Out lesbian Nena Cook running for Oregon Supreme Court

Oregon’s supreme court elections may not be getting the same attention as other races such as Secretary of State or Portland Mayor, but it’s no less important. These are the people we trust to wield fair and balanced decisions when it comes to solving disputes and interpreting the law. Out lesbian Judge Nena Cook has been endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which is dedicating to electing LGBT leaders, and she’s looking for your vote as well. Here are a few of reasons why you should.

Nena has the kind of experience and work ethic that we need in a Supreme Court justice. Raised by a single mother, Nena started work at the age of 12 to help support her family. In her more than twenty years of legal practice, she has been president of the Oregon State Bar, Judge Pro Tem, and a private practice attorney representing individuals and businesses in complex legal matters. She is also the recipient of numerous professional recognitions.

Cook’s experience extends beyond her practice work and work as a Judge — she has also made a substantial commitment to giving back through her own personal commitment to everyone’s equal access to the law. As President of the Oregon State Bar, she oversaw programs to better fund indigent defense and advocate and maintain funding for the judiciary. She also helped develop a leadership college to recruit and train more female lawyers as well as lawyers of color. Privately, she has volunteered for the ACLU, St. Andrew’s Legal Clinic and Metro Crisis Line. Cook says, “What law has done for me is given me the privilege of helping people — serving others.”

She has also amassed a slew of endorsements from some recognizable names including Congressman Kurt Schrader, Former State Representative Gail Shibley, Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen and numerous individuals within law enforcement and the legal community.

So check out her short TV spot below and head to her website to donate to the campaign.

“I Know” – Nena Cook for Oregon Supreme Court TV Spot from Nena Cook for Supreme Court on Vimeo.

Alley Hector

About Alley Hector

Alley Hector is proud to be a Q, a PDXer and Just Out's Editor-in-Chief.


  1. Jess Junke says:

    After reading this blog, I was initially excited about Nena Cooks’ race for the Oregon Supreme Court, because as a proud lesbian myself, it felt good to see an openly gay women running for the highest court in Oregon. Furthermore, I have deeply rooted interests in judge’s races because growing up, my father was a District Court Judge who instilled in me a passion for equitable justice and treatment of all our citizens.

    I started researching Ms. Cook to find out more about her candidacy. After minimal effort, I began to realize that she may not actually be the candidate I wanted representing me and my community. A Willamette Week Article from earlier this year talks about how “the website of her firm, Sussman Shank LLP, Cook describes defeating claims by ‘an injured veteran’ and ‘two former female employees who were pregnant at the time of their termination’ on behalf of employer clients.” This started to make me feel that while Ms. Cook does have more than 20 years experience in “legal matters”, it doesn’t feel like the type of legal experience I want a new judge carrying into the seat on our state’s supreme court. She’s represented big interests and corporations, which tend to hold values opposing my own.

    So, I began checking out her opponent, Judge Richard Baldwin. His top endorsements include Barbara Roberts, Terry Bean, OLCV and many labor unions. Honestly, these were more the types of people and organizations that I look for in endorsements.

    Beyond those, (because let’s be real – Ms. Cook has many endorsements well), something we need to seriously consider is experience. Judge Baldwin is the only judge in the race. He has served on the Multnomah County Circuit Court Bench for over 11 years and been re-elected twice. Nena Cook is a private practice attorney for over 20 years representing Fortune 100 companies. The more I read about Judge Baldwin, the more I liked his candidacy. I sincerely believe that Judge Baldwin’s experience “helping regular people where they need it most” is something we cannot ignore simply because he is a straight, white male.

    Don’t get me wrong – it is extremely important to me that Oregon’s LBGT community is represented on the State Supreme Court. Fortunately, we already are. Of the seven total justices, both Justice Rives Kistle and Justice Virginia Linder are also out and proud members of the gay community. There are also two women on the court, which we should be very proud of as a state.

    Sometimes I get worried that our community over-simplifies the conversation. Let’s make sure we are engaging in more than a “she should be elected because she’s gay” dialogue. Judge Baldwin’s experience and endorsements have me convinced that he is a candidate who would protect my views and interests on our state’s Supreme Court. I hope you will take the time to do some of your own research and find out who exactly you are voting for, beyond their sexual orientation.

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