Nashua voters elect NH's first transgender representative
Selectman Stacie Laughton assists a voter to fill out an affidavit. Voters are required to sign affidavits affirming their identity if they have no means of identification. (SIMÓN RÍOS/Union Leader Correspondent)
NASHUA - Along with the historical first election of an all-female Congressional delegation, the first transgender person was elected to the N.H. House of Representatives on Tuesday. And though gender issues are top on her agenda, Stacie Laughton wants to be seen as just another lady on the House floor.
Laughton, 28, has been politically active since she was a teenager.
It would take several attempts before she'd reach her goal of becoming a state representative, and a Democratic wave on Election Day helped secure that goal.
"It always seems like I'm working in my community - running for office, volunteering, I'm always drawn right back to public service," said Laughton, who lives in an apartment in Nashua's Ward 4.
Living in Laconia she ran unsuccessfully on the Republican ticket for several city positions and for state representative.
While working on John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004, she became an independent.
She also disagreed Gov. Craig Benson's budget cuts. "He cut welfare funding, he cut special ed funding, he cut a lot of these vitally important programs, and these were programs that I knew lots of people who were on, and I started to see their lives change, but they didn't change for the better."
Finally, in 2010, she registered as a Democrat, and was elected selectman in her ward.
Friends and mentors had urged Laughton to put her name on the ballot, saying the state could use a representative who knew the struggles of common people. But a Maggie Hassan rally in January would give Laughton the final push - Hassan asked people in the room to consider running, and Laughton's mind was made up.
"This area of New Hampshire needed somebody like me," she said, "somebody who understands the complex issues that this district faces, somebody who understands what it's like to live with a lower income, somebody who knows the people in the area."
Along with Mary Gorman and David Cote, the three Democrats bested two Republican opponents to take the ward's three seats.
Laughton's campaign manager, Lisa Laughton, said though she's excited to be the state's first elected transgender person, Laughton doesn't want that to be the sole characteristic of her career in politics.
"She doesn't want it to define the state representative position because she knows that there's a lot of other complex issues," Lisa Laughton said. "When she gets into Concord she's going to fight for the right legislation to protect all of the citizens, (not just) a select few."
Laughton said she will spearhead some gay and transgender issues in Concord. She said that in a state with gay marriage, gay couples should be entitled to their spouse's health insurance as straight couples are - she's already planning to introduce a bill or amendment to address the issue.
She plans on going to the State House with humility, like she thinks newcomers should. "I'm coming at it from a total outsider's perspective. I have ideas that I would like to work on, but at first, as any new person on the block, we're going to want to learn the ropes."
Laughton takes a liberal position on most issues, but on finances she considers herself a conservative.
With her experience as a selectman, Laughton wants to work on election laws. She plans to address the shortage of skilled workers by proposing a way for high school students to earn college credits. And she supports bringing passenger rail into the Granite State, and restoring funding to the university system and other programs.
"I will work hard every single day for everyone," Laughton said, "not just the people that voted for me, but also the people that voted for my opponents."
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Simon Rios may be reached at email@example.com.
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