undoubtedly be on the presidential election candidates, let’s not underestimate the importance of state and local races for commercial real estate.
Toby Burke is the Senior Director of State and Local Affairs for NAIOP.