OKLAHOMA CITY -- Former Congressman J.C. Watts has announced he will not run for governor.
Watts said earlier this year he was considering joining Congresswoman Mary Fallin and state Senator Randy Brogdon as potential Republican candidates for the 2010 race. However, on Friday he said he had decided not to enter the race because of hurdles created by his business and contractual obligations.
"Many Oklahomans, Republican and Democrat, red, yellow, black, brown and white, from all walks of life encouraged me to make the race," he said. "I am deeply honored, humbled and grateful for the confidence they have shown in me."
Watts was the first black person to hold a statewide office when he was elected to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in 1990. He served from 1994-2002 as Oklahoma's fourth district congressional representative.
Watts and Representative Fallin were the frontrunners in potential GOP candidates to replace Gov. Brad Henry.
"It's great news for Mary Fallin," NEWS 9 Political Analyst Scott Mitchell said.
Most polls had Watts trailing behind Fallin, but a poll by Wilson Research Strategies released May 12 noted that Watts was gaining momentum and had him 3 points ahead of Fallin.
Senator Brogdon lagged in the polls, with most showing him with about 5 percent.
Mitchell said Brogdon's emphasis on smaller government will appeal to Oklahomans who are embittered by the federal economic stimulus and financial bailout plans, but Fallin remains the stronger candidate.
"She just has tremendous personal appeal," Mitchell said. "She's just built an enormous base of goodwill."
Lt. Gov. Jari Askins is the only Democrat to formally announce their bid for governor, but Attorney General Drew Edmonson is raising funds and is expected to officially announce his candidacy this summer.