Real estate industry eyes Illinois governor’s race but hasn’t ponied up yet

Gov race chart

Illinois’ real estate and construction sectors are eyeing the upcoming governor’s race. But industry players may not be opening their wallets the way they once did.

According to data assembled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the real estate and construction sectors have so far spent $546,165 in the race between incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican challenger Bruce Rauner.

Those same donors would have to spend more than $629,000 every month between now and November to match the $3.69 million that mortgage brokers, developers, home builders, general contractors and others in the industry donated to Illinois’ gubernatorial candidates in 2010.

Contributions from housing players hit a record high of $7.19 million in the 2006 governor’s race. But those were the boom days of real estate, pre-housing collapse.

Shela Lahey, executive vice president of the Northern Illinois Home Builders Association, said her group is heavily invested in state-wide races and their impact on issues like the sprinkler mandate — a bill introduced and then withdrawn last year that would have forced developers to install sprinklers in every high-rise apartment building. But Lahey’s group doesn’t have the cash to throw around the way it once did.

“Our budget has changed dramatically in a decade,” Lahey said. “You might have seen a lot higher funding for campaigns a decade ago, even seven years ago. Truly right up to 2009.”

Some groups plan to keep donation levels consistent from previous years but have yet to give the full amount. Jon Broadbooks, a spokesman for the Illinois Association of Realtors, said it’s still early in the campaign season.

“I know for some people it may feel like it’s been going on seemingly forever,” Broadbook said.  “But really it’s typical for our organization, and probably for many others, that a lot of the contributions don’t flow in until mid-to-late summer.”

So far, industry donations favor Quinn only slightly — the governor has received $254,900 compared to Rauner’s $241,450. The state Realtors’ group gave $31,000 to Quinn’s campaign and just $1,000 to Rauner’s, Broadbrook said, but those amounts could change as the group finalizes its donation strategy.

“We’ve had a long track record with Gov. Quinn,” Broadbooks added. “We’re still getting to know Bruce Rauner.”

The closer the race becomes the more likely money is to flow, according to University of Illinois campaign finance expert Brian Gaines. A Rasmussen survey of likely voters placed Rauner 3 percentage points ahead of Quinn in April, “but it’s classified by most people as a toss-up,” Gaines said.

“Sometimes big donors actually sit out when it’s a runaway,” he added.

Meanwhile, real estate and construction donors who were hit by the recession hope improving market trends will fill their coffers and extend their influence again.

“We’re really looking forward to 2016,” Lahey said.

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