The 2012 election presents a number of challenges to affordable housing because of what we are losing, the uncertainty of the results, and the legislative agenda that lies ahead.
We are losing Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who will be retiring from the Senate at the end of the 112th Congress. She has been an ardent supporter within the Republican conference, and at this point there is no clear champion on the Republican side of the Finance Committee. Of similar significance is the retirement of Rep. Barney Frank, who also has been a staunch defender.
Electoral uncertainty is adding to investor uncertainty as the presidential candidates and candidates for Congress have very disparate blueprints, especially when it comes to tax reform. The results of the presidential contest will play a large role, but the tax reform debate will be held in Capitol Hill committee rooms and on the floors of the House and Senate. The participants in those debates matter, especially those that have supported the aff ordable housing agenda. In the Senate, the issue of balance of power is relevant as it could decide whether tax reform is addressed through thoughtful debate or through the reconciliation process, which could be disastrous.
Here is a brief snapshot of some key races to watch.
1.Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) vs.Rep. Connie Mack IV (R): Nelson, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and a low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) supporter, is challenged for his Florida seat by Mack, a four-time Republican congressman, in this high-profile race.
2.Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) vs. Pete Hoekstra (R): Stabenow, a Senate Finance Committee member and a LIHTC supporter, faces former Congressman Hoekstra for her Michigan seat.
3.Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) vs. Michael Baumgartner (R): In Washington, Cantwell, a leading voice for the LIHTC program, is being challenged by Baumgartner, a state legislator. A member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, Cantwell has recently pushed for the extension of the fixed 9 percent LIHTC rate.
4.Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) vs. Scott Howell (D): A ranking member and potential chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Hatch is running for a seventh term. He's challenged by Howell, a former state senator.
5.Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) vs. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R): In Montana, Rehberg, a Republican congressman, is mounting a strong campaign against incumbent Tester, a member of the Senate Banking Committee. This race bears watching because it could change the balance of power in the Senate.
6.Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) vs. Elizabeth Warren (D): In perhaps the most-watched Senate race this year, popular Republican Brown faces a stiff challenge from rising star Warren, who has raised big bucks to unseat him. She's seeking to return the Massachusetts seat to the Democrats after Brown captured it in 2010 following the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. The race looks to be close.
7.Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) vs.Rep. Shelley Berkley (D): The Nevada Senate race is another that could shift the balance of power. Heller, who was appointed to the seat after John Ensign's resignation last year, faces Congresswoman Berkley, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and a LIHTC supporter.
8.Sen. Claire McCaskill (DMo.) vs. Rep. Todd Akin (R): In Missouri, incumbent McCaskill faces challenger Akin, who set off a firestorm with his “legitimate rape” comments. That controversy has helped McCaskill, but the race was close in September.
9.Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) vs. Josh Mandel (R): Brown, a member of the Senate Banking Committee and a LIHTC supporter, is in a contentious battle with Mandel, the Ohio treasurer.
10.George Allen (R) vs.Tim Kaine (D): In Virginia, two former governors are battling for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Jim Webb. Republican Allen, a former senator as well as governor, faces Democrat Kaine, another former top state official. This is yet one more race that could decide the balance of power in Washington.
11.Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) vs. Tommy Thompson (R): Herb Kohl's retirement from the Senate has set up a tough race for his open seat. Wisconsin voters will choose between Baldwin, a veteran of Congress, and Thompson, a former governor and secretary of Health and Human Services.
12.Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) vs. Bill Foster (D): Illinois Congresswoman Biggert, chair of the House housing subcommittee and a LIHTC supporter, is up against former Rep. Foster for the newly drawn 11th District seat. Biggert has long represented the 13th District, but the reconfigured territory leans more Democratic.
David Gasson is the executive director of the Housing Advisory Group and a vice president at Boston Capital.