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Congressman Watts Announces Retirement - 2002-07-01


The only African-American Republican in Congress has announced he is retiring. Representative J.C. Watts of Oklahoma has announced he will not seek re-election.

The says he is retiring at the end of his current term.

Congressman J.C. Watts told a news conference in Norman, Oklahoma, that it is now time for him to return home and get on with other things in his life. "I am still a young, energetic, optimistic, enthusiastic American," he said. "And I do not think that I have to have 'Congressman' in front of my name to make a contribution."

Congressman Watts, who is the only black Republican in either chamber of Congress, was first elected to the House in 1994, the same year Republicans won control of that chamber from Democrats for the first time in 40 years.

Congressman Watts rose quickly through the ranks to become the fourth-ranking member of the House Republican leadership. He was also given a featured speaking role at the 1996 Republican National Convention and gave the party's response to President Clinton's State of the Union Address in 1997.

Fellow Republicans say Congressman Watts occasionally complained that he was not included in enough leadership decisions. He was also reportedly upset that President Bush did not confer with him before deciding to cancel an expensive army artillery system that would have brought new jobs into his Oklahoma congressional district.

Republicans are battling to hold onto their slim majority in the House in November's congressional elections. Congressman Watts' decision to retire could complicate that effort because the Democrats are expected to be competitive for his seat.

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