Female Democrats in Oklahoma rising to the top

Taylor Teifke, Memorial Staff Writer

For nearly 80 years, Oklahoma’s legislature has been predominantly occupied by the Republican Party. However, recently there has been a surge of Democratic candidates for office, both for the state government and U.S. Congress. In fact, many of these candidates were women. Both of these traits make it difficult for candidates to win office in a red state due to the highly conservative values of many Oklahomans, but the results of this past midterm election showed that a change is happening in our government.

The results of the 2018 midterm elections resulted with Democrat Kendra Horn as Congresswoman for Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District. Horn is the first Democrat to be elected to the office in 44 years and the first Democrat to be elected to the House of Representatives from Oklahoma in eight years.

“I started volunteering and being involved in politics when I was pretty young,” Horn said. “My motivation was always to make a difference in my community.”

Horn started out as a lawyer at a firm in Dallas, Texas before opening a solo practice in 2002. She was hired as press secretary to Congressman Brad Carson from 2004 to 2005, then went on to work for the Space Foundation in Washington, D.C. She began as Manager of Government Affairs and later became Manager of Communication and Media Relations until 2008. Horn is also one of the founders of Women Lead Oklahoma, a non-profit organization that trains and supports women to encourage community and civic action.

Democrat candidates were abundant during the midterms. Two female Democrats who were elected in Oklahoma were Carri Hicks representing District 40 in the Oklahoma State Senate and Chelsea Branham representing District 83 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Hicks originally pursued political science as a career, but ended up in the education field. She has been an elementary school teacher for the past seven years.

“The top priority for me is and always has been education,” Hicks said. “Outside of that, the government is not serving its most vulnerable citizens well enough where healthcare concerns, and we need to do better.”

Branham is an international economist whose area focus was Sub-Saharan Africa. She most recently worked on economic development in Zambia and was a two-time Boren Travel Fellow. She now works at the Young Women’s Christian Association of Oklahoma City.

“As I started working at the Y and doing legislative advocacy at the Capitol, it became clear to me that we didn’t have legislators who had any clue or concept about things that were actually happening in the communities and struggles that people are actually going through,” Branham said. “Many of our legislators are wealthy white men or women, so there was a big disconnect between them and actual Oklahoman people.”

These women, as well as many others, share a common motive: they have all seen that the subjects they care about are not being addressed and taken care of properly by the current legislators. They are setting an example and showing other Democrats and women that they can make a difference in Oklahoma, one house seat at a time.

Contact Taylor Teifke at [email protected].