Thanedar hires Detroit activist to manage campaign

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
David Alexander Bullock, a Detroit activist and pastor, has been hired by Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Shri Thanedar to manage his campaign.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shri Thanedar said Tuesday he has hired Detroit pastor and activist David Alexander Bullock to manage his statewide campaign.

The hire comes one week after fellow 910 AM “Superstation” radio host Steve Neavling accused the Ann Arbor businessman of paying Bullock to promote Thanedar on his own show.

Thanedar did not deny Bullock had worked for the campaign, calling him an adviser who had helped with field work, but said he had not paid “a single penny to any journalist” for air time.

The official new role puts Bullock on a “short list” of African-Americans in charge of campaigns for executive offices in the United States, according to Thanedar’s campaign. Bullock is a prominent Detroit activist known for his work as state coordinator for the Rainbow PUSH coalition.


“His expertise and work ethic will be invaluable,” Thanedar said in a statement. “David brings a strong background in community and political organizing and will reinvigorate our ground game.”

910AM announced Tuesday afternoon it has removed Bullock from its lineup. He can no longer be a radio host after accepting the new job as Thanedar’s campaign manager, the station said. Bullock said he will pay for airtime on WMKM 1440-AM and continue his show on that station.

Bullock did not disclose any official ties to Thanedar on May 8 when he promoted and hosted him on his radio show. He wore a Thanedar campaign shirt during an interview and showed it off for viewers watching a live video stream.

During the show, Bullock repeatedly criticized Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, a former Senate minority leader from East Lansing who entered the race as the favorite for the party nomination and has been endorsed by major unions, including the United Auto Workers.

“Shri is the voice for we, the voice of the people,” Bullock said Tuesday. “I am very excited to organize and engage voters across the state for Shri.”

Bullock’s hire is the latest sign that Thanedar is making a strong push for support in Detroit, the state’s largest city and a traditional Democratic stronghold.

“Detroit can make all the difference in the primary because so few people participate statewide,” said local political consultant Greg Bowens. “To Thanedar’s credit, he’s been campaigning pretty hard.”

Whitmer has strong support from union organizations that traditionally help drive voter turnout in Metro Detroit elections, but Thanedar has been more visible at local events, Bowens said.

Both Democratic gubernatorial candidates attended the recent NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner in Detroit, a high-profile annual gathering. Whitmer sat on stage, but Thanedar worked the crowd, Bowens said.

“Give the guy an A for effort," he said. "He’s not just spending money on ads but actually getting out there and shaking hands and kissing babies.”

Thanedar has committed nearly $6 million of his own money to his gubernatorial campaign and spent big bucks on television ads that have made him one of the most recognizable candidates in the race.

Bullock replaces former Thanedar manager Brian Spangle, who left the campaign at some point earlier this year. Thanedar has also cycled through campaign spokespersons and communications staffers since launching his campaign in June 2017.

Bullock has experience running his own campaigns – he twice lost races for Detroit City Council – and helped campaign for the 2012 referendum to repeal Michigan’s emergency manager law. He also has been a pastor at more than one local church, Bowens said. 

“So there’s connections to the community as well as some organization skills that are invaluable in being able to run a successful campaign,” he said.

Thanedar had paid Spangle through at least December, according to his latest required campaign finance report submitted to the state. As of Dec. 31, he had not listed any payments to Bullock.

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Twitter: @jonathanoosting