Philadelphia’s 2015 mayoral race may seem like it’s way off, but prospective candidates are beginning to test the waters. Last week, less than a month after deciding to call off a run for Pennsylvania governor, super-rich 2007 Philadelphia mayoral candidate Tom Knox announced that he is going to give the mayor’s office another shot. And now, the glamorous Dana Spain (seen here with her parents) says she wants the job too.
The 43-year-old Spain, who owns a $1.9 million home in Queen Village, has stayed out of the news since selling Philadelphia Style magazine in 2008 for what she described at the time as a “generous offer.” She declined to comment for this story, stating via email, “I am still in an exploratory phase, so a chat is premature at this point.” But she’s been talking up her possible candidacy at the Union League, where she is a member.
Spain runs DLG Communications, a branding company whose clients have included industrial safety corporation Arbill and restaurants Table 31 and Zavino. According to the DLG website, former NBC 10 reporter Tiffany McElroy is a partner in the firm.
Spain also founded the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), where she serves as president of the board. Other board affiliations have included the Philadelphia Police Foundation and Center City District’s Retail Marketing Alliance. She was once named one of the 50 Best Business Women in Pennsylvania by then Governor Ed Rendell. Though somewhat less of an achievement, Spain was named one of the Most Fashionable Women in Philadelphia last year. At least we’d have a mayor who always looks good.
Tom Knox spent a reported $10 million of his own money on the 2007 primary. His pockets are deep, but so are Spain’s. Her father is Bernard Spain, co-founder of the Dollar Express stores, which he and brother Murray Spain sold to Dollar Tree in 2000 for $307 million. The brothers also founded the Spain Card & Gift chain, and, in an odd claim to fame, were largely responsible for the “Have a Nice Day” smiley face craze in the early ’70s, which resulted in millions in sales for the brothers, according to this Yahoo Finance report.
Dana Spain probably has the money to finance a campaign, but does she have what it takes to run the effectively bankrupt fifth-largest city in the nation? Most of the people I reached out to who are acquainted with her gave eye-rolling responses, and none would go on record. Some snickered. One person, who knows her from the charity circles, pointed out that people also rolled their eyes when Michael Bloomberg decided to enter politics, but that’s a stretch of a comparison if I’ve ever heard one.
One Philadelphia woman who has long pushed for a viable female candidate for mayor is behind-the-scenes power broker Judee von Seldeneck, and she may soon get her wish with a list of buzzed-about women candidates that has included former judge turned local Red Cross CEO Renee Cardwell Hughes, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez.
I called von Seldeneck to find out what she thought about a potential Mayor Dana Spain. She said she didn’t know who she was. “But I am certainly thrilled to hear that ambitious women are considering it,” says von Seldeneck. “A lot of women like me are very anxious to have a strong woman candidate run.”