More women are running for legislative offices this year in Oklahoma, the state with the second-lowest percentage of female lawmakers in the country. If every female candidate wins her race, the number of women in the Legislature could nearly double after the November elections. That is unlikely, though, as some female contenders face an uphill battle against male incumbents. Still, the nearly 40 female legislative candidates are an encouraging sign in Oklahoma, said Sheryl Lovelady, director of the Women's Leadership Initiative at the University of Oklahoma's Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. Oklahoma has 17 female legislators among the 149 serving in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Five women are in the 48-member Senate and 12 are in the 101-member House. Oklahoma's percentage of female legislators is 11.4 percent, slightly more than South Carolina's 10 percent. Oklahoma had five women in the House of Representatives 35 years ago and none in the Senate 43 years ago. Four of the 12 statewide positions now are filled by women — Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett, Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland and Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy. And there's a good chance Oklahomans this year could elect the first female governor in state history. Two of the three frontrunners in the gubernatorial race are women — Askins, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City. If all win their races, 30 women could be sworn into legislative offices in November. At least 10 women are guaranteed spots in the 53rd Legislature; seven incumbent women in the House were unopposed, and three in the Senate, where members serve four-year terms, are not up for re-election. Two female senators are leaving the Senate when their terms expire in November: Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, is not seeking re-election, and Sen. Mary Easley, D-Tulsa, cannot seek another term because of 12-year term limits. A third, Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, is running for state schools superintendent this year and would have to leave her post if she wins that election. Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, is among nine female Senate candidates. Two of the nine are seeking the same post. In the House, five incumbents are among 21 female candidates. Two of the 21 are seeking the same post. Rep. Scott Inman, designated Democratic leader in the House next session and who led recruiting efforts for Democratic House candidates this year, said he didn't specifically recruit women. "Our goal was to try to find somebody who had roots in the community, understood the community and was well respected,” said Inman, of Del City. Angie LaPlante, vice chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, said she found more women this year wanting to run for legislative office. Many had served on the local level, such as on a school board or a city council. "It's women that do step out and get involved and voice their concerns,” she said. "Women are very powerful. We're going to make huge gains in the next few years.” Lovelady is directing programs intended to encourage women to pursue careers in public service. One is to get an equal number of men and women appointed to state boards and commissions, she said.Comments
Women and Legislative Seats
Women re-elected to the House of Representatives who drew no opposition: Reps. Lee Denney, R-Cushing; Marian Cooksey, R-Edmond; Lisa Billy, R-Lindsay; Leslie Osborn, R-Tuttle; Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa; Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City; and Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City.
Female senators in the middle of their terms: Sens. Judy Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa; Susan Paddack, D-Ada; and Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City. Female senators leaving in November: Sens. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, and Mary Easley, D-Tulsa.
Female legislative candidates
Senate: Janica Edmonds of Morris, District 8; Donna Spring of Ardmore, District 14; Sharon Parker of Norman, District 16; Janice Aldridge and Kim David, both of Wagoner, District 18; Susan Hardy Brooks of Tuttle and Linda Molsbee of Newcastle, District 24; Liz Donnelly of Oklahoma City, District 40; and Sen. Connie Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, District 48.
House: Traci Barnes of Poteau, District 3; Annie J. Goolsby of Gore, District 15; Carolyn McNatt Hill of McAlester, District 18; Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa, District 23; Rep. Skye McNiel, R-Bristow, District 29; Donna Marie Voegelpohl of Sapulpa, District 30; Emily Virgin of Norman, District 44; Amy Corley of Newalla, District 53; Maya Torralba of Anadarko, District 56; Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, District 64; Jadine Nollan of Sand Springs, District 66; Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa, and Molly McKay of Tulsa, District 78; Brittany M. Novotny of Bethany and Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, District 84; Gail Vines of Oklahoma City, District 85; Dana Orwig of Oklahoma City, District 87; Wanda Jo Peltier of Oklahoma City, District 93; Zana Williams of Oklahoma City, District 94; Elise Hall of Oklahoma City, District 100.