The Condo King goes for broke

The man who crowned himself a king says that he has no ego.

A graduate of Washington D.C.’s American University with a degree in marketing, Allan Domb coined the term Condo King to brand himself.

Allan Domb strategizes with Communications Director David Early (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

Unlike brands that are built on bologna, Domb’s walk backs up his talk. He is one of America’s most successful real estate agents.

He had been working for a lock company when he was turned on to real estate by listening to the late Jay Lamont on the radio. Domb studied real estate at Temple, got his license, then decided to concentrate on the swanky Rittenhouse Square area. Before long, he was  a multi-millionaire.

If he were sitting here, he’d be going, “Stop! You overlooked the important part.”

The important part, he tells me during an interview in his Center City campaign office, were his parents Edward and Betty who taught him and his older brother Peter the value of thrift and of hard work. 

In his Horatio Alger, rags to riches story, he started shining shoes for 25 cents before he was in kindergarten, then delivered papers in his North Jersey home, before becoming a janitor to help pay his way through college.

That home that I mentioned, he takes pains to point out, was an 800-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in a 49-unit building in Fort Lee, N.J. 

Message: I come from humble stock, nothing was handed to me. 

Like Ben Franklin, he arrived here from elsewhere, in 1976, and set about making his fortune.

Like Ben Franklin, he is portly and balding, with a head crammed with ideas.

By 2015, unhappy with the direction of his adopted city, he toyed with the idea of stepping into the public arena by running for mayor.

He asked a bunch of people, mostly business honchos like himself and political leaders, who advised him he should first learn the ropes of government by running for City Council.

Ed Rendell gave him a piece of advice he took to heart:  “Do all the work, and hand out the credit.” Known as a workaholic, Domb says it was easy to do that by taking his ego out of the equation because he is more interested in results than acclaim.

Like Rendell, Domb is a dog lover who lives with Allie, a 20-pound mongrel he adopted from Saved Me, a rescue located in  South Philly. [Disclosure: That’s where I adopted my dog.]

Allan Domb and Allie (Photo courtesy Allan Domb)

He spent a lot and was elected to Council, twice. If you say he “bought” the office, you’d also have to say he donated his salary to schools and education, about $750,000 over the years. 

He will also donate his mayoral salary and points to an ethics plan (it’s on his website  drafted by Penn Prof. Claire  Finkelstein, that will shield his assets from his control as long as he is mayor. Those assets include about 400 properties, and ownership shares in some 40 restaurants, mostly Stephen Starr’s restaurant empire. 

He thinks his campaign could cost as much as $10 million, the bulk of which will come out of his pocket.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

We know where most of his money will come from.

Where will his support come from, what is is base?

South Philly, Northeast Philly, River Wards, he starts, and mentions almost every section of the city.

He says he’s campaigning in every corner of the city, 14-16 hours a day. He normally sleeps no more than six hours a night.

When you dissect the race, you conclude that Domb comes across as appealing to the same voters as Jeff Brown, the owner of the ShopRite supermarket chain.

Two white, millionaire, middle-aged males.

With one big difference, says Domb. Among all the candidates, he is the only one with both business and elective experience.

Domb sees his base as socially responsible, but fiscally responsible, too, who share his belief the city is in crisis. We can’t have progressive ideas that just throw money at problems, he says, with no respect to success.

The twice-divorced Domb comes across as serious and sincere, but with a charisma deficit, some say. 

He suggests that comes from shunning the spotlight, but a few minutes later he says he will be the biggest cheerleader the city has seen since Ed Rendell, who commanded the spotlight.

Rendell understood he needed to get along with people to get what he wanted. Domb was familiar with a line in “A Prayer for the City,” Buzz Bissinger’s masterpiece of Philly politics.

That line was Rendell saying the most important thing as mayor he did each day was getting down on his knees and sucking people off.

We both laugh at the line. Domb says he may not need knee pads because  he has always worked collaboratively with people. After Donald J. Trump was elected president, even though Domb had no use for him, the Councilman suggested Mayor Jim Kenney meet with Trump to see if there was anything he could do for the city. Kenney refused, putting his Woke emotions before the needs of the city.

“The mayor has a tremendous ability to bring people together,” Domb says, implying Kenney missed that boat.

While Domb likes bicycling, and would expand bicycle lanes, he tells me he doesn’t like shoving things down peoples’ throats and there are some streets that just can’t sustain them.

It is a middle position, as is his stance on Sanctuary Cities. He would not move against illegals who are already here and have broken no laws since arrival, but would certainly turn convicted felons over to ICE, which Woke Kenney refuses to do, endangering Philadelphians.

Talking about illegals brings us to public safety, Domb’s No. 1 issue. When I ask if he will retain Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, he responds with an anecdote that took place shortly after she was appointed in February 2020, arriving around the start of the pandemic.

He and other Council members met with Outlaw, who was asked how she would handle crime in the most violent eight to 10 zip codes. She said she’d call the state police and maybe the National Guard, says Domb, adding that the two members of the Administration who were with her told her Kenney would not go along with that.

I attempted to verify that with Outlaw, who ducked. However, it rings true when you remember Kenney dithered for 24 hours as the city burned during the George Floyd riots. He didn’t call the National Guard until after real damage had been done.

Domb says his MO is to assemble people with the best data and pick their brains, so he invited the police commissioner, the D.A., the federal attorney, the FBI, the state Attorney General, the ATF and Kenney to a public-safety brain-storming session. 

Kenney never attended and after a couple of sessions, the D.A. dropped out.

You may have noticed a Domb TV commercial featuring Kenney making one of the dumbest statements in Philly political history: He couldn’t wait to stop being mayor, he told a reporter. Domb’s commercial says Philadelphians deserve better. Their relationship soured during Domb’s first term when the businessman found $33 million unaccounted for in the budget. The thin-skinned Kenney took that as a personal attack. 

That’s the past. In the future, on Day One, he says, Domb would declare a crime emergency and reassemble that Public Safety Cabinet. Because he feels Outlaw had her hands tied by Kenney’s Wokeness, he would keep her on and allow her to prove herself.

He would aggressively attack both illegal guns and retail theft, would try to work with Krasner, but would turn to the state or feds for help if Krasner refused to enforce the law.

He opposes so-called safe injection sites because no community wants one nearby. His solution is to the drug crisis is to arrest drug dealers and get addicts into treatment.

The police department is understaffed and a novel Domb idea is to have a uniformed service and justice-themed high school, as we now have for music, the arts, and science. The school would train students to be medics, firefighters and cops, and jobs would be waiting upon graduation. 

In addition to education, he would focus on creating jobs, and teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship. 

He also plans to aggressively target illegal motor vehicles, such as dirt bikes and ATVs. (Details are on his website.)

Domb will turn 68 on April 14, and this will be his last elective hurrah. If he wins, figure eight years in office. If he loses, stick a fork in him.

Instead of being Philly’s 100th mayor, he’ll return to being the Condo King, ego on the side. 

15 thoughts on “The Condo King goes for broke”

  1. An ideal candidate: too smart for Philadelphia voters. Stick a fork in him now and save time.

    1. Sadly, I agree. I know Alan and I like him but he is too smart and not “progressive” (I’m getting to hate the word woke) enough for Philadelphia voters.

      1. I, too, like Alan but I have to agree with your take on him.
        As far as Jeff Brown I dislike him for a myriad of reasons, of which, I will not discuss here.

      2. Some ‘progress’ progressives have given us. We’re marching backwards into the darkness.

  2. Allow Outlaw to prove herself? In the past four years, she’s already proven herself to be a complete failure as police commissioner. Her own troops call her MIA, as in Missing In Action.

    She’s invisible, she’s timid, and she trusts the wrong people, like Robin Wimberly, her current deputy police commissioner & head of internal affairs:

    Work with Krasner? In five years, he’s proven he can’t work with anybody, even his highest-ranking supervisors. There’s no way you can work with a DA who prioritizes the rights of criminals over the rights of crime victims, at the expense of public safety.

    He’s a cancer who needs to be removed.

    Domb is colorless, wishy-washy, and way too cautious to do what needs to be done in a war zone of a city. Thanks, but no thanks.

    1. My reporting clearly says he will go around Krasner if the D.A. doesn’t enforce the law, and he won’t. As to Outlaw, I’m not a fan, but I am OK with a trial to prove herself out from under Kenney’s thumb. (And I did mention Domb’s charisma deficit. Not everyone can be like us, Ralph.) 😁

  3. With the frightening exception of hell on gym i actually feel pretty good about most of the candidates.Amen Brown for one seems to have his head in the right place.

  4. I see no great ideas of substance to change the present dilemma in the city. In a debate, I am sure other candidates would agree with most of his proposals. I question his stance on Outlaw with a simple comment. If he hired a CEO under his leadership in corporate Philadelphia and were given four years to show a profit, instill employee loyalty, and raise the overall job performance, then Outlaw would be replaced in his company for failure to measure up to his standards. Being under the Mayor’s thumb simply means that she offered her credentials and abilities to make the city safer when she arrived and let the citizens down who are her priority. What democratic state legislator, including the Governor and Attorney General, would take a democratic DA on with reelection as their only bond? Finally, how many democratic ward leaders are supportive of his candidacy and will publicly announce to their base their support of his election?

  5. The police Commissioner has failed over and over to prevent crime. She is a failure. As a resident of NE Philadelphia I will not vote for Allan because of his support for her failed leadership. He has good intentions but his support of the Police Commissioner is the one specific reason he will lose. No one in our neighborhood believes she is a successful leader. She is a proven failure. Ask my neighbors.

  6. Everyone, but the Inquirer editors & reporters, knows that crime is out of control in this city, just read the comments from citizens in the Inky front page piece yesterday. The lawlessness on our streets is directly due to Kenney, Outlaw and Krasner. Kenny will be gone but to give Outlaw a further trial is foolhardy; just ask the police on the street (if you can find one), they have no respect for her or her leadership. And why would any policeman or woman have a desire to do their duty when Krasner has consistently questioned their decisions to act on the street. Domb is a smart man but to believe that Krasner would sit down with him or anyone else is delusion; he does not coordinate with any other law enforcement entity because he is an arrogant despot. Krasner has ruined the spirit and desire of law enforcement in his own Office as well as the Police Department. Just ask anyone who Krasner initially fired and the many more who he hired but have now departed that Office once they realized his incompetence and duplicitous decisions. His job is to lead his prosecutors to lock up the bad guys and support the good guys in patrolling our crime ridden streets, he has done the exact opposite. In addition, Krasner has not only ruined the DA’s Office, he has violated the election laws and refused to pay his taxes. Philadelphia is a severely dangerous city and that is due to the lack of leadership by Kenny, Outlaw and especially Krasner; the next Mayor should do whatever he/she can to restore the effectiveness of the Phila Police Department and the DA’s Office and that means removing Outlaw and especially Krasner! Finally, the Inquirer should wake up and report the truth (maybe rehire Ralph Cipriano) of the how and why the PPD & the DAO have failed to do their sworn duty== the ineffective leadership of Outlaw and Krasner.

    1. Mr. Gallagher, you certainly know this city and what it would take to bring it back. If you were to run, you’d get my vote and that of any voter with a half of a brain (no make that a tenth of a brain). Alas, the time to register is past; and instead we have in the #1 ballot, John Wood, who appears to be playing by the George Santos play book.

  7. Having worked and lived in Philly my whole life except for the last 8 or so, I come back to visit and see my kids and grand kids. I really get this feeling that fixing Philadelphia is nothing more than a dream. I don’t believe the Feds would touch this place with a 50 mile pole. The only thing good about it is the Police ,Fire, and the rest of the First Responders. Break it up into Counties, Plow it under and start fresh. Old politicians don’t make good ones,and the seemingly good ones don’t exist. Except for Center City in Broad daylight, where is really safe? Who should they elect? Nobody wants to vote. So just pick names out of a hat. I think that Old Ben Franklin and me will be looking down laughing, as the election some day is won by the last man or woman standing. The PPD and the DA’s Office haven’t failed, the people have, you had a choice. You chose not to vote. You lose. Check the numbers.

  8. Great profile. (Great writing)
    … Allan Domb is clearly the most able person to hit the ground running. I’m convinced of it. I know him a long time and I’ve watched as he turned his skills into money making marketing ideas that put Center City on the map. He started out before me in 1976 and when I moved to the city in 1982, he had already made a name for himself as The Condo King. Philadelphia was needing a freshening up at the time and as President of Center City Proprietors Association ( formerly known as CAP, and now as Center City Business Association) it became our mission to do so. I did the voiceovers “There’s no Shopping Center like shopping Center City” for the next 16 years and was an Officer on The Center City District Board during its formation. I lived in the city at age 10, went to Girls High and I was raised at 16th and Pine on Smedley Street. I both know and love the city even though my company is now on the Main Line.

    I offer this history because it’s also a history of watching Allan Domb grow into the position he was always meant to achieve. No Charisma? That’s his secret weapon. He’s the guy out there, doing the work, listening to the ENTIRE community, in the trenches when needed and at the celebrations he helped to achieve. He’s tireless. He’s the perfect candidate at a time when Philadelphia most needs a facelift and he’s ready with the ideas that will help it grow. The City is AWESOME… it simply needs leaders who speak to that possibility.

    All this being said, I’m a bit surprised I’m not seeing more Pro-Domb comments.. If I lived there, he’d get my vote in a heartbeat.

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