NASHUA — Stacie Laughton, who made state and national history in 2012 when she was elected as the first openly transgender legislator, will go before the Ballot Law Commission next week seeking a ruling on whether she is eligible to again seek public office.
Although Laughton was originally elected to the House of Representatives two years ago to represent Ward 4 in Nashua, she had to relinquish the post before being sworn into office because her previous conviction as a felon under the name of Barry C. Laughton Jr. of Laconia had surfaced, questioning her eligibility.
“My goal is to re-enter public service,” Laughton said Friday. “My hope is that I am now eligible because I would love to get back into politics. I am keeping an open mind.”
Laughton has already filed paperwork as a Democratic candidate in the Sept. 9 primary election for Nashua’s Ward 4 House seat. However, it will be up to the Ballot Law Commission to determine whether she is eligible to run.
A hearing has been scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday at the New Hampshire Legislative Office to review Laughton’s eligibility.
“Typically, the commission will make a decision on that day,” said Karen Ladd, assistant secretary of state.
According to Ladd, Laughton will have an opportunity to speak to the commission, and commissioners will have a chance to ask her questions and hear from anyone else who would like to speak on the matter.
In 2013, the state Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion that Laughton’s previous criminal convictions had not been finally discharged under the law because of nearly $2,000 in unpaid restitution. At the time, she was also told her final discharge would not occur until she fulfilled 10 years of good behavior and her restitution was fully paid.
“My motivation is to serve my community. I come from a background that is not so favorable, but this is a way to give back and serve people on a more broader scale,” Laughton said of the state representative seat. “It has been my dream and my passion.”
In 2008, Laughton pleaded guilty to charges of fraudulent use of a credit card, conspiracy to commit identity fraud and falsifying physical evidence. Those convictions, however, did not become public until after Laughton was elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, primarily because her arrest was under the name of Barry Laughton.
She was ordered to pay restitution connected with the case, and still had about $1,600 in unpaid restitution left a few months ago. Laughton was unsure of the official remaining tally.
“The last year was a struggle financially,” admits Laughton, who says she has been making regular small payments toward the restitution. She recently obtained a new job, and is hopeful to make more substantial amounts toward the restitution in the near future.
Laughton still has four years remaining to complete her 10 years of good behavior. Still, she is keeping an open mind about her eligibility.
Under state statute, “A person sentenced for a felony, from the time of his sentence until his final discharge, may not … become a candidate for or hold public office.”
Laughton says she is still unclear as to what “final discharge” entails, questioning whether that means the date she was released from county jail, when all her restitution is paid and/or when her 10 years of good behavior has been fulfilled.
“That was never actually determined. I would like to have those questions clarified so that I will know once and for all and not have to second guess my eligibility each election cycle,” she said. The previous decision from the attorney general was an opinion; however, Laughton is now seeking an official ruling from the Ballot Law Commission.
In addition to Laughton, the other candidates seeking one of three Ward 4 House seats include: incumbents Pamela Brown (Democrat), David Cote (Democrat), Mary Gorman (Democrat) and Elizabeth Van Twuyver (Republican).