Oklahoma Governors 2011-2019: Oklahoma’s First Female Governor -Mary Fallin (1954—)
This golden girl of Oklahoma politics for an entire generation was unexcelled in electoral success by few Oklahomans of any era. She won election after election, usually decisively, and often against high profile opponents, or groups of them, of both sexes and major political parties.
Born of parents who both served as Democratic mayors of Tecumseh during her childhood there, Fallin bucked family, community, and state political currents and switched to the more conservative Republican Party. She did so decades before the majority of others who comprised the coming GOP dominance. After graduating from OSU in 1977, she worked in both the private and public sectors.
In 1990, she launched her durable political career by winning a seat in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. No one from either party challenged her for re-election two years later. In 1993, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council recognized her as their Legislator of the Year.
Fallin defeated other women in three 1994 races to become Oklahoma’s first female lieutenant governor. A rousing orator, she proved unbeatable in that office, winning it twice more. In 2006, she won election as the second female Congressman ever from Oklahoma, and the first since 1920. She soundly defeated a Republican primary field loaded with high profile opponents.
Reliably conservative in Washington, she won re-election in 2008. Two years later, she won election as the state’s first female governor with a thunderous victory over the Oklahoma Democracy’s own female star, and Fallin’s successor as lieutenant governor, Jari Askins of Duncan. She stood supreme among the state political constellation.
She won re-election in 2014, her ninth political victory without a loss. Her name was widely mentioned as a potential cabinet member or even vice presidential running mate as Donald Trump stormed to the Republican presidential nomination.
Her final years in office proved difficult. By 2018, she faced a contentious statewide public teachers’ strike over wages, a state budget crisis, and a legislature dominated by her own party that proved difficult for her to influence. Her approval ratings sank far enough that fellow Republican lieutenant governor Todd Lamb publicly derided her tax increase plan, and the new gubernatorial nominees of both major parties disparaged her.
Fallin’s husband Wade Christensen issued a memorable public defense of her gubernatorial accomplishments. Mary comprised the sort of leadership that doesn’t garner headlines. They included her successful championing of the Complete College America Initiative, leading Oklahoma through both national and state economic downturns, slashing the state’s unemployment rate, reversing its budget deficit, halving its unfunded pension liability, greatly increasing foster parents and social workers helping abused and neglected children, and massive repair and renovation of the state capitol.
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
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