Real Estate Industry Pads Coffers

Article excerpt

Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

Developers, home builders and real estate professionals are jumping into the governor's race to the tune of more than a quarter-million dollars so far.

Most of that money has gone to the two top Republicans vying for the May 16 nomination to run in the fall. Kevin Mannix has collected at least $150,000 from developers, construction firms and owners, real estate agents and building suppliers. Ron Saxton so far has brought in at least $126,000 from the sector, according to campaign finance reports covering September through March.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who faces a pair of challengers in the Democratic primary May 16, also has drawn financial support from the sector, with at least $89,000 coming from individuals and firms in real estate, development and construction.

Among the three other top candidates, who have raised only a fraction of the money collected by their counterparts, Republican Jason Atkinson has gotten more than $11,000, Democrat Jim Hill $900 and Democrat Peter Sorenson $240 from real estate and development interests.

Jon Chandler, a lobbyist with the Oregon Home Builders Association, said it's no surprise that the top candidates for governor are drawing support from the development industry.

"My guess is it's because the issues are so much more in play right now for our industry," said Chandler, whose association did not endorse candidates for the Democratic or Republican primaries.

In previous governor's races, land use and development issues have been relatively dormant.

But in 2000 and again in 2004, property-rights advocates scored big election wins with Measure 7 and Measure 37. Dave Hunnicutt, head of the state's leading property-rights group, Oregonians in Action, said the two measures' strong support from voting majorities has given hope to land owners and development professionals that Oregon's land use planning system is no longer beyond opponents' reach.

Voter majorities for Measure 7, which was tossed by the courts, and Measure 37 "sent a pretty strong signal that most Oregonians, your average Oregonian, thinks there needs to be some pretty fundamental changes" in recognizing property rights as part of the land use planning system, he said.

Measure 37 requires government to set aside zoning and land use restrictions that have diminished a property's value if those regulations were imposed after the owner or owner's family acquired it.

Although the Oregon Supreme Court upheld Measure 37's validity, questions about its implementation remain for the next governor and Legislature.

Big contributions from builders and real estate operators are intended to ensure that nothing gets in the way of their plans to profit from the anticipated bonanza, said Elon Hasson, an attorney and lobbyist for 1000 Friends of Oregon.

"It's pretty clear that these development interests are giving a lot more to Republicans because they want to be able to turn a quick buck and avoid some of the common-sense rules we've had for a long time," said Hasson, whose group opposed Measures 7 and 37, both during the campaigns and in court after their passage.

Randy Sebastian, a prominent home builder in the Portland and Bend areas, said he supported Mannix with a $10,000 contribution not because he expects the next governor to tear down land use planning or use Measure 37 to dramatically expand the supply of developable land. …