Oklahoma’s Legislature Will Have More Women in 2019
There won’t be any major partisan shifts in the makeup of the Oklahoma legislature following the 2018 election. But, the gender balance has changed--more women were elected to the Oklahoma House and Senate on Tuesday.
Women will make up roughly 21 percent of the state legislature in 2019, an increase from about 14 percent. Twenty-one women served in the Oklahoma legislature during the 2018 legislative session, and that number will increase to 32 as a result of the 2018 midterm election.
Of the 32 women legislators, 9 will serve in the Senate, along with 23 in the House, and they are evenly split by party. Thirteen are incumbents, including two senators who were not up for reelection. The rest are newcomers. Women will outnumber men 5 to 4 in the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Additionally, Democrat Kendra Horn was elected as Oklahoma’s third U.S. congresswoman.
“My qualifications are not just that I'm a woman, but that's certainly important and we need more women's voices,” Horn said at her victory party. “Our communities are a lot more diverse than the people that we've been sending to represent us. And when you get different viewpoints and lived experiences then we can create better legislation.”
Anastasia Pittman, the former Democratic senator who lost her bid for Lieutenant Governor, spoke about gender and racial diversity during her concession speech Tuesday night.
“This is fifty years since Sherley Chisolm ran for Congress… 100 years after women have been given the right to vote, and we’re still fighting for equality,” Pittman said. Chisolm, a New Yorker, became the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968. Oklahoma women gained voting rights in 1918.
Pittman’s daughter, Ajay Pittman, is one of Oklahoma's newly elected women. She ran unopposed in the general election for House District 99. Following in her mother’s footsteps, she’ll be one of few women of color to serve in the Oklahoma legislature. She’s also a citizen of the Seminole Nation.
There was an increase in the number of women running for office in Oklahoma this year. Oklahoma Watch reported in May that nearly four times as many women filed to run for legislative seats in 2018, following a national trend. This differs from the 2016 election when the number of women candidates increased, but the proportion of women in the state legislature declined.