Three Jewish candidates are among those vying for Philadelphia City Council seats.
Just like the NBA champions likely will be determined by whoever wins the Western Conference finals and not the league finals, five of the at-large seats up for grabs in Philadelphia’s 2015 City Council election will be decided essentially by the five top vote-getters in the Democratic primary taking place May 19, not the general election in November.
Given the overwhelmingly Democratic makeup of the city’s electorate, this is no surprise. What is unusual, though, is that a seat is actually in play. Due to the Philadelphia city charter rule requiring elected officials to resign their positions before running for another one, Jim Kenney resigned his at-large seat on council in order to run for mayor of the city.
Among those battling for the five seats are four at-large incumbents and 13 other candidates, including two with name recognition for both the Jewish community and voters in general: Sherrie Cohen and Allen Domb. (Two additional at-large seats are reserved for minority party candidates, which will most likely be filled by two of the seven Republican candidates running in that party’s primary, including incumbents Dennis O’Brien and David Oh.)
Cohen, most recently an attorney for the nonprofit Tenant Union Representative Network, is the daughter of the late Councilman David Cohen. Her platform includes more support for public schools, raising the minimum wage, affordable housing and encouraging more small business in the city. It’s her second attempt: She fell just 1,700 votes short of supplanting Kenney in the last election.
Domb is best known as the city’s “Condo King.” Since growing up in a Conservative Jewish household in northern New Jersey, Domb has gone on to become the four-term president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors. He also serves on the boards of nonprofit organizations like the Center City District and Friends of Rittenhouse Square. Domb’s campaign is focusing on issues like funding city schools through methods such as more aggressive tax collection, revamping the city’s tax code, making neighborhoods safer and making the city more business-friendly. As one of the deepest-pocketed candidates, he is the first — and so far, the only — City Council candidate to go on TV this election, touting among other things his pledge to forgo a salary if elected.
Another Council contest of note to both the Jewish and general communities in Philadelphia is the Democratic primary battle in the city’s Second District between incumbent Kenyatta Johnson and challenger Ori Feibush, whose parents are both Israeli and who traveled to Israel regularly the way other suburban Jewish kids went down the shore. One of only three contested primaries out of the city’s 10 council districts, this is also the most rancorous by far. Feibush, a real estate developer who was raised in Upper Dublin, has invested heavily in the city’s Point Breeze section and positioned himself as an agent of change and inclusivity in the neighborhood, and has attacked Johnson on numerous occasions for not being more progressive on the future of this economically depressed section of South Philadelphia. Johnson, for his part, has dismissed Feibush’s broadsides as those of a gentrifying agent more interested in increasing his property values than on maintaining and improving the fabric of the neighborhood. Evidently, some longtime residents aren’t the only ones hoping for Johnson’s re-election: groups ranging from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers to the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce have endorsed him. Feibush, however, received the endorsement of The Philadelphia Inquirer.