Hes all about creating policy to actually move the needle on climate change.
He's all about creating policy to actually move the needle on climate change. Courtesy of Andrew Grant Houston Campaign

City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda is officially not running for mayor, but her interim policy manager, Andrew Grant Houston, is stepping up to the plate.

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Houston, 31, is a Texas-born architect, housing advocate, and small business owner, and he believes he's the most progressive candidate to enter the 2021 mayoral race thus far. Currently, only two candidates, William Kopatich and Lance Randall, have filed their candidacy with the Seattle Elections and Ethics Commission. Incumbent Mayor Jenny Durkan isn't seeking re-election.

Houston said he was inspired to run for mayor after "everything came to a head" this past year. His small business, an architecture firm, was hit hard during COVID-19, and, before he started working for Mosqueda, Houston scraped by financially via Twitter, where he reported on city council budget meetings for a loyal audience in exchange for money or food or other types of "mutual aid." You may know him as "Ace the Architect."

Enmeshed in the Seattle process, Houston realized one of the biggest barriers to change in Seattle was the mayor. During last year's budget season, Durkan issued two vetoes and, at times, the council was concerned she wouldn't allocate the funding they specified for issues with which Durkan disagreed. Houston saw Durkan as a roadblock.

"Clearly, with the way we’re moving right now with politicians not wanting to upset each other and not actually doing and acting upon what is necessary," Houston said, "we need a different kind of leadership."

While he hasn't held office before, Houston described himself as a "policy wonk" who learned the ins and outs of the political process from his time advocating for environmental policy as a board member of Futurewise.

One of his biggest priorities is to act on climate change. "Do you consider Durkan to be the 'Climate Mayor' like she dubbed herself?" I asked. Houston laughed, "No, not a climate mayor at all." The Urbanist doesn't think so either.

Part of moving the needle on climate change and reducing Seattle's emissions "by at least 50% if not more," Houston said, is restoring transportation funding back to where it was before COVID-19 hit. He also wants to build more housing faster and in more places, which could be done by eliminating the city's apartment ban.

"We need to have someone who can really think about climate change in a systems way," Houston said. "That’s what I bring being an architect and being a program manager."

Other policy musts for Houston include a corporate income tax, land-use reform to create more economic rental spaces for small businesses or arts organizations, and more green jobs and higher-paying opportunities for communities of color. But Houston is also asking people to submit their own policy requests.

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As a Black, Latinx, queer, renter, Houston sees his candidacy as representative of "such a huge part of the city that gets ignored."

With his candidacy, Houston hopes "people start to be able to see themselves" in leadership positions and that they "can hopefully start to build trust again in our public institutions," which is something he thinks Durkan eroded during her term.

"My thing is very much that I want to be mayor for the next two terms and meet our climate goals and build what I hope is a culturally diverse and truly international cosmopolitan place and then tap out," Houston said. "And then I can go back to being an architect."