Shortly after I turned eighteen in December 1979, I marched myself down to the local firehouse down the street in Havertown, which was my polling place, and registered as a Democrat. In those days, nothing was done online, and it was a solemn moment when I signed the application and became a full member of civic society.

About eleven months later, I cast my first vote. It was for Ronald Reagan.

Party never meant all that much to me. 

I remained a Democrat, though, because I assumed my grandparents and parents were also Democrats, and that was part of my DNA and heritage. As it turns out, I was wrong about the heritage and the DNA, since my grandparents and mother were actually registered Republicans for much of their lives. My father, ever the rebel, was an independent.

After 37 years as a Democrat, I registered as a Republican for the presidential primary in 2016, briefly switched back to Democrat for a local race in 2021, and then flipped again to the GOP.

But the point is, it didn’t matter. Party is good for slogans and lawn signs and talking points. It means very little in the grand scheme of things.

READ MORE — Christine Flowers: Subway violence isn’t just a New York problem

At least, that used to be the case when candidates had a common threshold of decency and there was room for a plurality of voices. But in the last quarter century, well after I first dipped my toe into the whirling cesspool of civic life, that has changed along a seismic fault line.

Now, the parties have yielded to their most extreme wings. Voices that were once considered moderate but well within an accepted partisan standard are viewed as fascist by the Left and socialist by the Right.

This brings me to the upcoming mayoral election in Philadelphia. Although I spent most of my life in Delaware and Montgomery counties, I am now a Philadelphia resident. And, until ten days ago, I was a Republican, which made me as welcome in the city as Santa Ana was at the Alamo. 

And since my mother did not raise stupid children, and since I am fully aware that a Republican will have absolutely no power in a citywide general election, I have returned to my roots and become a temporary Democrat.

I am not alone in this. Many of the people with whom I’ve spoken — none of whom were willing to go on the record — have done the same thing. We have registered with the majority party for the upcoming primary so we can have a voice in the mayoral, and to a lesser extent, city council races. We understand that some people think this is a form of cheating. Perhaps at some existential level, it could be viewed that way. But we are not characters in a novel written by Albert Camus. We are residents of a city that we love, and that we are desperate to save from the horrors of a progressive — read nihilistic — landslide.

I initially registered as a Democrat so I could vote against Helen Gym, the radical rabble-rouser who never saw a bullhorn she didn’t like. I’ve written about Gym in these pages and elsewhere, I’ve listened to her speak at forums and I’ve even debated with her at a panel sponsored by Philadelphia Magazine

I’ve also observed her for over a decade and a half as she’s made her name in a city she came to as a fully formed adult with Seattle values and a desire to crush the traditions I have loved since I took my first steps as a toddler in Logan.

But voting against something is not the best way to fight a war, and this is indeed a civic — if not civil — war. You need to be “for” something in order to really make a difference. One candidate I’ve met who is for something positive is Allan Domb.

Allan Domb may not have the firebrand charisma of Gym or the cultlike following she creates among her supporters. He isn’t a woman (which seems to be a major plus in the current urban zeitgeist), and he is also someone who came from somewhere else, even though he’s lived here for almost 50 years.

He’s also a very rich man who built his fortune through hard work, not marrying into it or having a natal trust fund. In that, he reminds me of my father, a scrappy kid from West Philadelphia who grew up in foster homes and ended up being named a legend of the Philadelphia Bar Association. 

Allan Domb is also someone who understood his limitations when, instead of jumping right into the executive race, he set his sights a bit lower and ran for a seat on city council. After spending several terms learning the political ropes and how to deal with opposing factions, he has become a seasoned politician. And yet, the independent streak that helped him become the “Condo King” of Philadelphia and made him one of the most successful self-made businessmen in the city of Philadelphia makes him an unbeatable choice for mayor.

The parties have yielded to their most extreme wings. Voices that were once considered moderate but well within an accepted partisan standard are viewed as fascist by the Left and socialist by the Right.

I was with Allan Domb on a recent sun-splashed Saturday in Rittenhouse Square. At a tent that his campaign had erected in front of the now-abandoned Barnes & Noble on 18th and Walnut, Domb shook hands, answered questions, and posed for selfies with his beloved rescue pup, eleven-year-old Allie (named after one of his buildings, the Allison). He was all smiles and first names, and it wasn’t a political shtick: he actually knew the people who came up to tell him he had their vote. They were old and young, black and white, Hispanic and Asian, male and female, wearing the LGBT rainbows and sporting Sixers, Eagles and Phillies gear. It was a perfect cross-section of the city, at a very iconic place. And unlike Helen Gym, who almost barks at the crowds, or Rebecca Rhynhart, who has some very good qualities but looks stiff and unseasoned, Allan Domb reminded me of Ed Rendell in the good old days when he was the superstar mayor in Buzz Bissinger’s “Prayer for the City.”

When I asked Domb what he thought the major challenge was for the next mayor, he didn’t hesitate: “Leadership.” Seeing the quizzical look in the eyes of a woman who expected him to say “crime,” he explained that everything that happened in the city trickled up to the mayor, and that the choices the executive made would have a direct impact on the residents in the neighborhoods. That makes a lot of sense, and his website contains a much more detailed explanation of his plans for reform. 

Unlike Gym, who has only recently discovered that trashing law enforcement is not a successful campaign strategy, Allan Domb has always viewed his role as being a bridge between competing factions, and a partner in the governing process. He learned what that doesn’t look like as a member of City Council under the current mayor, Jim Kenney. Kenney has one of the most contentious relationships with City Council in recent memory, and one of the least productive.

The one quote that really stuck with me as I chatted with Allan Domb is this: “I’m beholden to no one, but I’d be accountable to everyone. And I can work with anyone. I know the building trades didn’t endorse me, and I’m happy to work with them. I know the teachers didn’t endorse me, I’ll work with them. I’ll work with anyone for our city. I’ve worked with Democrats, Republicans, Working Family Party, it doesn’t really matter.”

Here is a man who didn’t take a salary while on City Council, and contributed tenfold to the community. Before the pandemic, I was slated to visit a Charter School in North Philly that he’s sponsored, Cristo Rey, and he proudly told me that 99 percent of the students there graduate, and of that 99 percent, one hundred percent get into college. Education is one of his greatest passions. He has good will, and he is not an ideologue.

I’m glad I decided to make my voice heard, and switched my registration to Democrat so I might consider candidates like Allan Domb in the upcoming election.

And while my visit to the dark side will be brief, it will be worth it if I can guarantee that the right candidate is in charge of a city we both deeply cherish.

Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61

11 thoughts on “Christine Flowers: A Democrat again — for now”

  1. If I were a betting man, the betting slip I’d want would have Gym’s name on it. With the field so fractured, it: 1) opens up a scenario in which the winner is in the 20’s, which opens a window for a candidate with a smaller, but passionate ideological base, and 2) I think her and Rhynhart are fishing from the same pond, and voters will choose what they perceive as the “genuine article”, the bullhorn-toting rabble-rousing Gym, versus the intellectual, wonk-ish Rhynhart. This election is yet another advertisement for ranked-choice voting, a scenario in which I’d be bullish on Parker.

  2. A synopsis if you prefer to not waste your time reading Chrissy’s drivel – 
    1: Me, me, me, blah,blah, How cool I was when I was young.
    2: Helen Gym scares me.
    3: Gym wants to “crush the traditions” I miss like Frank Rizzo terrorizing the black community and mandated (Christian) prayer in school. 
    4: Rebecca Rhynhart would probably be my first choice but I don’t like her looks.
    5: Domb was polite to me and didn’t tell me to “get lost” which is what most people do. So I’m working to elect him.
    6: “My mother didn’t raise stupid children” yet somehow, I can never muster a good argument or counterpoint  and rely solely on ad hominem, incredibly childish insults and bashing people’s physical appearance. (Just check my Twitter feed) My mother raised me to be an eternal 12 y/o brat.

    1. And this is your schtick or gig, childishly trashing the writer instead of offering counterpoints. Okay. But what is made evident here is this. If you are a Gym supporter and reflective of others in that camp, then we have yet more proof of why Gym is such a bad choice for the voters. And to Helen G., “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.”

      1. Literally summarized the article itself and made zero personal attacks. You sound triggered.

        Btw, it’s absolutely HILARIOUS to see a Republican author criticize a politician for having a “cultlike following”!

        And yes, it’s always good to ask who someone’s friends are. David Duke? Patriot Front? Proud Boys? It’s not just “the media” saying those deplorables are friends with GOP leadership, it’s the members of those groups themselves!

        Btw, I’m sure you’re aware that the real Cato the Elder was a ruling class elite who was an outspoken critic of the power hungry, wealthy populist Scipio. He vehemently denounced Scipio’s pathetic arguments that he was above the law or the victim of political persecution.

    2. I’ve never understood how Christine acquired you as a cyberstalker and I never will. Why keep reading and commenting on articles by someone you clearly hate? It’s a beautiful day! Go outside!

      1. The commenter is just speaking their mind. Sorry if you’re triggered.

        I mean it’s not like they’re breaking into her home and beating her spouse with a hammer, setting up gallows to hang political opponents, assaulting political offices with a baseball bat, or writing off every unflattering event as “false flags”. I mean, who would do that?

    3. TRUTH! She’s still probably upset about the “cancellation of Columbus.” Christine can go back to the Rs.

    4. Margaret, you hide your identity here, but had a meltdown when your email was publicized. We can’t take you seriously. Keep decorating that basement my dear.

      1. Chrissy – Your “not taking me seriously” so hard that you try to dox me so the most MAGA of your base would harass me (or worse) and you now privately email me because you’re so intimidated by me. You, like the worst of the far Right are VERY easy to figure out. One has to only peruse your nauseating Twitter feed to see the behavior of an entitled pre-pubescent. You try to dox people who call you out on your lying garbage and your go-to argument is nearly always ad hominem. One day, something serious may happen due to your unbridled hostility and it will come back to haunt you legally. I would certainly take legal action the minute you cross the line and I have a viable case. I post truthfully about you here because you can’t block me. Fortunately – for now at least – Broad and Liberty promotes free speech and they deserve praise for smacking your hateful little hand. It’s just too bad they didn’t extinguish you like your former employers. You are the very worst of not only our region but also of the far Right. Delusional, authoritarian loving, a religious zealot, a wanna-be bully and general promoter of ignorance, stupidity and worst of all, hatred. I will ALWAYS push back against cretins like you.

        1. Credit where credit is due – B&L doesn’t arbitrarily censor people the way other right-wingers (Elon Musk) do.

          But do they really promote “free speech”? I don’t see any articles on here challenging by far the biggest threats to free speech in our nation right now: Republican state legislatures and social media tech giants. Free speech for me but not for thee!

  3. If you’re against single party rule, how do you feel about radical regressive right-wing state legislatures across the country cementing deeply unpopular majorities through extreme partisan gerrymandering coordinated by “project redmap”, whose leader in leaked emails said that districts should be rigged to boost “Republicans and non-hispanic whites” (his own words)? Some criminal legislatures even going as far as Ohio did in blatantly disregarding the rule of law and ignoring the courts.

    I expect to hear some half-baked whataboutisms. Probably about CA or NY, neither of which are nearly as badly gerrymandered as places like Ohio or Wisconsin, both of which fixed maps when rejected by courts, and neither of which are part of a nationwide, special interest funded effort to rig. maps.

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