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Watts, two Marks make mark at dinner

April 13, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Whether it was while J.C. Watts Jr. was cracking jokes like a professional comedian or hammering home his points by quoting famous Americans like a world leader, hundreds of county Republicans turned from eating their dessert to attentively digest his every word Tuesday.

The Washington County Republican Central Committee held its annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Four Points Sheraton before hundreds of party loyalists. Though committee officials said they believed it would be difficult to land Watts, a former quarterback for the University of Oklahoma and a congressman who represented that state for eight years, he said all the committee had to do was ask.

Watts said going to Lincoln Day dinners is a way of saying thanks to the party volunteers who "make it work for the candidates."

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"As a quarterback, I understood the importance of the offensive line," Watts said. " ... In this arena, you need a lot more offensive linemen than quarterbacks to perform well."

Before touching on more serious issues such as war and welfare reform, Watts kept the crowd laughing and, for the most part, ignoring the cups of coffee and pieces of cake sitting before them.

"I asked (former committee chairman) Phil (Baker-Shenk) what I should talk about. He said I should talk about 20 minutes and sit down," Watts joked.

When Watts, who now lives in Northern Virginia, got down to business, he drew the loudest reaction when talking about his disdain for the current welfare system that he believes has "kept people under the poverty line and dependent on the government."

Watts, however, was not the only person to draw a standing ovation Tuesday.

Receiving the same treatment were Mark K. Boyer, recipient of the D. Eldred Rinehart Award for dedication to the county's Republican Party, and H. Mark Swain, winner of the new Republican Spirit Award, which Mildred "Mickey" Myers likened to a lifetime achievement award for the party.

A gracious Boyer also made an attempt at comedy during his brief acceptance, saying the crowd would "get to see a lawyer without much to say tonight."

Myers, the committee's public relations chairwoman, said the event raises as much as 80 percent of the committee's funding annually.

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