Mayor Norm Rice, once the leading candidate to become President Clinton’s new secretary of Housing and Urban Development, on Friday congratulated Andrew Cuomo on winning the appointment.
“While understandably I am disappointed, I have stated all along that this decision would be the president’s and that I am honored to have been among several individuals under consideration,” Rice said in a statement.
“I really do believe that the reason I was ever on a list of possible nominees is because of the efforts of the employees of the city of Seattle and our partners in the private sector who have worked so hard to make Seattle such an outstanding city.”
Rice said he thought “this nation will be well served by his (Cuomo’s) leadership of HUD at this critical time.”
Cuomo, son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, must be confirmed by the Senate for the post being vacated by Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros.
Rice’s candidacy was undermined by a complaint filed against Seattle and Rice involving a $24 million low-interest loan the city received to help finance renovations of the old downtown Frederick & Nelson building into a new flagship store for Nordstrom.
The complaint, filed by a homeless advocacy group, the Seattle Displacement Coalition, alleges that Rice and other city officials misled the government by providing false information on crime rates and the building’s conditions.
The HUD inspector general’s office is investigating the allegations.
Rice’s aides have said the complaint is unfounded. They said HUD officials told them last year that nothing was improper about the city obtaining the loans.
Rice said he discussed the complaint during meetings with White House officials concerning the possibility of his joining the administration.
Local business and political leaders tried a last-minute letter-writing and telephone campaign to boost Rice’s chances at the nomination, but to no avail. Even Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., wrote in praise of Democrat Rice, telling Clinton that Rice had “superb qualifications” and “would receive prompt Senate confirmation.”
Rice lost the Democratic gubernatorial primary this year to Gov.-elect Gary Locke, and it’s not clear what his political future holds.
“I don’t think he’ll run again,” said Cathy Allen, a Democratic political consultant. “It’s hard to give up an elected office, but it’s hard to feel good about staying with a job when you’re willing to trade it in for a D.C. appointment.”
Allen said it’s still possible Rice might get another job offer from the Clinton administration, perhaps working on welfare reform in some high-profile capacity.