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Largent Loses Okla. Governor’s Race

November 6, 2002

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Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Largent was beaten in the Oklahoma governor’s race Tuesday, edged in an extremely tight vote by an opponent who was practically a political unknown six months ago.

Largent did not concede defeat late Tuesday night to Democrat Brad Henry as he addressed supporters.

``I’m going to play it till the last second of the clock,″ said Largent, a former congressman and one-time star receiver of the Seattle Seahawks.

Former Winter Olympics chief Mitt Romney enjoyed more success on a day when a number of high-profile sports figures ran for office. Romney drew on his performance at the Salt Lake City Games to become governor in Massachusetts, defeating Democrat Shannon O’Brien.

In the House of Representatives, great miler Jim Ryun, R-Kan., easily won re-election against Democrat Dan Lykins. Former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, R-Neb., won another term, getting more than 90 percent of the vote without even campaigning on TV or radio. He did not face a Democratic challenger.

Republican Rick Renzi, a former football player at Northern Arizona, was leading his race for a seat in Arizona.

J.C. Watts, the quarterback who led Oklahoma to two straight Orange Bowl victories, is leaving his Oklahoma congressional seat. Ryun is seeking a Republican leadership post held by Watts.

In final unofficial returns, Largent lost by 6,357 votes out of nearly 900,000 cast. Each candidate had 43 percent, with independent Gary Richardson drawing the rest.

Largent played for the Seahawks from 1976-89 and was one of the best wide receivers in NFL history. The 48-year-old Republican was once a heavy favorite against Henry, who was an obscure state senator in June. Largent served more than three terms as an Oklahoma congressman before resigning to begin his campaign.

Largent, with a reputation as a religious conservative in Congress, faced an embarrassing episode during his race. He was hunting in Idaho on Sept. 11, 2001, and was forced to apologize when his staff issued his reaction to the terrorist attack before he was aware of what happened.

Romney presided over an Olympics that IOC president Jacques Rogge called a ``superb job,″ although it was an event shadowed by a bribery scandal before it began and a figure skating judging scandal that rocked the games.

Romney, a 55-year-old former venture capitalist, is the son of former Michigan Gov. George Romney. His only previous political experience was an unsuccessful 1994 bid to unseat Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Democrats tried to knock him off the ballot even before his campaign got going. They contended he didn’t meet state residency requirement because of his time in Utah, but the challenge was rejected.

``What we’ve accomplished today and over the last eight months has been extraordinary,″ Romney said.

In other races:

_Derrick Hord, who played basketball at Kentucky from 1979-83 and was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, lost his bid for a seat in the Kentucky state Senate to Republican incumbent Alice Kerr.

_Alderman George Unseld, a college basketball player at Kansas in the 1960s and the brother of Hall of Famer Wes Unseld, won election to the new metro government in Louisville, Ky.

_Joe DeNucci, once a fifth-ranked middleweight boxer, was elected to a fifth term as Massachusetts state auditor.

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