Scroll To Top
Politics

Molly Cook, Texas's first out LGBTQ+ state senator, is ready to make change (exclusive)

Molly Cook Texas First LGBTQ State Senator
Molly for Texas

The emergency room nurse and grassroots organizer will advocate for both incremental and revolutionary change.

trudestress

Texas is undoubtedly a challenging state in which to be a Democratic legislator, especially an LGBTQ+ one. But Molly Cook, recently elected as Texas’s first out LGBTQ+ state senator, says she’s up to the challenge.

Keep up with the latest in LGBTQ+ news and politics. Sign up for The Advocate's email newsletter.

“I think it’s really important to keep in mind that incremental change and revolutionary change are not mutually exclusive,” says Cook. She promises to work for both.

Cook, who is bisexual, won a special election May 4 in Senate District 15 to fill the remainder of Sen. John Whitmire’s term after he resigned to become mayor of Houston. That goes until the end of the year. She is being sworn in Thursday.

She has to run again, however, in a primary runoff May 28 against Jarvis Johnson, currently a state representative. She and Johnson were the top two finishers in the March 5 Democratic primary in District 15, but no candidate won a majority, leading to the runoff. Having defeated Johnson soundly in the special election, she’s favored to win the runoff as well. District 15 covers a heavily Democratic and LGBTQ+ section of Houston, including the gayborhood of Montrose (where Cook lives), so whoever wins the Democratic nomination will likely win the four-year Senate term in November.

In a hectic period of both campaigning and getting ready to govern, Cook radiates energy and enthusiasm. She points to her experience as an emergency room nurse and community organizer as reasons voters should support her.

“I bring nursing leadership, and at a time when we need trust in our elected officials more than ever, I think that’s going to be really powerful for the people of Texas … just a trusted, credible voice coming from a nurse to work on all of these policies, but especially the ones that impact our health,” she says.

“I bring grassroots organizing,” she continues. “I have quite a CV at this point of successful organizing work. … I truly believe grassroots organizing is missing from the majority of the fights Democrats care about in Texas.”

“I also bring the experience of being a woman in Texas who’s had an abortion,” Cook adds; she had the procedure in 2014. But the end of Roe v. Wade in 2022 allowed states to ban or severely limit abortion, and Texas now has one of the most restrictive laws of any state. “And I’m telling my story, and it’s very important to share that, and I see how powerfully it resonates with people,” Cook says. “And that’s a perspective that not a lot of people in that chamber are going to have, and I know what’s at stake and how important it is to get those rights back.”

In the Senate, Cook says she’ll fight for abortion rights, LGBTQ+ equality, public health, public education, gun reform — basically the whole list of progressive causes and things that will make life better for Texans.

“One of my favorite issues is transportation,” she says. The Texas constitution limits the state’s Department of Transportation to spending money only on highway projects or those adjacent to highways. She plans to work for a constitutional amendment to allow the DOT to spend on mass transit as well as infrastructure that will improve access for walkers, bike riders, and people with disabilities.


Molly Cook Texas First LGBTQ State SenatorMolly for Texas

Concerning incremental change in Texas, she says, “There are excellent legislators who are living proof that even in Texas we can get wins inside that capitol, and those wins absolutely save lives.” She points to legislation that extended Medicaid eligibility from two months to a year after the birth of a child, which went into effect this year. She also notes an effort in 2023 to raise the age for purchase of an assault-style weapon from 18 to 21, which didn’t pass, but it did get out of committee, which was encouraging.

There was another example of incremental change she witnessed that influenced her to go into political organizing. In her last semester of nursing school, she had an instructor who had gotten a law changed around excused and unexcused absences from school. If a student stayed home with a child who was sick — say, a teenager with a baby — the absence was unexcused, and the student had to do detention. Changing the law so these absences were excused “was a no-brainer, it passed with bipartisan support, and all these kids were able to graduate on time,” Cook says. “And that was the first time I thought, Hey, maybe nursing could be politics, and it really planted a seed that grew from there.”

To make bigger changes, she wants to make Senate District 15 the one with the highest Democratic turnout in the state. “This is where a lot of the votes lie in Harris County that will flip those statewide seats and make really revolutionary change possible,” she says.

As far as working with Texas’s Republican statewide officials and legislators, she says, “I can work with anybody as long as they’re working on good policy.” She points to her experience as an ER nurse: “I take care of every single patient that comes through that door no matter their politics … I’m there for the patient, and I’m gonna be there for the people of Texas.”

She’s been inspired, she says, by great Texas lawmakers, including LGBTQ+ senators who were not out. “I’m very grateful for the path they carved and paved for me,” Cook says. She further credits Adrienne Maree Brown’s 2017 book on societal change, Emergent Strategy. “Everything about that book revised my thinking on organizing, on how I view the world, on how I view myself in the world,” Cook says.

To anyone else considering a run for elected office, she recommends getting experience in organizing around an issue, connecting with potential supporters, and knowing yourself — the latter will make attacks roll off you, she says.

And when told that her story is resonating with Advocate readers, she says, “I hope it inspires a million people to go run for office.”

trudestress
Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.