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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nashua Board of Aldermen vote to hold special election to replace transgendered rep.-elect who gave up seat

NASHUA – Aldermen ignored ex-State Rep.-elect Stacie Laughton’s call Tuesday for her former House seat to be left vacant.

Instead, they voted unanimously to request a special election to replace her be held as soon as possible. ...

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NASHUA – Aldermen ignored ex-State Rep.-elect Stacie Laughton’s call Tuesday for her former House seat to be left vacant.

Instead, they voted unanimously to request a special election to replace her be held as soon as possible.

Laughton, who made history as the state’s first elected openly transgendered lawmaker Nov. 6, gave up the seat nearly 20 days later after news surfaced that she had committed several felonies in Laconia under the name Barry Charles Laughton Jr.

The board suspended the rules to immediately vote on the resolution that requests Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan and Executive Council to declare an election to replace her.

“I’m hopeful the special election will see a large turnout to elect a representative of our ward,” said Ward 4 Alderman Art Craffey.

Hassan and the council meet Dec. 19.

If a replacement race is declared, a primary will be held Feb. 5 or 12, followed by a general election April 9 or 16.

Each race will cost $2,175, bringing the total tab to elect Laughton’s replacement to $4,350 if a primary and a general election are required.

State law requires a special election be held in this case, rather than simply filling the vacant seat with the next highest vote-getter, city Attorney Stephen Bennett said.

Laughton said the springtime special election for one of the state’s 400 House seats wouldn’t draw enough voters to legitimize spending about $4,000 on a primary and general election to do the job.

She easily beat out two other Republicans on the ballot for her seat.

“We’re only in this mess right now because of dirty, nasty politics,” Laughton told aldermen during the meeting’s public comment before the vote. “On Nov. 6, they had their say and they voted for me. Now, I won’t be a part of the special election other than possibly overseeing it as a selectman, but I really think that we shouldn’t waste the money at this time.”

Two other Nashua residents disagreed.

“A special election has to be done so they get the representation in Concord they’re entitled to have,” former alderman Paula Johnson said. “Dirty politics, well, that’s the name of the game. … If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Once the governor and council declare an election will be held, it must occur within 110-124 days of their meeting. If a primary is needed, it must be held at least 63 days before the general election.

The filing period for the seat would occur Dec. 24 at the secretary of state’s office and Dec. 26-28 at the city clerk’s office.

Laughton gave up her seat prior to the state’s organization day, at which she would have been sworn in as a state representative, over public scrutiny into whether she violated state law by running for representative. State law prohibits convicted felons from running for or holding office until their final discharge from prison.

Legal professionals and political leaders still aren’t clear on the definition of “final discharge.”

The attorney general’s office has not issued a ruling on Laughton’s case.

In 2008, Laughton was sentenced to 7½ to 15 years for conspiracy to commit credit card fraud, all suspended pending 10 years of good behavior, and 3½ to seven years for falsifying physical evidence, again suspended to 10 years for good behavior.

She served 12 months, with four months suspended, in the Belknap County jail for conspiracy to commit fraudulent use of a credit card. The remainder of her sentence remains suspended until 2019.

Laughton still holds her job as Ward 4 selectman, which assists at election polls by working the checklist table, or sorting, packing or sealing ballots, among other tasks.

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or mgill@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Gill
on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).