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Molly Cook Makes History as the First Openly LGBTQ Texas Senator

Cook's grassroots experience and close race highlight LGBTQ community's growing political influence.

State Senator Molly Cook (Photo by Frank Hernandez)

Molly Cook, a 32-year-old emergency room nurse and community organizer, has made history as the first openly LGBTQ member of the Texas Senate. A sixth-generation Texan, Cook’s achievement marks a significant milestone for representation in the Texas Legislature.

OutSmart magazine June 2024 cover (Photo by Frank Xavier)

“Today, we get to celebrate our fantastic, well-deserved, historic win,” Sen. Cook said the morning of May 29 after securing her Democratic primary win in Texas State District 15, a seat that has been blue for decades. “Winning a Texas Senate seat is a big deal, and it tastes extra-sweet because it is borne of sheer grit, determination, and teamwork. We have organized for years, stayed true to our values, and built momentum that extends beyond this election. Thank you to the team, donors, voters, and volunteers. Let’s take a moment to root ourselves in gratitude and bask in our community—and let’s get to work.”

Cook is the incumbent senator after having won the special election on May 4 to fill the remainder of John Whitmire’s term. The long-time senator resigned in December of 2023 after winning the Houston Mayor’s seat. Now that Sen. Cook is the Democratic candidate for the November general election, she will most likely spend the next four years in Austin.

A native Houstonian with a bachelor’s degree from UT in Austin and a graduate degree in nursing and public health from Johns Hopkins University, she plays the harp, practices yoga, and has a senior Chihuahua. And she’s a grassroots specialist.

“Today, we get to celebrate our fantastic, well-deserved, historic win. Winning a Texas Senate seat is a big deal, and it tastes extra-sweet because it is borne of sheer grit, determination, and teamwork.”
— Senator Molly Cook

Cook volunteered with Fair for Houston, a group that helped pass Prop. B to restructure the Houston-Galveston Area Council Board, and also worked on Beto O’Rourke’s gubernatorial campaign. She joined Stop TxDOT I-45 (a grassroots organization promoting equitable, sustainable transportation in Houston, Harris County, and Texas) to fight TxDOT’s planned expansion of I-45. Her many responsibilities as a volunteer included implementing communication and advocacy strategies, developing volunteer management systems, coordinating phone banks and door-knocking, disseminating information to the public, advocating through interviews with the media, running the bi-weekly 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 Texas Legislature.

Molly Cook and friends in the Humble area on the first day of early voting (Instagram)

“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 she ran for the senate seat the first time against Whitmire, who had already announced his run for mayor of Houston, in 2022. She lost that race by 58 percent to 42 percent—the biggest opponent Whitmire had faced in decades. When the open seat came up for the Democratic primary election on March 5 of this year, she placed second in a six-candidate field to State Representative Jarvis Johnson with 21 percent of the vote to his 36 percent. Jarvis blamed low voter turnout for his loss in the special election.

Houston’s spring storm season has not slowed her down. After being sworn in by Judge Steve Duble at 5:30 p.m. on May 16 to fill Whitmire’s unexpired term, a rare derecho blew through Houston with torrential rains and straight-line winds up to 100 miles per hour, wreaking havoc on the Heights and downtown, causing power outages to almost a million customers, downing power lines and trees, and causing seven deaths.

“It was a whirlwind first few hours,” Cook said of her first day as a state senator.

And on the afternoon of the Democratic runoff, another freak thunderstorm blew in, shutting down power to hundreds of thousands and closing one election site early. She still won the race, drawing 50.2 percent of the vote to Johnson’s 49.8 percent. But with a low turnout of just 18,782 voters, she won by less than 80 votes. Still, it was an historic win for the LGBTQ community.

Molly Cook with two of her supporters (Instagram)

“Senator Molly Cook’s win last night in the primary runoff was not just a win for her campaign, but a win for our entire community,” said Austin Davis Ruiz, president of the Houston LGBTQ+ Political Caucus. “She first made herstory earlier this month by becoming the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to the Texas Senate, and we know she is going to be a champion for all communities in Austin. In a time when we’re seeing increased attacks on the LGBTQ+ community—specifically, on the trans community—this win is a reaffirmation that LGBTQ+ Texans matter; that we are powerful. As a community, we will continue fighting against draconian laws that seek to limit our rights and that seek to legislate us from existence. But let us be clear: we are not going anywhere. We want to congratulate Senator Cook on a hard-fought campaign, and we look forward to supporting her re-election campaign come November.”

Keep up with Molly Cook on Instagram @mollyfortexas.

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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, among others.
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