J.C. Watts announces retirement from Congress
Congressman J.C. Watts (R-Norman) announced his retirement and his return as a "citizen" on Monday. Watts said he wanted to spend more time with his family.
"Of course, the work of America is never done, but I believe that my work in the House of Representatives, at this time in my life, is completed," Watts said in a statement. "It is time to return home, to go on with other things in my life and assuming one of the most honored titles in all of America -- citizen."
OU President David L. Boren said in a statement that Watts' presence in Congress will be missed by the state, OU and the Norman community.
"He constantly used his House leadership position to benefit his district," Boren said.
"The progress we have made in making the university and Norman a national center of research for meteorology and radar technology is in no small part due to the help which we received from Congressman Watts."
Boren, a former U.S. senator, said he understands Watts' decision.
"I can readily understand his desire to spend more time with his family and I wish him all the best in the years ahead. He will always be a special member of our Sooner family."
Chad Alexander, state GOP chairman, said in a telephone interview that he wasn't shocked that Watts resigned, but surprised.
"He always said he's not going to be in Congress forever," Alexander said. "He could have resigned in 2000 or 2004."
Alexander said Republicans have not declared to run for the seat yet. He said Tom Cole and Marc Nuttle are possible candidates to run for the District 4 seat that presides over cities such as Norman and Lawton.
Cole resigned his secretary of state seat in 1999 for a position as the Republican National Committee Chief of Staff. In 2001, Cole became a senior adviser to the Institute for Legal Reform at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Web site.
Nuttle was a chief strategist for the right-to-work initiative.
Jay Parmley, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said on the telephone that Watts' resignation is an opportunity for the party to pick up the District 4 congressional seat.
Lance Compton, a rancher from Hinton, will run for the seat. Parmley said Loyd Benson, former Oklahoma Speaker of the House, and Norman attorney Ben Odom, who ran against Watts in 1998, are also candidates.
However, on Tuesday, Benson, who was not selected as Cameron University's president, pulled himself out of contention.
Parmley, who said he respected Watts as a representative of the Republican Party and the state, said the loss of Watts in Washington will hurt because of his tenure.
"Oklahoma's voice will be diminished, but not for long," Parmley said. "It moves in and out of cycles."
Parmley said Oklahoma has replaced prominent members of Congress before, pointing to former Sen. Carl Albert. Albert began his career in 1946 and was the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971 to 1976.
Rumors that Watts would retire circulated weeks before his official statement.
Watts is currently the only African-American Republican in the House of Representatives.
--From a staff report
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