WASHINGTON — J.C. Watts is not running for governor next year. The former Oklahoma congressman and football star said today his "current business and contractural obligations create hurdles'' he can't overcome to make a race. Watts, 51, runs a public relations and consulting company in Washington and has been working to launch a black television news channel. A Republican, Watts served in Congress from 1995 through 2002. He also served as an Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner. "Many Oklahomans — Republican and Democrat, red yellow, black, brown and white, from all walks of life — encouraged me to make the race,'' Watts said in a prepared statement. "I am deeply honored, humbled and grateful for the confidence they have shown in me. I'm sorry we won't fulfill our goals together. I will continue to work for a prosperous and thriving Oklahoma, this glorious place we call home and the rest of the world calls America." U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, who has announced her intention to run for governor and had said she would remain in the race even if Watts joined it, said today, "J.C. Watts has been a great friend and a great asset to the people of Oklahoma. He is a popular figure both here and nationally, and I am sure he will continue to find success in or out of politics. Decisions like this are never easy, but at the end of the day, I am sure he did what he felt was best for him and his family." Oklahoma state Sen. Randy Brogdon, of Owasso, also plans to run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Lt. Gov. Jari Askins has announced she will seek the Democratic nomination for governor. Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat, is also considering the race. Gov. Brad Henry can not seek re-election because of term limits. Watts, who now lives in a Virginia suburb of Washington, has apparently vacilated in the past few weeks about returning to the state and running for governor. He has made numerous appearances in Oklahoma, fanning rumors that he was about to enter the race, and many political observers said they expected him to announce his candidacy. But Watts apparently changed direction in the last few days, and said he made his decision "with a heavy heart." He didn't specify what business obligations kept him from running, and he wasn't available for comment shortly after his statement was released. Watts' business in Washington includes lobbying for such disparate entities as the Bowl Championship Series and the Tarrant Regional Water District. He has been a registered lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union. Watts also has been a member of several corporate boards, including the John Deere Co. and Dillards. A native of Eufaula, Watts graduated in 1981 from the University of Oklahoma, where he was the quarterback of the Sooners football team and MVP of the 1980 and 1981 Orange Bowls. He played in the Canadian Football League from 1981 to 1986.