Posted: March 18, 2008


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

Remember the announcement Chris Bullock staged last month to declare he was running for the Congress? Never mind.

Bullock has canceled his campaign. The Wilmington pastor from Canaan Baptist Church lasted in politics as a Democratic candidate from just about Ash Wednesday to nearly Easter, a time of reflection that ended in second thoughts.

Bullock was regarded as the front-runner for the congressional nomination, as seen in the support he had from some prominent Democrats like Wilmington Mayor Jim Baker and state AFL-CIO President Sam Lathem.

His exit leaves the Democrats with no clear prospect against Congressman Mike Castle, the Republican ex-governor who has been sent to the U.S. House of Representatives as Delaware's sole member since 1992.

The Democrats are not accustomed to this dearth. It is the Republicans who have a ballot looking like Swiss cheese, not them. As the party on the rise, the Democrats have been coping with the opposite problem of too many contenders for other statewide offices, notably governor.

It goes to show what a great equalizer politics can be. Also what strength Castle has.

The Democrats do have Karen Hartley-Nagle, who lost their 2006 congressional primary but kept running on the Independent ticket, and another flimsy candidate or two expressing interest. The party will have to decide whether to settle for that or face the glum task of looking for a new recruit.

Bullock did not have much of a political name, but he would have given the Democrats diversity as an African-American candidate, a timely reflection of where their party is nationally with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama locked in the fight for president. After all, this state went for Obama.

Bullock blamed his departure on the bane of all campaigns -- money. "I didn't meet our fund-raising expectations, so I'm moving on," he said Tuesday in a brief telephone interview.

Money is a reasonable explanation, particularly for someone who would have to deal with the drag of a primary contest, even against an opponent as lightly regarded as Hartley-Nagle, before the main effort of grappling with Castle in a costly, uphill race.

Castle raises money with the same ease he gets re-elected. He is at eight terms and counting, as well as at $1.5 million and counting.

Still, Bullock has a habit of political backsliding. His reversal comes as no surprise to anyone who has watched him for the last decade and a half, as he switched from Democrat to Republican to Democrat, as he shuttled from Wilmington to Chicago to Wilmington, as he was tempted to run for anything here from the state legislature to the U.S. Senate but pulled up, instead.

Bullock is out of politics again. At least until further notice.

Will he ever run? "I don't know," he said. It was classic Bullock, not yes and not no.

This most recent foray for the Congress never had a solid feel to it. Bullock's announcement seemed to be hastily arranged, a single stop that did bring 200 people to hear him in his home base of Wilmington, but neglected to take him to other parts for a three-county tour that is as much a staple of state politics as chicken dinners.

The end came haphazardly, too. As recently as last week, Bullock shared a statewide candidates forum with Hartley-Nagle at an elementary school near Prices Corner to ask for the endorsement of Democratic committees from Hockessin, Pike Creek Valley and Elsmere.

Bullock told them, "I'm running because I'm a change agent."

Here he goes, changing again.