PA-01: Houck’s Tales Draw Scrutiny As Primary Approaches

Gun Rights

He describes himself as an All-American college football player. He says he was a teacher and a high school football coach. He claims to have endorsements from the NRA and prominent Republicans such as Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), and Reps. Scott Perry (R-10), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Chip Roy (R-Texas).

Problem for Mark Houck is that few of these claims appear to be accurate.

The Republican challenger in PA-01 to incumbent Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick has been under fire from those in his own party about his record heading into the April 23 primary.

In September 2022, Houck, the co-founder and president of The King’s Men, made national headlines when federal authorities arrested him for allegedly knocking down an abortion-rights activist outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Philadelphia. The arrest drew outrage by some conservative politicians and media pundits, who alleged President Joe Biden’s administration was cracking down on anti-abortion activists. Federal officials denied the claim.

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Houck’s family told news outlets an FBI SWAT team raided his home, which the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office disputed. Images from the raid showed armed FBI special agents, but not a tactical team. Houck was acquitted on all charges in January 2023.

In his May 2023 testimony to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government about the case, Houck provided a bio that included language that described himself “As a former All-American collegiate athlete and high school football coach,” as well as his seasoned life experience as a human resource manager, youth counselor and high school teacher.”

The Bucks County pro-life advocate attended Catholic University (1992-96) and did play free safety for the Cardinals, picking off nine passes over his final three seasons. But researching the CUA athletic website, Houck is not included among its lengthy list of All-America football players.

Houck’s high school teaching career appears to have some holes, as review of teacher certification records from the Pennsylvania Department of Education shows that he only had an “Emergency Permit: Day-to-Day Substitute All Subject Areas PK-12” in the Cheltenham School District during the 2003-04 academic year. That permit expired at its conclusion.

Last September, Punchbowl News published an article saying that Houck had name-dropped Perry as his inspiration to run for the seat and challenge Fitzpatrick.

Houck attempted to retreat from that statement, telling PennLive, “He’s not colluding with me to take Brian Fitzpatrick out of office … It wasn’t like that at all.”

Perry spokesperson Matt Beynon said “While Congressman Perry greatly respects Mr. Houck’s tireless dedication to fighting for the unborn, he only encouraged Mr. Houck to pray about a decision to run for Congress.”

But Punchbowl released audio that supported the writing of its reporter, Mica Soellner.

Mica: “Did [Perry] encourage you at all to run for this seat?”

Houck: “Yeah, I mean he obviously said this is a decision that you need to make. But if he were in my shoes, he would do it, is kind of his words. Because that’s exactly what he did. But, yeah, he did encourage me.”

And it wasn’t just the central Pennsylvania Republican whose name was invoked by Houck.

“I didn’t want to run for Congress. People have been encouraging me … to consider it. I eventually could not refuse it thankfully for the influence of Reps. Jim Jordan, Chip Roy, Scott Perry, and Mike Johnson,” Houck told the Vortex With Michael Voris.

Roy responded to POLITICO via text that “I am always happy to talk to friends, like Mark, who stood athwart the tyrannical FBI, but I have not pushed anyone to run or not run. It’s not my job. It’s the voters of PA.”

More recently, Houck’s campaign website took some liberties under his “endorsements” tab, posting a letter from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) on his “AQ” rating from the organization. An AQ rating is the highest rating a candidate can receive without a voting record on Second Amendment issues.

The NRA-PVF’s website does list a number of official endorsements in Pennsylvania races, including Reps. Ryan Mackenzie (R-07) and Mike Kelly (R-16) in contested Congressional primaries, but fails to list Houck or Fitzpatrick in PA-01.

And just last week, Houck told the Delaware Valley Journal that he had scheduled a debate with Fitzpatrick for April 14. This turned out to be erroneous and the DVJ was forced to publish a retraction.

Fitzpatrick, a former federal prosecutor and FBI agent, is consistently ranked among the most bipartisan members of the House. He cochairs the Problem Solvers Caucus and is a leading voice pushing for the U.S. to fund Ukraine, which his party’s most right-wing members largely oppose.

But Fitzpatrick also voted against impeaching former President Donald Trump and against forming a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack. He joined every Republican in the House in opposing Biden’s American Rescue Plan. More recently, he voted for impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and initially supported hard-right Jordan for House speaker, before flipping his vote during the chaotic search for a GOP speaker.

Houck is hoping to turn out enough conservative Republicans frustrated with Fitzpatrick to win the April 23 primary and take on Democrat Ashley Ehasz in November.

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