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Molly Cook, Texas’ First Out LGBTQ State Senator up for Re-Election on May 28

The state senator, seeks re-election amidst storm chaos


Molly Cook, a 32-year-old bisexual, sixth-generation Texan, ER nurse, and community activist, has become the state’s first openly queer state senator. On May 4, Cook won a special election to fill the remainder of John Whitmire’s seat for Texas State Senate District 15. But the struggle to keep her hard-won senate seat has not ended. 

“I have gratitude for those who have gone before me, like Barbara Jordan. Jordan was the first LGBTQ+ woman in Congress. Particularly when the community is constantly under attack in this state, to be elected from Houston, Harris County, gives me hope. Hope for Houston and for Texas.” —Molly Cook

Whitmire’s unfinished term that Cook currently occupies will soon end, and she will again be in a race to keep the seat that she won in the May 4 special election. Prior to that, in the Democratic primary on March 5 of this year, Cook had placed second to state Representative Jarvis Johnson in a six-candidate field, with 21 percent of the vote to his 36 percent. That means she and Johnson will face off again in a runoff election on May 28, less than 30 days after winning her seat.

Sen. Cook was sworn in by Judge Steve Duble at 5:30 p.m. on May 16. Within less than an hour, a rare derecho blew through Houston with torrential rains and straight-line winds up to 100 miles an hour, wreaking havoc on the Heights and downtown, causing power outages to almost one million customers, downing power lines and trees, and causing seven deaths.

“It was a whirlwind first few hours,” Cook says of her first day as a state senator. “Luckily the election team is great. They were on the ground and helping with water distribution and tree removal. And we have the resources now to connect people with state and federal aid.” In fact, Sen. Cook’s team has been seamlessly marrying campaigning with aid work in these days between the May 16 storm and the coming May 28 runoff election.

“I have gratitude for those who have gone before me, like Barbara Jordan” Cook says. “Jordan was the first LGBTQ+ woman in Congress. Particularly when the community is constantly under attack in this state, to be elected from Houston, Harris County, gives me hope. Hope for Houston and for Texas.”

Cook is a native Houstonian, with a bachelor’s degree from UT at Austin and a graduate degree in Nursing and Public Health from Johns Hopkins University. She plays the harp, does yoga and has a senior Chihuahua. And she’s a grassroots specialist.

She’s volunteered with Fair for Houston, a group that helped pass Prop B to restructure the Houston-Galveston Area Council board and volunteered on Beto O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign. She also joined Stop TxDOT I-45, a grassroots organization fighting for equitable, sustainable transportation in Houston/Harris County and Texas and against TxDOT’s planned expansion of I-45.

Her volunteer responsibilities ranged from leading communications and advocacy strategies, developing volunteer management systems, coordinating phone banks and door knocks, attending meetings and disseminating information to the public, while also advocating through interviews with the media, running the biweekly general meetings, training and on-boarding new members and event planning. She also frequently delivered public comments before Houston City Council, Harris County Commissioner’s Court, the Houston-Galveston Area Council, the Texas Transportation Commission and the State Legislature. 

“My favorite part of working with Stop TxDOT 1-45 was the opportunity to grow relationships with community members, advocacy organizations and elected officials,” she says.

That experience served her well when, in 2022, she ran for the senate seat the first time against Whitmire, who had already announced his run for Mayor of Houston. She lost that race 58 percent to 42 percent. But when the now-open seat came up again for the Democratic primary election on March 5, she fared better, coming close enough to qualify for a runoff on May 28.

If she wins against Johnson this time, she will serve the full two-year term—in a solidly Blue district she would face little competition in the November general election—otherwise she only has until the end of the year to serve out Whitmire’s term. She is passionate about abortion rights—and admits to having had one—as well as LGBTQ+ rights, medical care for all, voting rights, public education, and is well versed on  transportation issues, the environment and climate.

“Organization is the tide that lifts all boats,” says Cook. “I give all the credit to my brilliant campaign manager and staff. We are out there knocking on doors every day and asking people if they are okay, if they need help first, then we ask for their vote.”

For more information visit mollycookfortexas.com

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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