As expected, there are now three Jewish candidates in the crowded field of contenders for Philadelphia’s 2023 mayoral election.
Real estate developer and former City Councilman Allan Domb and grocery store owner Jeff Brown announced their campaigns on Nov. 15 and 16, respectively. The two men join former City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart, who announced her campaign on Oct. 25, as the three tribe members in the race.
Domb, 67, resigned from his at-large council seat in August after six-and-a-half years. But he did not announce right away, instead choosing to go on a listening tour of Philadelphia neighborhoods hit hard by crime over the past couple of years.
“We need to protect our communities by rebuilding trust in our law enforcement and investing in anti-violence programs that actually work,” Domb said in his campaign announcement video. “And we have to address the root causes of crime.”
Brown, 58, did not have to follow the city’s resign-to-run rule for public officeholders seeking the mayoral seat, as Domb and Rhynhart did. That’s because he’s not — and never has been — an elected official. The grocer owns 12 ShopRite and Fresh Grocer locations in Philadelphia neighborhoods like Roxborough, Parkside and Oregon Avenue, as well as some in suburban towns like Bensalem and Fairless Hills.
At a campaign kickoff event at the First District Plaza on Market Street, attended by almost 200 supporters, Brown said he was running because elected officials haven’t solved the problems facing his customers and employees. Those include high crime rates and a school system that does not prepare students for the job market, according to Brown. All five of the grocer’s opponents in the May 2023 Democratic Primary resigned from city government positions to run for mayor.
“As a Philadelphian, I’ve watched City Hall and, unfortunately, I’ve watched them fail to really make any progress for us,” Brown told the audience. “I see legislation passed, I see people coming and going, and my customers are living in the same circumstances.”
Domb, the “Philly Condo King” who became known in the 1980s and ’90s for selling and then developing properties in Center City, considered running for mayor in 2015 but decided to get government experience first. He ran for an at-large seat, won and was reelected in 2019.
On Nov. 15 outside of his first campaign stop at The Guild of Mural Arts on Spring Garden Street, where he met with returning citizens in a job skills program, Domb told the media that the city faced crises in many areas. Those include public safety, poverty, education, jobs, housing affordability and, the biggest one, according to the candidate, “a lack of leadership.”
“We need someone who can bring the private sector and the public sector together to solve these problems,” Domb said. “It’s not about rhetoric,” he added. “It’s about solving real problems.”
Brown, like Domb in 2015, is a businessman looking to get into government. But unlike Domb, he’s going straight for the big job and feels qualified for it. The grocer entered the city’s public debate a few years ago when he spoke out against Mayor Jim Kenney’s soda tax, which he claimed would motivate consumers to leave the city for groceries. Now though, as a candidate for mayor, he is not focusing on the soda tax and reportedly supports it because it helps fund the city’s pre-K program and recreational facilities.
Instead, Brown is playing up the public-mindedness that he has often shown in his business career. As Brown reminded supporters, he has put grocery stores in food deserts, hired more than 500 former prisoners/returning citizens and set up programs to help entrepreneurs establish businesses. He has even allowed them to sell products in his stores.
“We’re in this together,” Brown said to applause from the crowd. “Either we all make it, or this thing isn’t going to work.”
As an August Jewish Exponent story reported, like Rhynhart, Domb and Brown are open about and proud of their Jewish identities. Brown partnered with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Mitzvah Food Program to help feed people on Passover in the spring. Domb often cites a story from his youth as a reason for wanting to give back. His mother complained to the landlord on Yom Kippur about having no hot water; the landlord then evicted all three Jewish families in the building.
But Jewish issues are not likely to be featured in this race. Neither candidate mentioned them in campaign kickoff announcements. JE