A new study found women competing for a legislative post in Oklahoma have a tougher time raising campaign cash than men.

There is no doubt gender parity in politics poses problems — for the candidates trying to compete and the perception it might create. But we believe it is a problem that will self-correct over time as the number of women who enter politics increase and their tenure lengthens.

The National Institute on Money in Politics ranked Oklahoma 11th in the nation based on the disparity between the amount of money contributed to the campaigns waged by women and those by their male counterparts. Based on an analysis of contributions reported from 2016 through 2019 by sitting lawmakers, men campaigning for legislative posts in Oklahoma outraised women by a median difference of $24,253.

Political analysts argue that much money makes a big difference in Oklahoma politics, especially in rural parts of the states, "because there's not tons of media coverage about them." Rebekah Herrick, a political science professor at Oklahoma State University, said when candidates are unable to "mail out fliers, or buy yard signs and those types of things, they’re just going to be completely invisible."

While visibility is important, Herrick said viability may be even more so. Some donors — especially those who have a special interest in legislative outcomes — are more likely to contribute to candidates more likely to win.

Campaign contributions typically represent more than support for a candidate. Contributors are buying access to those who hold the keys to power, and women who have competed for congressional and gubernatorial posts have done so on equal footing with men seeking the same office. 

As the number of women in the Oklahoma Legislature grows, and the importance of their committee assignments become more apparent, contributions to their campaigns will follow. We believe the disparity seen now in contributions to the campaigns of women competing for legislative posts in Oklahoma will dissipate as they consolidate numbers and power.  

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