WASHINGTON — Citing business obligations, former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts said Friday he won’t run for governor next year. Watts’ decision leaves the Republican field, for now, with U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, of Oklahoma City, and state Sen. Randy Brogdon of Owasso. On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Jari Askins has announced she intends to run, and state Attorney General Drew Edmondson is considering it. Democratic Gov. Brad Henry can’t seek a third term. Watts, 51, runs a public relations and consulting company in Washington and has been working to launch a black TV news channel. In a brief statement, Watts said his "current business and contractual obligations create hurdles” that he can’t overcome to make a race. "Many Oklahomans — Republican and Democrat, red yellow, black, brown and white, from all walks of life — encouraged me to make the race,” the former University of Oklahoma football star 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.” Fallin, who has already announced her intention to run for governor and had pledged to remain in the race even if Watts joined it, said, "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.”
All about timingWatts, who now lives in a Virginia suburb of Washington, has apparently vacillated in the past few weeks about returning to the state and running for governor. He has made numerous appearances in Oklahoma. Many political observers said they expected him to announce his candidacy. But Watts started leaning heavily against a run in the last few days, and he said he made his decision "with a heavy heart.” He didn’t say what business obligations kept him from running and wasn’t available to elaborate. His business in Washington includes lobbying for such disparate entities as the Bowl Championship Series and the Tarrant Regional Water District. He also has been a registered lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union. He also has been a member of several corporate boards, including John Deere Co. and Dillards. Gary Jones, chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, said it was apparent to him Watts was wrestling with whether he could make a race and satisfy his business obligations. "It’s all about timing,” Jones said. "The timing just wasn’t right.” Todd Goodman, chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, said Watts "had at least a perceived value in the Republican Party” and would have been formidable.
BackgroundJ.C. Watts A native of Eufaula, Watts graduated in 1981 from the University of Oklahoma, where he was the quarterback of the Sooners football team and Most Valuable Player of the 1980 and 1981 Orange Bowls. He played in the Canadian Football League from 1981 to 1986.