- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - For the first time in state history, women hold the top two positions in the Oklahoma Republican Party.

Longtime GOP activist Pam Pollard was elected chairwoman Sunday during a state committee meeting to fill the remainder of the term of former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, who resigned last month. Pollard defeated Estela Hernandez, who will remain vice chair, and Robert Hubbard of Yukon.

“I’m focused now on 2016, which means recruiting candidates and winning elections,” said Pollard, 55, an accountant from Midwest City. “There are 30 open House and Senate seats that have opened because of people elected in 2004 who are facing term limits, and we’re going to make sure we have strong candidates for each of them.”

It is the first time a woman has been elected to lead the state GOP in more than two decades, and the first time women held the chair and vice chair positions at the same time, Pollard said.

“To me, it’s a side note, but at the same time, we don’t want to overlook history,” Pollard said. “As far as perception, as far as messaging, as far as people looking at the Republican Party as a whole and thinking women can’t rise to the top, we’ve proven we can.”

Oklahoma has three female statewide elected officials - Gov. Mary Fallin, Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy and Superintendent Joy Hofmeister - but ranks 48th in the nation in terms of percentage of women in the Legislature, with just 13.4 percent, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. That’s compared to the national average of about 24 percent.

Pollard received the most votes among the three candidates in the first round of voting, and Hernandez, who finished second, then advanced a motion to make Pollard chairwoman after more votes were cast than there were credentialed voters.

Rather than initiate a lengthy procedure to sort through the discrepancy, Pollard said Hernandez “very graciously stood up and withdrew her name from the ballot on the second round.”

Pollard has a long history in state Republican politics, having served previously as vice chair of the state party, chairman of the Oklahoma County Republican Party and state president of the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women.

She takes over for Brogdon, who stepped down after a tumultuous five-month term in which he faced a barrage of criticism for hiring a top-level staffer who had pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge and for a Facebook post on the party’s official page that said giving people food stamps is akin to feeding animals in national parks.


Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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