J.C. Watts is acting and sounding like he will be a gubernatorial candidate next year. Regardless, the two Republicans who have already announced they’re running for governor say they’re not budging from the race. Watts, a former Oklahoma congressman, said he has been talking with Republicans from across the state, and "I think Republicans are not satisfied with the (gubernatorial) choices.” "I’ve obviously been encouraged to take a look at it by ... a lot of my supporters and a lot of donors,” said Watts, who still is planning to launch a television news network targeted at a black audience. "It’s a lot to think about.” Watts appeared to be in campaign mode April 18 when he showed up at the state Republican convention. He spent a couple of hours talking with party delegates and officials, many of whom sought him out during his unannounced visit. ‘"I’m just being open to listening to old and trusted friends who understand Oklahoma values and understand my values and understand who we are as a Republican Party and where we want to go with the party,” said Watts, a former star quarterback at the University of Oklahoma and the first black elected to a statewide office in Oklahoma. "I think I can draw that conclusion over the next four or five weeks.”
The other candidatesU.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, said she’s in the gubernatorial race to stay, no matter what Watts decides. Fallin, the first woman and the first Republican to be elected Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor, is seeking to become the first female governor. Fallin thought about running for governor in 2002, but she was encouraged by Republican leaders to step aside and let another former football star — then-U.S. Rep. Steve Largent of Tulsa — seek the post. Largent narrowly lost to Brad Henry in a three-way race that also featured an independent candidate. State Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, announced his gubernatorial bid just hours before Watts appeared at the state convention. "It doesn’t matter to me who gets in or who gets out,” Brogdon said. "I am committed to this race. I am compelled to run the race. I’ve cleared my path so I’m in the race until the end.” Henry, a Democrat, was re-elected in 2006 and cannot seek a third term. Lt. Gov. Jari Askins is the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate to announce. Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat, has said he won’t seek re-election and is considering running for governor. State Treasurer Scott Meacham, a Democrat, is also contemplating the race. Watts said he believes Republicans will be patient with him as he makes "an honest, objective decision.”
At a glanceJ.C. Watts’ background After serving on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, J.C. Watts, shown above, won election to four terms in the U.S. House, where he became chairman of the House Republican Conference. He did not run for re-election in 2002 and started his own lobbying, consulting and public affairs companies in Washington.