Posted: Feb. 9, 2008


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Chris Bullock started his congressional campaign Saturday -- or at least one-third of it.

Bullock, the sonorous pastor of Canaan Baptist Church, declared his candidacy with a single announcement in his home base of Wilmington instead of taking the customary statewide swing that would have had him downstate in Kent County and Sussex County, too, not just upstate in New Castle County.

It led to Bullock's first campaign promise. He said he would take his candidacy to lower Delaware when he has "quality time" to spend there. This was politicking delayed, not politicking denied.

"No disrespect. No disregard. It looks like I broke tradition today, but I didn't. I'm just making a new tradition," Bullock said.

Bucking tradition, as it turns out, is pretty much the essence of Bullock's candidacy -- and not just because he wants to end the electorate's tradition of voting every two years for Congressman Mike Castle, the Republican who has held the state's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives since he left the governorship in 1992.

Bullock's kickoff rally, which brought about 200 people to the PAL Center in the city, seemed derivative of Barack Obama's campaign. There was a lot of talk about change, along with Bullock's Obama-like chant of "Help me, help you, help me, help you," not to mention campaign signs reminiscent of Obama's with red, white and blue colors and an impressionistic flag motif.

"A change is going to come. With your help in November, we will change who represents us in the House of Representatives," Bullock said. "Don't you want change? Isn't it time for change?"

It certainly is a time of change for Bullock as the preacher finally gets into politics. He has come close to running since the mid-1990s, for everything from the state legislature to the U.S. Senate, here and in Chicago, as a Democrat and a Republican and as a Democrat again, but now he is really in it.

Politicians tend to be suspicious of party-changers, but Bullock did not seem to be paying a price for his. He declared within the embrace of the Democratic establishment.

His announcement was attended by Lt. Gov. John Carney and Treasurer Jack Markell, the rival candidates for governor, and by Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn and City Council President Ted Blunt, the competitors for lieutenant governor, as well as Mayor James Baker, legislators and local officeholders.

"My mother and dad were Democrats. I was in the wilderness, but I came back home. I was in the dark, but I found the light," Bullock quipped during a brief interview after his announcement.

Bullock got his biggest applause by calling for the money spent on the Iraq war to be channeled instead to domestic programs like education, health care and job growth.

"I will fight for a foreign policy not based on war," he said.

"There's something wrong in America. There's something very wrong in American when we are spending $275 million per day -- yes, per day -- on the other side of the world in a war where almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed and more than 60,000 wounded. We need to end the war. . . .

"When I'm your congressman -- I like the way that sounds -- when I'm your congressman as a member of the Democratic majority party, I will fight to redirect our priorities and our tax dollars. We need a change."

Bullock does not have the Democratic congressional field to himself. Karen Hartley-Nagle, who filed as a "fusion" candidate in 2006 on both the Democratic and Independent Party tickets, is running as a Democrat. Dennis Spivack, the 2006 nominee, has not ruled out another race, and there also are road signs mysteriously popping up here and there for Mike Miller, who ran in 2000 and 2002.

Bullock is the favorite for the nomination. There is a question whether he or any of the others can threaten Castle, who has been in the House longer than any other Delawarean and has not lost a statewide race since he became the lieutenant governor in 1980.

With his campaign treasury brimming, Castle is sitting on $1.5 million -- and change.