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June 30. 2014 5:06PM

Ballot Law Commission rules transgender candidate can't run for House seat

CONCORD – The circumstances have not changed for the state's first openly transgender legislator, who was never sworn in as a state Representative after the Attorney General said she could not legally hold office.

Stacie Laughton of Nashua was elected to the House in 2012 but resigned because she still owed restitution following a 2008 felony conviction for fraudulent credit card use and falsifying evidence.

She was given a 10-year suspended sentence and until that sentence is discharged, said Assistant Attorney General Stephen LaBonte, she cannot legally hold public office in New Hampshire.

Before the Ballot Law Commission Monday, Laughton argued she had fulfilled the requirements of her sentence, was not on probation or released on supervised good behavior.

Laughton said her prior conviction was not an issue when she ran and was elected to public office in Laconia.

When she was told she was ineligible to be a state Representative she was also stripped of her ward selectman's seat in Nashua.

“My sentence is totally discharged and I'm in full compliance with the court,” Laughton said Monday. “I want to get back to the work I love, serving the people of the state and my district.”

Secretary of State Bill Gardner ruled Laughton was ineligible to appear on the ballot because she was still under the suspended sentence.

Assistant Secretary of State David Scanlan said because her sentence has not been discharged, she is not eligible to run for the House.

Laughton's case was supported by Rep. David Murotake, R-Nashua, who touted her volunteer efforts and community involvement. He said Laughton admitted she committed a crime but now is a fully reformed citizen and should be an encouragement to others.

He urged the BLC to balance the letter of the law with “the right thing to do.”

Ballot Law Commission chair Manchester attorney Brad Cook noted the law has not changed, and said the commission's decision is not about Laughton's character or attributes, but about the state statute.

The commission voted 5-0 to uphold the Secretary of State's decision that Laughton was ineligible for office.

The commission also voted 5-0 to uphold the Secretary of State's decision not to allow Allen Levene of Kennesaw, Ga., to run for the 1st District Congressional seat.

Levene, who also seeks a congressional seat in Georgia, Michigan, Hawaii and Minnesota, said in a letter the U.S. Constitution only requires a person to be a resident of the district when they take office.  But according the Scanlan state law requires the candidate to be a resident of the state.

grayno@unionleader.com



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