The Republican courting for a candidate to take on popular Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry appears to be in full swing these days.

The Hill Report, an influential Oklahoma political newsletter, says Fifth District Congressman Ernest Istook is getting serious about making a race. He's more serious this month now that former Fourth District U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts has announced he won't be a candidate.

Mr. Istook has a pretty safe lock on being re-elected to his seat but appears open to change should the party faithful send their support ? and their campaign dollars ? his way.

The Hill Report says Mr. Istook has been meeting with influential GOP leaders and making calls to others as he gets close to decision day. To get in a race with Mr. Henry, he'll face two and maybe three announced candidates.

Tulsa State Senator James Williamson and Tulsa businessman Bob Sullivan have announced they are running and have organizations in place, albeit both lack statewide name recognition. We also expect state House Speaker Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, to jump in the race.

The spoiler could be Tulsa attorney Gary Richardson, who spent boatloads of money trying to get elected as an independent in 2002. The publication says Mr. Richardson may switch back to Republican, although many of the party faithful blame him for the 2002 defeat of former Congressman and NFL football player Steve Largent. Ironically, Mr. Largent resigned from Congress after three terms to run for his party's nomination for governor in 2002.

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