Former Rep. Watts Stirs Speculation About Possible Run for Oklahoma Governor

OKLAHOMA CITY -- An unannounced visit to the state Capitol by former Republican Rep. J.C. Watts has lawmakers talking about the possibility he could be setting the stage to run for governor. 

Watts, who came to the Capitol Monday, surprised a delegation of the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce last week by saying he is considering the race and will make a decision in 45 days. 

Republican Rep. Mary Fallin of the 5th Congressional District has said she is running for the post, making the announcement at a meeting of Oklahoma County Democrats last Saturday.
Lt. Gov. Jari Askins has jumped into the race on the Democratic side, and Attorney General Drew Edmondson also has been campaigning, but has not officially announced. 

On Monday, Fallin said one of the reasons for her early announcement was the need to get an early start on fundraising. 

Watts gave no reason for his visit to the Capitol the same day, other than that he wanted to make some courtesy calls. 

Among those he visited with was Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, a former staffer when Watts was a congressman. 

"I heard a lot of people ask him about it (the governor's race)," Shannon said. "He just kind of chuckled. I didn't hear a response one way or another." 

Watts had previously not been mentioned on most lists as a gubernatorial possibility, partly because he has been busy heading the J.C. Watts Companies in Washington, D.C., a public affairs and consulting company. 

"I know J.C., he's a serious guy," Shannon said. "When you get this stuff (politics) in your blood, it's hard to get it out. I don't think it was a coincidence that he was here." 

A spokeswoman in Washington said Watts was traveling Tuesday and was unavailable for comment. 

Watts, a former star quarterback at the University of Oklahoma, is the first black to be elected to a statewide office in Oklahoma. 

After serving on the Corporation Commission, he 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 supported fellow Republican Tom Cole, who was elected. 

Cole also has been considering a gubernatorial bid and has declined comment on Fallin's decision to get into the contest early. 

Sen. Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, also is looking at the race.