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November 29. 2012 11:05PM

Laughton changes mind, resigns as state rep


Rep-elect Stacie Marie Laughton of Nashua has resigned in a letter to the Secretary of State. (Simon Rios/Union Leader Correspondent)
NASHUA - The state's first openly transgender person elected to the legislature signed her letter of resignation Thursday, culminating a week-long controversy that stemmed from her past felonies.

Being elected, "was the most amazing feeling in the world because it was my lifelong dream to become a state rep and to serve the citizens of my district," said Stacie Marie Laughton, D-Nashua, on a local TV station Thursday afternoon.

Laughton, 28, was elected to represent Hillsborough County District 31 in the November elections. She went back and forth on whether she would resign since details of her criminal background were revealed over the weekend.

Still living as Barry Charles Laughton Jr. at the time, Laughton was tried on three charges related the credit card fraud in Laconia. Laughton scored a plea bargain deal with prosecutors and served 4 months at the Belknap County Jail.

Laughton also received a 10-year suspended sentence, raising questions as to whether she should have been eligible to run.

The state Attorney General has yet to rule on the reading of the law, which states that convicted felons can't run or hold office from the time of sentencing until "final discharge." The meaning of the term "final discharge" remains a mystery.

Laughton had said she would wait for the AG's ruling before making a decision. But pressure from fellow Democrats, and Laughton's belief that the controversy would not allow her to have an effective term, led her to Thursday's decision.

"If it's found that I am legally eligible to serve, I don't believe that over the next two years I could get anything done (in the House)," she said.

Laughton, who claims to be the only transgender to be elected to any state legislature in the country, maintains that it was legal for her to run.

"Never once since I ran last year for selectman, never once this year when I ran for state rep did I know that I possibly could be breaking the law. My understanding was that I had satisfactorily completed the obligations to the correctional system."

Laughton appeared on Gidge World, the Access Nashua talk show of State Rep. Ken Gidge, D-Nashua. On air Thursday, she signed her letter of resignation, which Gidge said he would deliver to the Secretary of State.

Asked if she should have done anything differently during her campaign, Laughton said she may have been more open about her background with some supporters.

In spite of the controversy, which had leading Republicans calling for Laughton's resignation and Democrats pressuring her for a decision, Laughton said she held up to the emotional test surprisingly well.

"Years ago when (my legal troubles) took place, I think it was harder for me then, and I knew that this could possibly take on the life that it's taken on," she said. "So I mentally was preparing for it."

Laughton is also a Ward 4 selectman, a position charged with overseeing elections in Nashua. She intends to keep that position if she is legally able to do so, meaning she could be an official at the special election to fill her seat.

Laughton said though she was placed in protective custody at first, she served her sentence in the men's prison. "It still didn't play any major role. The inmates just looked at me as another inmate," she said.

Though she will not be sworn in as a legislator, Laughton said she remains the first openly transgender state legislator in U.S. history.

"Whether or not I took the seat . I still was the first to receive enough votes to win the election, and with that, regardless of what happens from here forth, I will always have this distinct honor of being the historic first," she said.

Laughton lives on disability and spends most of her days volunteering. She said that the voters have not seen the last of her.

srios@newstote.com

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