A GOP challenger’s frank talk about ‘sexual sin’

FITZPATRICK’S FOE DETAILS PORN ADDICTIONPennsylvania Republican Mark Houck, who is challenging Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick from the right in a battleground district, revealed during a 2020 interview that he “struggled” with exposure to pornography and the “sexual sin, masturbation and stuff” that resulted.The conservative anti-abortion activist, who has ties to the House Freedom Caucus, revealed his addictive tendency in a podcast interview with “The Regular Catholic Guy Show.”“I struggled with pornography and being exposed to it at a young age,” Houck told host Jeff Garrett. “Of course, that leads to, you know, sexual sin, masturbation and stuff. And so, that was a chronic habit that I had that just became a bad habit. Ultimately it was self-medication, I can say initially, and then it became a bad habit.”Houck’s previously unreported remarks about his behavior are not his first open acknowledgment of his interest in porn — a 2011 report on a Catholic-centered group that he co-founded connected its work to his “16-year pornography addiction.”But they are likely to spell more trouble in the already-tense primary battle over Pennsylvania’s 1st District, where Fitzpatrick is one of 18 GOP incumbents who represents turf that President Joe Biden won in 2020.When asked for a comment on this reporting, Houck told POLITICO in an email late Thursday evening that “his story is not unknown.”“I have shared it many times online and in interviews and books. My past struggles are just that. They are a past from childhood into young adulthood,” he said. “Having lost my father at a very young age (11 years old), I had no real guidance but by God’s grace and healing we were able to move away from that sad self medication to true freedom. I have maintained that freedom for many years and now I help others to find the same for themselves.”Who is this guy? Houck was Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Scott Perry’s (R-Pa.) guest at this year’s State of the Union, and also has close ties to Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Chip Roy (R-Texas). Jordan has elevated Houck as a face of the House GOP investigation into alleged politicization of the federal government, inviting him to testify before a new subpanel on the topic.Houck’s sudden interest in the seat has rankled the House GOP conference, which is defending a four-seat majority in a tough presidential year. He’s sparked many private discussions among GOP leadership since he jumped in against Fitzpatrick this month.Dispatching the primary threat: The National Republican Congressional Committee was already indicating it’s prepared to spend to help Fitzpatrick, a centrist who’s well-liked by Republican leadership.And Houck’s frankness about his personal missteps isn’t the only fodder the party has to protect Fitzpatrick in the primary. The conservative challenger was recently acquitted of criminal charges after an altercation with an abortion clinic escort outside of a health care facility.More from Houck: During the podcast, he revealed that his sexual addiction worsened after his father died.“I finally found some true freedom,” he said, after “a journey of about eight years when I began to really address that issue.”He also alluded to his Catholicism as informing specific beliefs about women’s fitness to lead families, saying that “it’s not proper for my wife or any other man’s wife to be leading the family in certain areas that God has ordained for me” to govern as a man.“Can a woman do it?” he said of leading families. “Sure. But it’s not as God intended.”— Daniella Diaz and Sarah Ferris GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Friday, Aug. 18, where your hosts have still yet to land an invite to flip pork at any form of state fair.

Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) won a GOP-held seat in 2018 with a campaign built around climate change. He’d like to see his party do more to promote its work on the issue with voters. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

A CLIMATE HAWK TALKS MESSAGINGA national poll released earlier this month found a strong majority of respondents were dissatisfied with President Joe Biden’s handling of climate change. Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.), one of his party’s most outspoken climate voices and the holder of a swing seat, sees it as more of a failure of communication than of execution.“I don’t think anybody can fault the president for the job he’s done on climate,” Casten told Huddle in an interview. “Most people don’t understand what we did — and surely we can do a better job of communicating — but when you tell them what we did, they really are positive about it.”I-R-What? It all comes down to how Democrats sell last year’s massive Inflation Reduction Act, which devoted nine figures of federal cash to battling the planet’s warming trend. Given that divided government leaves them with essentially no chance of pursuing their own legislative priorities this Congress, look for the party’s lawmakers to campaign hard on that massive climate and energy package.Already, Democrats are working to put the sweeping legislation they passed a year ago this week front and center in the minds of voters. Biden hosted a White House celebration on Wednesday to mark the Inflation Reduction Act’s one-year anniversary and the president and his cabinet have spent much of the summer traveling across the nation — often to swing states — to tout the law.Casten, who built his 2018 campaign on climate change and flipped a GOP-held seat, sees a possibility for his party to expand its appeal on the issue — “it does come up at town halls a lot” in his purple district, he said. But the Illinois Democrats also dinged his party as too myopic in its efforts to connect the dots.“We don’t talk nearly enough about the fact that the economic incentives in our energy industry encourage us to burn more fossil fuel and discourage us from doing the clean stuff,” he said.— Anthony Adragna

Bill Johnson was back in East Palestine, Ohio, following the devastating train derailment and pledged to be there “next week, and for as long as it takes.”Jamaal Bowman said “Big Daddy Kane and Brand Nubian can teach us just as much as any history textbook can,” marking the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.QUICK LINKS How Rep. Adam Schiff celebrated Trump’s fourth indictment, by Benjamin Oreskes of The Los Angeles TimesMarkey, Blackburn demand FTC investigate YouTube’s kids’ data collection, by Rebecca Klar in The HillRepublican Senator’s Stock Trade Linked to Ukraine War Raises Eyebrows, by Nick Reynolds in NewsweekManchin ranked most bipartisan senator as he faces tough 2024 path in conservative West Virginia, by Elizabeth Elkind in Fox NewsMitch McConnell said he believes a spending stopgap will be needed in September, by Katherine TRANSITIONS Michael Rauber is now comms director for Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Calif.). He most recently was deputy comms director for Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio).Katie Smith has been promoted to be comms director for Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.). She most recently was press secretary for Wild.TODAY IN CONGRESSThe House convenes at 10:30 a.m. in a pro forma session.The Senate convenes at 1 p.m. in a pro forma session.AROUND THE HILLA quiet recess Friday.

FRIDAY’S ANSWER: Bruce Brown was first to identify Hubert Humphrey as the figure who said “I will eat my hat if this leads to racial quotas” regarding the 1964 Civil Rights Act.TODAY’S QUESTION from Bruce: Who was the only elected president who was denied his party’s nomination?The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected].GET HUDDLE emailed to your phone each morning.Follow Daniella and Anthony on X at @DaniellaMicaela and @AnthonyAdragna.


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