The historic elections on Nov. 4 produced a victory for Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) as the first African-American to win the presidency and increased majorities for House and Senate Democrats. Voters across the country also brought home significant election wins for housing.
More than 130 million people cast their ballots, the most ever for a presidential election. An estimated 64% of eligible voters went to the polls, making 2008 the highest percentage turnout in generations.
Congratulating President-elect Obama and all the lawmakers who were elected to the 111th Congress, NAHB Chairman Sandy Dunn said that “the nation’s home builders look forward to working in a bipartisan manner with the incoming Obama Administration and new Congress to help solve our nation’s economic crisis and get housing and the economy back on track.”
To build support for housing on Capitol Hill, the nation’s home builders launched a targeted voter mobilization campaign in five Senate races and 28 competitive House districts. The effort resulted in wins for 26 of the 33 candidates that NAHB supported. The Minnesota Senate race remains undecided.
The voter mobilization program employed sophisticated communications and outreach programs to help identify, educate and mobilize the pro-housing vote.
In local grassroots efforts, NAHB members living in the targeted congressional districts volunteered for the candidates by putting up campaign signs, canvassing neighborhoods and having the candidate speak at home builders association meetings.
Once the voters who worked in housing and housing-related fields were identified and educated on the issues, they were contacted through phone banks, mail, e-mail and person-to-person outreach in the final days before the elections and urged to go to the polls and vote for pro-housing candidates.
In the Senate, NAHB’s grassroots efforts helped propel Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) to victory. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) fell to Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley while Norm Coleman’s (R-Minn.) contest with Democrat Al Franken is headed for a recount.
The 23 NAHB-supported House winners included Reps. Gary Miller (R-Calif.), Ron Klein (D-Fla.), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), John Barrow (D-Ga.), Jim Marshall (D-Ga.), Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Michael Arcuri (D-N.Y.), John Hall (D-N.Y.), Zack Space (D-Ohio), Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), Chris Carney (D-Pa.), Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), Chet Edwards (D-Texas), Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). In addition, Republican Christopher Lee won an open seat in New York.
BUILD-PAC, the political action committee of NAHB, contributed to 27 Senate contests. Twenty-two of the BUILD-PAC-supported candidates won ¯ a success rate of 81%. This total does not include the outcomes of the elections involving Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who are in races that are still to be decided.
In the House, BUILD-PAC posted a 92% success rate, supporting 309 winners in the 337 races to which it contributed.
Builder Efforts Help Defeat Arizona Legislation That Would Have Nullified NOR
On the state level, perhaps the most notable victory in NAHB’s state and local ballot initiative efforts occurred with the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 201 in Arizona, which would have nullified certain provisions of Notice and Opportunity to Repair legislation that was signed into law in 2003. The final tally on the measure was 22% in favor, 78% against. Arizona builders worked alongside NAHB and the High Production Home Builders to achieve this favorable outcome.
Another industry victory occurred in Nevada, where the state constitution was amended to spell out a private property owner’s rights regarding eminent domain matters.
With the passage of Question 2, transferring property in Nevada from one private party to another private owner is not considered a public use. The amendment further stipulates that an owner must be compensated at the “highest price the property would bring on the open market” if the state takes their property for a public use.
Obama Will Focus on the Economy
After winning 53% of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes, Obama told the nation that Americans expect a bipartisan effort to accomplish the agenda he outlined during the campaign.
“Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long,” he said. “So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.”
“Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers — in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people,” Obama said.
In his first news conference after the elections, Obama said that restoring the nation’s economic health would be a top priority.
“I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead,” Obama told reporters in Chicago, flanked by Vice President-elect Joe Biden, his newly-named chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and members of his transition economic advisory board.
Obama said that passing a stimulus package would be his first move if Congress fails to act before he takes office on Jan. 20.
“I want to see a stimulus package sooner rather than later. If it does not get done in the lame-duck session, it will be the first thing I get done as President of the United States,” Obama said.
NAHB Seeks Housing Stimulus
NAHB is also urging Congress to move swiftly to address falling home prices and rising foreclosures, which are the root causes of the current economic downturn, when lawmakers return to Washington for a lame-duck session scheduled to begin next week.
As Congress considers a second economic stimulus package, NAHB is calling on lawmakers to provide short-term targeted incentives that will help put a floor on home prices.
In addition to significantly expanding the first-time home buyer tax credit and making it available to all home buyers, NAHB is also asking Congress to consider offering a government buydown of interest rates on mortgages for those who purchase a home in 2009.
"Getting consumers off the sidelines will reduce the inventory of unsold homes, stop the erosion of home values in hard-hit markets and result in more new and existing home sales in the months ahead, restoring housing as an essential driver of growth in the nation's economy,” said Dunn.
As Obama and his presidential transition team focus on tackling the nation’s economic woes, the new composition of the Congress may help to make the job a bit easier. While Senate Democrats fell short of their goal of a 60-vote majority that would have made Republican filibusters all but impossible, they did increase their majority from a narrow 51-49 margin to a comfortable 57-40 cushion.
These figures include two independents, Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucus with the Democrats. Three races in Alaska, Georgia and Minnesota are still to be decided.
Democrats toppled three Senate Republican incumbents last Tuesday. North Carolina state Sen. Kay Hagan ousted Elizabeth Dole; former New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen defeated John Sununu in a rematch of their closely contested 2002 race and Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley defeated Gordon Smith.
Senate Democrats added to their margin by picking up three seats left open by retiring Republicans in Colorado, New Mexico and Virginia. Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Tom Udall (D-N.M) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) won their respective elections to fill those seats.
Latest returns show that the Democratic majority in the 111th Congress increased by 20 seats. The breakdown is 256 Democrats and 175 Republicans, with four races still to be determined.
For more information on state ballot initiatives, e-mail Carlos Gutierrez at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8242.