Watts Won't Pursue Oklahoma Gov.'s Seat

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Former Congressman J.C. Watts (search) said Tuesday he will not run for governor in Oklahoma next year.

"I have determined that the timing for such an adventure is not right at this point in our lives," he said in a statement.

He said he spent more than two months talking to voters across the state before reaching his decision.

Watts is the second Republican to decide against making the race; Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin (search) has announced she will run for re-election instead of running for governor. Their moves leave the GOP without a proven vote-getter with wide name recognition to challenge Gov. Brad Henry (search), the popular Democratic incumbent.

"I cannot in good conscience conclude that 2006 is right for me and for the family that I love so much," Watts said.

Republican state Sen. Jim Williamson (search) of Tulsa and oil executive Robert Sullivan (search) have said they will run for governor.

Watts said that in talking to voters he found a desire for change in leadership in the state, which often compares poorly to other states in such areas as economic development.

"I grieve when I hear outsiders talk of Oklahoma as a Third World state with no opportunity to grow," he said. "I grieve when I hear of the mass exodus of educators crossing our borders for greater opportunity in Texas, Kansas, Colorado and over 40 other states."

Watts, 47, a former star football player at the University of Oklahoma, was elected to the U.S. House in 1994. He was the fourth-ranking Republican and the only black Republican in the House before retiring in 2002.