DUNCAN — State Rep. T.W. Shannon, the Republican from Lawton who gave up his post as Speaker of the Oklahoma House to run for the U.S. Senate, said Thursday his political mentor J.C. Watts has endorsed his candidacy.
Shannon, one of seven Republicans seeking the nomination to replace retiring U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, said he was honored by the endorsement of Watts, the former University of Oklahoma quarterback who served four terms in Congress before retiring in 2004 to enter private business.
“J.C.’s been my mentor since I’ve been in politics,” Shannon said. “I worked for him for two years. Then, when J.C. retired, Tom (Cole) inherited J.C.’s campaign staff, and I went to work for Tom then. I’ve stayed in contact with J.C. We’ve had a very close personal relationship. I’m truly honored he would endorse.”
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, who now represents the 4th Congressional District in Oklahoma, has not endorsed a candidate in the June 24 Republican Primary.
Shannon previously has received endorsements from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sarah Palin and syndicated radio talk show host Mark Levin.
Polls show Shannon and U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Edmond, in a close race for the top spot in the June 24 Republican Primary, according to published reports.
Shannon said Thursday he thinks there will be runoff to determine the Republican nominee. Lankford, in an interview during the recent Stephens County GOP Fish Fry, also said he expects a runoff.
“Seven people in the race, it’s just tough to get above 50 percent,” Shannon said. “We’ve always anticipated a runoff.”
If there is a runoff in the primary it will be on Aug. 26.
Coburn, elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2010, announced in January he would give up the last two years of his Senate term at year’s end.
Political pundits consider the Republican nominee a shoe-in to win the Nov. 4 General Election to serve the remaining two years of Coburn’s term.