Wherever political decisions are being made in Texas, the Texas REALTORS® Governmental Affairs department is there, protecting the interests of the real estate industry and property owners.
The department is perhaps best known for its boots-on-the-ground advocacy and political involvement. Major events such as REALTOR® Day at the Texas Capitol draw thousands of members to lobby elected officials. Behind the scenes, department members review every legislative bill, amendment, and regulation as part of its public policy work. They draft position points and talking points, as well as maintain databases of contacts and public officials.
The Texas REALTORS® Political Action Committee, TREPAC, is renowned statewide—and nationally—for its fundraising and member engagement. TREPAC had a banner year in 2020-21, with 44% of members participating and an all-time record of more than $5.8 million raised. Those funds are distributed to candidates and officials who support private property rights, homeownership issues, and the real estate industry.
“A big part of our job is educating members why they should invest in TREPAC,” says TREPAC Director Leslie Cantu. “Everyone has that ah-ha moment where they see the benefit of what we do. We try to build a culture where REALTORS® continue to invest in good times and bad. We pride ourselves on being the largest PAC in Texas.”
During this spring’s legislative session, Governmental Affairs called on members to share their homeowners association stories with representatives. New HOA reforms were a major victory for Texas REALTORS® and all Texans. The expansion of broadband internet was another success from earlier this year.
The department’s efforts aren’t limited to the Texas Capitol. You may be surprised to learn that Governmental Affairs is working on local and regional issues through the association’s Issues Mobilization program, which helps local associations that have identified local ordinances that could affect all members or property owners.
Those targeted campaigns—from opposing the expansion of a Waco landfill to featuring garden gnomes in marketing to fight a proposed ordinance limiting lawn decorations in Leon Valley—can be some of the most fun and colorful projects, says Jaime Lee, director of advocacy communications.
“Anyone in Governmental Affairs will tell you that we love getting calls from members, even if they’re upset about a particular issue and want to vent. We want passionate people; they make the best advocates. Or we could put them through candidate training or urge them to volunteer for a committee and maybe they themselves can make the difference they’re seeking,” Lee says.
Key to those efforts are the department’s field representatives, who identify and recruit REALTORS® to take part in programs and campaigns. They develop and direct grassroots political plans for local associations. They educate and assist local governmental affairs and TREPAC committees and help local associations with PAC fundraising plans and events.
“We have an excellent team. For me, the most attractive part of coming to Texas REALTORS® was working with this team. The team we’ve assembled are absolute experts, the go-to people for their subject matters,” says Tray Bates, vice president of Governmental Affairs. “What we do depends on the cooperation and support from the rest of the association and any successes are shared by all staff members.”
The team is highly collaborative and proud of its work; team members say it is particularly gratifying to know you helped to change a law or stop something that would harm association members’ livelihoods. The team’s sense of humor and creativity can be seen in its pop-culture skewering PAC commercials and culture-building social fundraisers like volleyball tournaments and 5Ks.
The 18-member team is: Brandon Alderete, director of political affairs; Tray Bates, vice president of governmental affairs; Dahlia Brown, director of field operations and Gulf Coast field representative; Veronica Canales, TREPAC coordinator; Leslie Cantu, TREPAC director; Nathan Catey, Central Texas field representative; Pete Craig, East Texas field representative; Madeline Curry, TREPAC staff accountant; Andrea Friedman, associate director of TREPAC; Seth Juergens, public policy analyst; Jaime Lee, director of advocacy communications; Ashley Liles, TREPAC manager; Josh McDaniel, North Texas field representative; Cullen Neely, South Texas field representative; Julia Parenteau, director of public policy; Joanna Ramirez, political affairs specialist; Michael Reeves, West Texas field representative; and Jami Sims, governmental affairs program manager.