Another Oklahoma Election Day has come and gone. While some may be pleased with the final results and others disappointed, there is one positive outcome that benefits all Oklahomans: In the vast majority of races on the ballot, pro-science candidates prevailed.
Over the past few years, a startling number of anti-science bills were filed that would have rolled back many of the public health protections so many of us take for granted. Thankfully, few of these bills passed into law, but the extreme rhetoric has put far too many health care professionals and vulnerable Oklahomans at risk.
Misinformation reached a fever pitch during the pandemic. At a time when we needed to come together, roll up our collective sleeves and get vaccinated against COVID-19, some legislators proposed policies that fed fear tactics and emboldened extremists in their echo chamber.
In the 2022 legislative session alone, more than 90 anti-public health measures were proposed, mostly by a small handful of lawmakers and none with the backing of trusted doctors or other medical professionals.
Throughout my tenure at the Oklahoma State Medical Association, we’ve been engaged in the legislative process, and have supported many medicine-friendly legislative candidates, both Republican and Democrats, through our political efforts. This year, however, we took an unprecedented step by devoting even more time and resources to boosting pro-science candidates at all levels of government, while working to defeat candidates who supported laws based on fear and misinformation.
We never make decisions like this lightly but feel it was necessary to take a stand for the health of all Oklahomans. Because our physician members were uniquely positioned to educate Oklahomans on medical and science-related issues, we worked to ensure voters were informed about candidates’ stances on health and medicine.
The response to this effort has been incredible and helped lead pro-science candidates to victory in 51 out of the 55 races in which we were involved. This effort was nonpartisan, working to help elect both Republicans and Democrats who were willing to stand up for science and who committed to having health care professionals at the table as health care policies are crafted.
While there’s still much work to be done to improve Oklahoma’s health outcomes, this election season proved that voters are tired of anti-science rhetoric — and that’s a win for all Oklahomans.
As we move toward a new legislative season, it’s time to work together on creating a healthier Oklahoma.
Wes Glinsmann is the CEO of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma’s largest physician advocacy group, whose members are working for a healthier state through advocacy, education and physician support programs.