An unexpected name has vaulted toward front-runner status in the 9th Congressional District special election Republican primary: Leigh Brown.
Why? A political action committee in Washington, D.C.
The National Association of Realtors PAC has just spent a mind-boggling $1.3 million on a print, digital and TV campaign to support Brown’s candidacy, according to records from the Federal Elections Commission.
Most of the money is going to producing and airing generic, positive 30-second TV spots like this one. Another big chunk will send mailers out to the sprawling district.
Why this is odd
Now, there’s no indication that Leigh Brown is anything but a conscientious, upstanding person. Also, Leigh Brown is a Realtor herself, owner of RE/MAX Leigh Brown & Associates in Concord. It’s not necessarily unusual that a Realtors group would support her campaign in some way.
But the scope and details of this independent expenditure from the National Association of Realtors is certainly out of the norm.
For one, Brown does not live in the 9th Congressional District. The Harrisburg (Cabarrus County) resident actually lives in U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson’s 8th Congressional District. She won’t be able to vote for herself.
The timing and amount of money spent on Leigh Brown’s campaign is also unusual for the National Association of Realtors.
That’s an understatement: This media buy appears to be the third-largest independent expenditure campaign in the PAC’s history.
The only ones larger came in the final weeks of high-profile U.S. Senate campaigns in 2018, supporting Democrats Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona and U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana (Sinema won, Donnelly lost).
A Longleaf Politics analysis could not find any primary season expenditures even a third of this size, and even these were for incumbents not likely facing strong challenges from within the party.
Did Leigh Brown strike a deal with her colleagues?
The scope of the expenditure raises questions about how it came about. Here’s the only hint we have so far.
Until two days before declaring her candidacy, Leigh Brown served as the “fundraising liaison” for the National Association of Realtors’ political arm, the REALTOR® Party. In other words, she was a key leader in raising money for the PAC and, presumably, helping decide where it goes.
In a statement, the National Association of Realtors said that the PAC “adheres to pre-established procedures for determining candidates to support in federal elections.”
This process begins with state Realtors associations evaluating all candidates and making a recommendation to the national organization of who to support. The North Carolina REALTORS group has not made a public endorsement in the 9th Congressional District special election.
We’ve reached out to their government affairs personnel to see if they recommended the expenditure on Brown’s campaign.
Cover image by Leigh Brown via Facebook.