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Rantz: Leading Seattle mayoral candidate doesn’t pay rent, allegedly owes 20k

Andrew Grant Houston. (Photo courtesy of agh4sea.com)

The Seattle mayoral candidate who has raised the most funding from Democracy Vouchers — far more than his establishment opponents — owes over $20,000 in back rent, according to the company that manages the apartment building where he resides.

With nearly $412,000 raised, housing advocate Andrew Grant Houston surprised opponents and the media with his fundraising prowess. Almost 85% of his fundraising comes from Seattle’s Democracy Voucher program. That is far more than any other candidate, including frontrunners Bruce Harrell and Lorena Gonzalez.

But as Houston raised money for what many still believe to be a longshot candidacy for mayor, even paying for campaign workers to collect vouchers, he’s been skipping out on his rent. In fact, he stopped paying rent while employed with Seattle City Council.

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Seattle mayoral candidate isn’t paying his rent

Houston stopped paying rent on his $1,695/month Capitol Hill apartment near the start of the pandemic. At the time, however, he was employed as an interim policy manager for Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda.

According to an April email to Houston from the property management company, the mayoral candidate was asked about the amount due at the time.

“I understand you are running for mayor and on Teresa Mosqueda’s staff,” says the email shared with the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “Our office recently received an inquiry from the press about the status of your rent balance. Before responding to them, we’d like to understand if you have any plans to get current on your outstanding balance of $14,485.”

The property management company says he initially offered some small payments, but his debt has since ballooned to $20,828.

Under the state’s eviction moratorium, landlords may not evict tenants during the pandemic. The order expires in August.

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Houston turns this into a campaign pitch

The campaign’s communications director, Dylan Austin, acknowledged that Houston (nicknamed Ace) owes back rent. He would not confirm the amount.

“Ace is one of an estimated 200,000 Washingtonians behind on their rents, in totals over $1 billion,” Austin told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH via email. “Ace is the only candidate in this race who doesn’t own a home, and who has a stark contrast in personal wealth as compared to every other leading candidate (some in the millions).”

Austin said Houston’s architecture practice suffered due to the pandemic, “with the irony that he had to also renew his architecture license and other business expenses while not getting that work.”

“Ace has the same lived experience of many Seattleites who struggled before (and struggle now) in a pandemic to keep up with soaring rent prices and affordability issues in our city,” Austin said.

Houston’s rent is in line with the average in Seattle, according to Apartment List.

“Ace is directly affected by the policies our city government influences, and will bring that perspective into the Mayor’s office,” he concluded.

Political implications

While some Seattleites have struggled to pay rent, they don’t normally run for mayor.

While Houston is using this issue to show the struggles of living in Seattle, it poses significant political problems. It could come off as an opportunistic spin. Why didn’t Houston make this lived experience an issue of his campaign? If this separated him from the crowded field of wealthy and out-of-touch candidates, it wouldn’t come out as voters receive ballots.

While voters sometimes say they want candidates just like them, they seldom follow through with a vote. Do they want to support a candidate who can’t pay their rent? Perhaps the pandemic changed the dynamic here. But it doesn’t seem like a top characteristic the voter looks for in a candidate.

And what about the optics of raising so much money, paying canvassers to collect Democracy Vouchers, when you’re in so much debt? Should Houston’s focus be on running for mayor — a longshot according to the latest polling — instead of finding a job to pay off his debt?

Politics aside, you have a property management team waiting on a considerable amount of rent that’s past due. They, too, have bills to pay. If Houston were to become mayor, would he treat all small businesses this way?

Did you like this opinion piece? Then listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Parler, and like me on Facebook

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