Oklahoma Republicans who typically oppose affirmative-action programs are nonetheless leading the way to greater diversity in state government.
Gov. Mary Fallin is the state’s first female governor. State Rep. T.W. Shannon will soon be the first black speaker of the Oklahoma House. And he just appointed the first woman to serve as House floor leader — state Rep. Pam Peterson of Tulsa.
Peterson is a staunch conservative noted for seeking to reduce and provide alternatives to abortion, but her resume also includes work on Department of Human Services’ reform and the battle against human trafficking.
More importantly, Peterson is known for her willingness to take the heat on tough issues. In 2010, she debated against a bill allowing open carry of firearms, warning its unintended consequences could include an increase in privately owned businesses banning firearms on store property. Peterson, a concealed-carry permit holder with an NRA “A” rating, noted that would effectively reduce the ability of citizens to protect themselves.
Although she supported subsequent versions of the gun proposal, that episode demonstrated her willingness to carefully critique issues and take a stand even in the face of heated opposition from interest groups. That’s a good quality for a floor leader, who largely determines what bills are heard on the House floor, and it speaks well of Shannon for appointing Peterson.
Citizens may not always agree with Peterson, but they will know where she stands and that she conscientiously weighs policy decisions.