Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Mayoral candidate Jeff Brown is trying to define himself early. Here come the ads.

Brown's campaign is the first to go up with television advertisements. A $100,000 spend comes atop commercials already being run by a super PAC backing his candidacy.

Philadelphia mayoral candidate Jeff Brown speaks to his supporters as he announces he's running for mayor in November. Brown's campaign is the first to spend a significant chunk of cash on television advertising.
Philadelphia mayoral candidate Jeff Brown speaks to his supporters as he announces he's running for mayor in November. Brown's campaign is the first to spend a significant chunk of cash on television advertising.Read moreTyger Williams / Staff Photographer

Jeff Brown, a grocer running for Philadelphia mayor, is the first candidate to spend a chunk of campaign cash on television ads, reflecting the political newcomer’s push to define himself early — before others do.

Brown’s campaign is spending nearly $100,000 this week alone to advertise on network television, according to the media-tracking firm AdImpact. That money will pay for one-minute spots that aim to introduce Brown, who has never before run for public office, to Philadelphia residents.

The early spending by Brown’s campaign — five months before the May 16 primary election — comes atop more than $150,000 worth of ads already being run by a dark money super PAC that’s supporting his candidacy. It means the Democrat and ShopRite proprietor will for at least some time have the TV airwaves to himself.

The only other mayoral candidate who has spent money on advertising thus far is Allan Domb, a multimillionaire real estate magnate and former City Council member. His campaign has spent $117,000 since early November on radio advertisements, according to AdImpact.

While the television ad spending by Brown’s campaign is the first of the cycle, it’s a drop in the bucket of what will likely be spent by candidates and outside groups. Millions of dollars are likely to flow ahead of the Democratic primary in May, which is all but certain to decide the next mayor given the city’s heavily Democratic electorate.

The big spending is expected in part because the field is deeper than any in recent memory and features as many as nine viable candidates who will be jockeying for attention in the coming five months.

» READ MORE: Who is running for Philadelphia mayor in 2023?

In addition to Brown and Domb — both independently wealthy and expected to self-fund — the race on the Democratic side includes ex-City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart; retired Judge James DeLeon; and former Councilmembers Derek Green, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, and Maria Quiñones Sánchez.

State Rep. Amen Brown, a West Philadelphia Democrat backed by a wealthy New York City real estate developer, is expected to formally announce his candidacy Friday.

The sprawling field means candidates are racing to define themselves early and establish name recognition — crucial for contenders like Jeff Brown who have never run citywide. Both of his spots are a minute long, a somewhat uncommon and expensive tactic for a local race, during which commercials are typically just 15 or 30 seconds.

One of the ads that will begin running this week highlights Brown’s career operating ShopRite stores in the region, which he intentionally opened in underserved neighborhoods that lacked access to larger grocery store chains.

The other commercial features Brown talking about improving basic city services (”pick up the damn trash”) and portrays supporters saying he operates outside a broken system (“anybody from City Council, they’ve all sat on their hands”).

While both ads were paid for by the campaign, it’s unclear how much money the campaign has raised or spent in total. The first campaign-finance reports are due to be filed with the city at the end of January.

It’s also unclear who is financing the independent group For a Better Philadelphia, the super PAC supporting Brown’s candidacy. The group registered with the city in August. Dan Siegel, a consultant for the PAC, declined to name its donors.

“This is Philadelphians trying to effect meaningful, positive change for Philadelphians,” he said, “especially those who have been left behind for far too long.”