Mary Fallin, Jari Askins Break Through Gender Barrier In Oklahoma Politics

Wednesday, July 28th 2010, 9:08 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The winner of the November contest won't just claim the governor's chair. She will shatter one of the state's oldest political glass ceilings.

Both Congresswoman Mary Fallin and Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins relished in the moment Tuesday night, while looking ahead to the future .

7/28/2010 Related Story: Fallin, Askins Discuss Historic Election, Platforms

But the trailblazers of Oklahoma's past paved the road to the Governor's mansion for both Fallin and Askins.

Oklahoma women began bulldozing gender barriers right after the state ratified the 19th amendment giving them the right to vote. In 1920, State Senator Lamar Looney and State Representative Bessie McColgin were Oklahoma's first female lawmakers.

But since then, the state of Oklahoma has lagged behind the nation.

"Historically this state has been underrepresented by women in the state legislature and also in executive office," said Sheryl Lovelady, OU Women's Leadership Initiative. "So it's a big win for Oklahoma women."

Oklahoma will join 23 other states that have or have had women hold the top job. Fallin has already made history, becoming the first female Lieutenant Governor and only the second woman to represent Oklahoma in Congress.

With two women at the top of the ticket, some say more women will flock to the polls.

"I think more women will come out to vote this fall," Lovelady said. "They're energized and they're paying attention and they want to know where these candidates stand on issues that matter to them."

And politicos say the dynamics of this race could redefine how we think about women's issues.

"So we're going to see a political debate we've never seen in this state before," Keith Gaddie, Political Science Professor, said. "Which is two women debating family issues, debating economic issues, from different philosophical perspectives and from different experiences as women."

Female governors often have success on the national scene. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was the 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee. And two current members of President Obama's cabinet, Janet Napolitano and Kathleen Sebelius, are also former governors.

For more on Congresswoman Mary Fallin and Lt. Governor Jari Askins, check out our Election Guide.