Watts raises possibility of retirement

Friday, June 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rep. J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, the fourth-ranking member of the House Republican leadership, left open the possibility of retirement on Thursday.

``At this point, I don't know,'' he said.

But Watts, the only black Republican serving in Congress, also said he never makes announcements about his plans too far in advance of Election Day and would wait until he is in Oklahoma to announce his intentions.

``Fact is, I don't have to focus on re-election right now,'' he said.

He added, ``These things come up every two years, some rumor about this.''

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Watts was feeling frustrated and underappreciated at this point in his career.

``We talked,'' Davis told the Tulsa World's Washington bureau when ask about the reports swirling around Watts.

Watts dismissed a suggestion he was unhappy with the way he was treated by the Bush administration over the decision to kill the Crusader weapons system, which would have been assembled in his district.

But Davis said the fact that Watts didn't get a telephone call in time to prepare for that announcement had to be in the back of Watts' mind.

Watts was one of the first to sign on to Bush's campaign team. He has described the way the Bush administration handled the issue as ``indecent.''

Watts made his remarks about whether he'll run for re-election at a time when congressional redistricting remains clouded in his home state, which is losing one seat because of population shifts.

After months of internal struggle in the state legislature, a district judge approved a new map that would place Watts and the other remaining Republican incumbents in a safe district in which to seek re-election.

The plan is under legal challenge by state Democrats, and Watts said he hoped for a ruling from the state Supreme Court in the near future.

When that happens, he said, ``I'll have a district and I will announce in the state of Oklahoma, not in my Washington office.''

Watts is serving his fourth term, his second as chairman of the House Republican Conference, a leadership position.