A New Hampshire Democrat who in November became the first openly transgender person elected to a state legislature in the country announced on Wednesday she has ended her campaign to run for the state House of Representatives.
“Due to circumstances out of my control, I have decided to withdraw (from) the race for state representative,” Stacie Laughton wrote on her Facebook page.
Laughton, who would have represented portions of Nashua in the New Hampshire House after voters elected her on Nov. 6, announced in late November she would resign amid reports 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 while living in Laconia. She served slightly more than four months in the Belknap County jail before her Nov. 2008 release.
New Hampshire law states a convicted felon cannot seek or hold public office “from the time of his sentence until his final discharge.” Laughton’s probation ended in Nov. 2010, but questions arose as to whether she was qualified to serve in the state House because she received two concurrent suspended 10 year sentences for good behavior in connection with the two other charges.
Laughton told the Union Leader on Nov. 28, the day after she said she would resign, that she had planned to take office this month. She filed paperwork on Friday to run for the seat to which she had initially been elected, but Laughton told the Washington Blade that Secretary of State Bill Gardner told her earlier on Wednesday he received a letter from state Attorney General Michael Delaney that concluded her sentences “have not been fully discharged under the law.”
Delaney recommended his office should forward Laughton’s case to the state Ballot Law Commission to make a final determination over her eligibility to run for political office.
“This is the same question we faced a few weeks ago after I won the election,” she noted. “It’s starting to wear on me and I’m not wanting to have to go through the whole Ballot Law Commission thing. And I just decided it’s time to put an end to all of this and just resign and try again in a few years.”
Gay New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley, who initially applauded Laughton’s Nov. 6 election, responded to her decision to end her campaign in a brief statement to the Blade.
“Stacie has made the right decision to focus her energies on resolving her outstanding personal issues,” he said.
Laughton stressed she plans to take “a good several years off” before she considers another run for political office.
“I’m going to stay involved in my community and the other work that I do,” she said.
Laughton added she feels her criminal record has received too much attention.
“I understand those things will always be attached to my name and to my record, but human beings have the ability to change and that’s what I’ve done,” she said. “I’ve moved forward from my past. I’ve tried to live my life with honesty and respect. Too much emphasis has been placed on my past and what life was like for me in Laconia. I really wish people would just look at me for who I am today and judge that.”