The political action committee representing Virginia's 35,000 Realtors endorsed Republican Jerry W. Kilgore for governor Wednesday, reversing its position from four years ago when it supported Mark R. Warner for the state's top job.
The group's chairman said its members believe that Kilgore will promote a better environment for their industry and the state's homeowners than Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine or Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr. (R-Winchester), who is running as an independent.
"It was just more of a feeling that the group had that Kilgore was probably closer to how they perceived candidates should be toward our profession," said Schaefer Oglesby, a Realtor in Lynchburg. "It wasn't a clear-cut, he's against this or for that."
The association, which endorsed the Democratic candidate for governor in 1993 and split its endorsement between the major parties in 1997, interviewed all the candidates July 8 and met to make its decision two weeks later.
Oglesby said that several of the committee's members expressed deep concern about homeowner tax relief proposals from Kaine and Kilgore. Kaine would allow a 20 percent exemption for homes; Kilgore would cap assessment increases at 5 percent annually.
"There were a number of members who didn't like either real estate tax proposal," Oglesby said. "They thought it would have an adverse impact on local government."
Unlike some other state organizations, such as the Virginia Education Association, the Realtors do not have a history of encouraging political activism among members during the final weeks of the campaign, Oglesby said.
He said the organization will donate $50,000 to Kilgore's campaign and will send out a get-out-the-vote postcard just before Election Day. The organization also endorsed Sen. Bill Bolling (R-Hanover) for lieutenant governor and Del. Robert F. McDonnell (R-Virginia Beach) for attorney general. Each will receive $25,000, Oglesby said.
Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the endorsement bolsters Kilgore's pro-business record. Last week, the National Federation of Independent Businesses endorsed Kilgore. "It's clearly an indication of who these professional groups think is the best pro-business candidate," Murtaugh said.
Delacey Skinner, a spokeswoman for Kaine, said she was not surprised by the decision because the Realtors association did not actively push for the tax changes championed by Warner and Kaine during the 2004 legislative session.
The Realtors vigorously opposed a proposal to increase taxes imposed when a deed is recorded but did not take public positions on the overall package, which included higher cigarette and sales taxes and lower food and income taxes.
"Last year during the budget reform, there were a lot of organizations that reached beyond their narrow self-interest," Skinner said. "Unfortunately, the only time the Realtors spoke out about budget reform was to oppose it."