The 2023 Philadelphia mayoral race appears to have begun.
City Council member Allan Domb announced his resignation Monday, after months of acknowledging he’s considering running for mayor. In Monday’s announcement, he held back from confirming his candidacy.
He plans to first go on a “listening tour” to hear from all of Philly’s neighborhoods, Domb told Billy Penn in an interview.
Philly is in a “public safety crisis,” he said, adding that it needs “strong leadership, a champion, and someone who wants the job and never gives up on the city” — a thinly veiled jab at Mayor Jim Kenney’s viral quote from after a shooting on the Fourth of July, when he said “”I’ll be happy when I’m not here…when I’m not mayor and I can enjoy some stuff.”
Kenney is serving his second term, so cannot run again, which leaves the position wide open. For those who follow city politics, it might seem like the race to replace him already started. Domb could be followed by at least five other current elected officials who have dropped strong hints. But because of Philadelphia’s resign-to-run rule that requires city employees to leave their posts before officially running, all of those hints were just that.
Domb is the first to actually take that step. How did the 67-year-old land the job as one of Philly’s at-large councilmembers, and what did he do before that? Read on for details.
How long has Domb been in city politics?
Allan Domb was first elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019.
People speculated he was positioning for an eventual mayoral run ever since he first got into politics. In 2019, it appeared Domb might run against Kenney — whom he has openly criticized on multiple occasions — but he didn’t.
From ‘humble beginnings’ to real estate mogul
Domb owns dozens of condominium and apartment buildings in Philadelphia, and his company sells and rents luxury homes in Center City and other ritzy Philadelphia neighborhoods.
“The benefit of my background is that all day long, through my whole career of 40 years, I’ve solved problems. I didn’t talk about them, I dug in and solved them,” Domb said Monday.
He also made note of his “humble beginnings.”
Domb grew up in Northern New Jersey, and recalls living in a small apartment where his family sometimes faced the threat of eviction. He came to Philadelphia in the 1970s after graduating from American University, working for a lock installation company and selling condos. After a few years, his real estate business took over as his main gig.
“In my years in the private and the public sector, I’ve been all about leadership and all about solving problems,” Domb said. “Many of the answers are not just in government.”
Asked about his business interests, and whether they detract from his ability to lead fairly, he said today’s announcement is more about his resignation, and that he plans to go out and hear from all of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods before taking any more steps.
“We have to value and treasure each of our neighborhoods,” he said.
A concentration on tax cuts, biz incentives, and quality of life
In Council, Domb has been a key figure in the city’s fiscal issues. He campaigned on a promise to collect taxes from out-of-state property owners and use the money to fund city schools.
During the height of the pandemic, Domb publicly advocated for setting up an early mass COVID vaccination clinic at Lincoln Financial Field. He worked with the Eagles to secure permission, and criticized the current administration for declining to accept the offer.
Also during the pandemic, Domb said, he helped convene local hospitality industry leaders to figure out what they needed to keep their businesses afloat. One of the most significant lifelines — expanded outdoor seating throughout the city — ended up being allowed to stay permanently in some neighborhoods thanks to legislation he championed. This may not have been entirely selfless, some critics have pointed out, as Domb himself is an investor in some of Stephen Starr’s most successful Philly restaurants.
Asked about his experience on Council, and how it informs his view of city leadership, he said the city needs a leader who will fix the city’s problems “correctly” — more specifically, lowering crime and cleaning up streets — to improve quality of life for residents. “It’s really about getting back to the basics that our residents expect from us,” he said.
What’s his cash position, campaign-wise?
Domb’s campaign committee started 2022 with about $299k cash on hand, according to public records.
That put him roughly in the middle of the pack of possible candidates as of the end of last year. The other members of City Council considering a run — Helen Gym, Derek Green, Cherelle Parker and Maria Quiñones-Sánchez — had netted between $182k and $328k last year. Controller Rebecca Rhynhart had over $700k on hand after winning reelection in 2021.
Domb threw a bunch of his own money into his campaign when he ran for council the first time — so much so that it increased the campaign fundraising limits for the entire field of candidates, based on a Philadelphia ethics rule that triggers when a candidate self-funds their campaign by $250k or more.
‘A city of fighters and believers’
Here is Domb’s full statement about his resignation Monday:
“As I announce my resignation from the Philadelphia City Council today, I am immensely grateful to Philadelphians for putting their trust in me to lead and I am incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished over the past nearly seven years. From putting hundreds of thousands of dollars back into the pockets of hardworking families, to helping keep our hospitality industry afloat during the peak of the pandemic, to providing vital relief for workers and businesses, to protecting homeowners and supporting educational and workforce initiatives, we have delivered real results for the city and its people. But there is more work to be done.
“Today, our city is at a crossroads — Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the country. We are staring down the highest murder rate in our history. Too many people don’t feel safe in their homes, their cars, on our transit systems and streets. Too many residents and businesses lack the basic opportunities necessary to thrive in our communities. But while the challenges we face are great, so too is the opportunity we have to be the city our people deserve. Now more than ever, we need to enact common sense and practical solutions to improve the lives of all Philadelphians, prioritizing public safety in a meaningful way.
“Ours is a city of fighters and believers and I will never stop working to create a Philadelphia that lives up to its promise for all.”