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Okla. Democrat Withdraws From Race

August 29, 2002

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Ben Odom withdrew Thursday from the Democratic primary runoff, saying he wanted to give his party the best possible chance of regaining the congressional seat held by retiring Rep. J.C. Watts.

The attorney said since the Republicans have already selected their nominee, Tom Cole, the Democratic party would be at a disadvantage financially if it had to hold a runoff.

Odom finished second to Ardmore Democrat Darryl Roberts, but neither got 50 percent of the vote, forcing the pair into a Sept. 17 runoff. Odom’s withdrawal leaves Roberts as the Democratic nominee.

``A runoff would probably ensure a Republican victory because we would have to expand our Oklahoma resources and the winner would be at a disadvantage financially,″ Odom said. ``This is time for us to unite for a victory in November.″

Odom, the 1998 Democratic nominee for the seat, had been widely regarded as the favorite for the office, but decided to step down in hopes a Democratic candidate would receive Democratic National Congressional Committee dollars.

``Staying in the race would make me a de facto instrument to the Republican Party, which I refuse to do,″ Odom said.

Roberts, a Vietnam veteran and retired colonel, said Odom’s withdrawal is the lynchpin to his campaign.

``We have known this was going to be of a lot of interest, Tom Cole has even acknowledged that,″ Roberts said. ``Before I got into this I was told national resources would be contributed and this is the right decision.″

The race for the 4th District, which includes much of south-central Oklahoma, was supposed to be a safe one for Republicans. That changed when Watts announced he would retire.

Watts was only the second Republican in state history to represent the district in Washington.

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