Illinois Realtors pours another $63K into aldermanic races

Group has poured hundreds of thousands into supporting pro-real estate candidates

Illinois Realtors' Jeff Baker and Anthony Hebron
Illinois Realtors' Jeff Baker and Anthony Hebron (Illinois Realtors, Getty)

Illinois Realtors Association is still spending big on Chicago’s aldermanic races ahead of Tuesday’s runoff election.

A fund controlled by the nonprofit organization that represents the interests of real estate professionals across the state gave $63,520 to aldermanic candidates in seven races, an Illinois State Election Board filing submitted this week shows.

“Illinois Realtors has and will continue to support candidates who are focused on increasing the availability of housing, protecting property owners’ rights and enhancing Chicago’s communities,” Spokesperson Anthony Hebron said in a statement. 

The donations include: 

  • $8,142 to Nicole Lee, Ward 11 incumbent
  • $8,142 to Monique Scott, Ward 24 incumbent
  • $10,305 to Timmy Knudsen, Ward 43 incumbent
  • $8,142 to Gilbert Villegas, Ward 36 incumbent
  • $9,193 to Joe Dunne, Ward 48 challenger
  • $9,193 to Peter Chico, Ward 10 challenger
  • $10,403 to Kim Walz, Ward 46 challenger

Only four days earlier, the group separately gave $10,000 to Villegas, who’s defending his seat and facing teacher and Chicago Teachers Union executive board member Lori Torres Whitt. The fund had also already contributed $5,000 to Knudsen late last week. Knudsen, appointed by outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot last year, is the former chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals and faces consultant Brian Comer in the runoff.

Dunne, Chico and Walz are all non-incumbent candidates vying for seats of retiring aldermen. Dunne, an affordable housing developer, is facing local business owner and political organizer Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth in the 48th Ward. Chico, a police officer, is facing labor organizer Ana Guajardo in the 10th Ward.

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In the 46th Ward, the group is supporting Kim Walz, a Walgreens executive, against Angela Clay, a community organizer. Ahead of the February election, the group spent $65,000 on Walz. She placed second in the initial election, with 26 percent of the vote, to make the runoff with Clay.

Lee, who was appointed to her 11th Ward seat by outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot, received $23,700 from Illinois REALTORS in the February election. Scott, the incumbent in the 24th Ward, received $37,600 from the fund during the initial round of voting.

The fund, which is considered an Independent Expenditure Committee by the state election board, is controlled by Illinois Realtors CEO Jeff Baker. The fund receives money from the Illinois Realtors Association, the Chicago Realtors Association and the National Realtors Association. 

NAR, which is based in Chicago, contributed $228,796 to the fund last week, according to a filing with the state. It remains to be seen whether the fund will spend the remainder of the contribution on Chicago’s current election, which includes the mayoral runoff between Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas, the preferred candidate of most real estate professionals and lobbying groups that have made their positions known.

NAR is also in the midst of litigation in Chicago, where a federal judge this week granted class action status to a lawsuit against the organization that alleges the group and several real estate brokerages of conspiring to inflate commission rates for agents through various multiple listing services. The complaint was filed by previous home sellers who are seeking over $13 billion in damages.

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