Embattled transgender lawmaker resigns after all
November 28. 2012 10:49PM
UPDATE - Embattled Representative-elect Stacie Laughton submitted her letter of resignation to the Secretary of State's Office this afternoon.
The letter reads "I regret to inform you that I am unable to fill the State Representative seat for Hillsborough County District 31 to which I was recently elected."
The letter was hand-delivered to the Secretary of State's Office.
Manchester Ward 2 Representative-elect Robert Thompson also will resign his position because he has moved to Florida.
The partisan breakdown of the House to be sworn in Wednesday will be 219 Democrats and 179 Republicans.
Full text of earlier story continues below.
Newly elected transgender lawmaker reverses course, says she'll serve if allowed
NASHUA - After announcing her intention to resign Tuesday, state Rep.-elect Stacie Marie Laughton reversed course a day later, saying she is still considering fighting for the seat she was elected to but has yet to assume.
"I'm reconsidering, and I'm seeking the advice of professionals and through social media," said Laughton, 28, a convicted felon and the first openly transgendered person elected to the New Hampshire House.
The development came amid fresh calls for the Nashua Democrat to step down, this time from Nashua's Jennifer Horn, who recently announced her candidacy for the chairmanship of the New Hampshire GOP. (See Page A2.)
"Governor-elect Maggie Hassan and Majority Leader Terie Norelli should put a swift end to this story by publicly calling for Laughton's resignation immediately," Horn said.
Horn said the Democrats don't seem to be getting off on the right foot, noting Laughton's troubles and the resignation Wednesday of Rep.-elect Robert Thompson, D-Manchester,
Laughton said she could base her decision on the finding of the Attorney General's Office, which is reviewing the law in question. The office didn't return phone calls Wednesday, but a source said it could take weeks for a ruling.
A New Hampshire Supreme Court case, criminal law and election law all address the rights of convicted felons to vote and run for office. Officials on Tuesday have said felons can vote and run for office after the final discharge of their sentence, which includes probation, imprisonment and parole.
But Laughton's case includes complications such as a suspended sentence and unpaid restitution.
The controversy began over the weekend, with revelations of Laughton's robust criminal record while she was living as a man in Laconia. Having served 4 1/2 months for credit card fraud in 2008, she returned to Nashua and has since had a clean record.
Laughton's partner and former campaign manager, Lisa Laughton, said Laughton feels like she's being pushed to resign. "If the (ruling) comes back that she (is clear), then we feel like she should be able to hold the office that she was elected to."
Laughton plans to appear today on the local TV show of Rep. Ken Gidge, D-Nashua, where she said she will get to tell her side of the story. Gidge said after having recently won back a majority in the House, Democrats have little appetite for controversy.
"If Democrats had their choice, yes, they would like this to go away - not her, not the situation, just the controversy to go away," he said.
Gidge said Laughton's gender is playing a role in the controversy, though no one is saying it out loud. If the law is on Laughton's side, Gidge said he will go to bat for her.
On Laughton's Facebook page, she asked her 1,368 friends Wednesday whether she should give up or continue. Four hours later, nine people had urged her to stay put and explore the legality of the situation.
Facebook friend Joel Merritz of Georges Mills, N.H., said Laughton's swearing-in would be a step forward.
"It seems remarkably clear that she has the legal right to take office," Merritz told the New Hampshire Union Leader in an interview.
Hassan's transition team did not return phone calls Wednesday.
- By SIMON RIOS, Union Leader Correspondent