A New Hampshire Democrat who earlier this month became the first openly transgender person elected to a state legislature in the country said on Wednesday she will not resign after her criminal history came to light.
Stacie Laughton, who was elected to represent portions of Nashua in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, announced she will step down after the Laconia Daily Sun reported over the weekend she pleaded guilty in July 2008 to conspiracy to commit fraudulent use of a credit card and identity fraud and falsifying physical evidence related to a police investigation into the allegations. She told the Union Leader on Wednesday she will not resign
“I’m reconsidering and I’m seeking the advice of professionals and through social media,” Laughton told the newspaper. “It’s my intention to take the office that I was elected to.”
A judge ordered her to serve a 12 month sentence with four months suspended in the Belknap County House of Corrections. Laughton served slightly more than four months in the jail before her Nov. 2008 release.
The Laconia Daily Sun reported her probation ended in Nov. 22, 2010.
New Hampshire law states a convicted felon cannot seek or hold public office “from the time of his sentence until his final discharge.” Laughton received two concurrent suspended 10 year sentences for good behavior in connection with the two other charges.
The Nashua Patch reported on Tuesday the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office had already begun an investigation to determine whether Laughton was eligible to serve in the House.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” Laughton told the newspaper after she discussed the controversy with gay New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley and her lawyer. “He [Laughton’s attorney] said given the magnitude of this, it will cost a lot and I don’t have a very strong argument.”
Buckley and Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, are among those who applauded Laughton’s election after she and two other Democrats defeated two Republican candidates.
Former state Sen. Maggie Hassan on Nov. 6 defeated Republican Ovide Lamontagne to become New Hampshire’s next governor; while former Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster beat incumbent U.S. Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass respectively.
Democrats on Nov. 17 nominated state Rep. Terie Norelli (D-Portsmouth) to become the next speaker of the N.H. House after the party regained control of the chamber.
“I respect Stacie’s decision not to be seated in the New Hampshire House and am confident that the new Democratic House majority will stay focused on the work they were sent there by voters to do: move New Hampshire and our economy forward,” Buckley said in a statement the New Hampshire Democratic Party released late on Tuesday.
Laughton, a Nashua selectman, stressed she does not plan to “step away from the public eye” once she formally steps down.
“I’m going to stay involved and continue my activism and the advocacy work I’ve done,” she told the Nashua Patch. “I’m very bold and not afraid to put myself out there, despite my past. I won’t stop serving my community in whatever capacity I can.”