Largent Loses Okla. Governor's Race
Nov. 06, 2002
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Steve Largent lost his run to become Oklahoma governor, but Mitt Romney won the governor's race in Massachusetts on a day when a handful of prominent sports figures went before voters.
Largent, a former congressman and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was beaten in a close contest in which he was once a heavy favorite. The 48-year-old Republican lost to 39-year-old state Sen. Brad Henry, a Democrat.
``We defied all odds,'' Henry told supporters Tuesday night.
In the closest Oklahoma guberatorial race in 32 years, Henry won by just 6,357 votes.
Largent, a star with the Seattle Seahawks from 1976-89, declined to concede defeat late Tuesday night as he addressed supporters at a watch party before heading back to Tulsa, his hometown. ``I'm going to play it till the last second of the clock,'' he said.
Largent served 3 1/2 terms in Congress. He might have lost key votes to independent candidate Gary Richardson, but Henry's victory still was regarded as an upset. He received only 28 percent of the vote in a five-candidate primary but went on to upset millionaire businessman Vince Orza in a runoff.
Henry also was aided by some football celebrity, as former Oklahoma Sooners coach Barry Switzer campaigned at his side.
The candidates were trying to succeed Republican Gov. Frank Keating, who was barred by term limits from seeking a third term.
Romney drew on his performance as chief organizer of the Salt Lake City Olympics to defeat Democratic state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien for Massachusetts governor.
In the House of Representatives, two Republicans with strong sports pedigrees were easily re-elected.
Jim Ryun, once the world-record holder in the mile, defeated Democrat Dan Lykins in Kansas, and former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne earned more than 90 percent of the vote without even campaigning on TV or radio. He did not face a Democratic challenger.
``He can sit in his living room, watch TV and drink beer from now on ... and still win,'' said Osborne's opponent, Libertarian Jerry Hickman.
Also, Republican Rick Renzi, captain of the Northern Arizona football team that won the 1979 Big Sky Conference title, led Democrat George Cordova by 10 percentage points for a new 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 to Democrat Brad Henry by 6,357 votes out of nearly 900,000 cast. Each candidate had 43 percent, with independent Gary Richardson getting the rest.
Largent played for the Seahawks from 1976-89 and was one of the best wide receivers in NFL history. He had a reputation as a religious conservative in Congress, serving more than three terms before resigning for this campaign. He was upset by an opponent who was an obscure state senator as recently as June.
Romney presided over an Olympics that IOC president Jacques Rogge called a ``superb job,'' although it was an event preceded by a bribery scandal and jolted by a figure skating judging scandal.
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:
_Mike Kenn, a former Pro Bowl tackle for the Atlanta Falcons, was leading in his re-election bid for chairman of the Fulton County Commission in Georgia.
_Joe DeNucci, once a fifth-ranked middleweight boxer, was elected to a fifth term as Massachusetts state auditor.
_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.
_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.