After making news as the first openly transgendered elected State Rep in the country, Stacie Laughton, a Democrat, made even more news after the public learned, post-election, that she was a convicted felon, having served time for credit card fraud.
She resigned her seat, which created the need for a Special Election in Ward 4, taking place today, Feb. 19.
Democrat Pam Brown and Republican Elizabeth van Twuyver are on the ballot in this ward of 3,949 registered voters.
It is a long election day – 14 hours long – and at three hours in, just 61 votes had been cast, according to Ward Moderator Jim Barnett. Just before noon the count was about 115.
"It's going to be slow, and low, turnout," said Barnett, speaking from experience in this particular ward, which tends to go for Democrats. "It will be under 400 voters today."
Tuesday morning, Laughton took time to comment on a Letter to the Editor on the race, bucking her allegience to the Democratic party to endorse van Twuyver, the Republican:
"May the the best person win my former seat. Both candidates have great things to offer my district and my neighbors. I am a (sic) open minded independent Democrat and in this race it is not about party for me it is who is best for the job. I also endorse Elizabeth to take my place and I believe she will serve my supporters well. Please vote for Elizabeth Van Twuyver for State Representative."
When asked, Laughton said she shares certain core philosophies with van Twuyver, including her educational commitment to underprivileged children.
"I worked with Pam Brown during the Obama campaign, and like her very much, but just not sure she has enough political background yet," Laughton said.
Both candidates were at the polls Tuesday morning, trying to stay warm while the mercury was still hovering well below freezing.
"It's been slow," said Brown, holding signs on the far side of the driveway into the polls at Ledge Street Elementary School, but I'm feeling confident."
She said she expected to win "by a huge margin."
Van Twuyver was taking a warm-up break just inside the doorway to the .
"It's an important election. We've had people out knocking on doors, making phone calls, we've had two sign waves, and distributed literature four times – we've done everything possible to get people out to vote. Now it's up to them," van Twuyver said.
Although New Hampshire law does not prohibit convicted felons from running for office, the controversy over Laughton's status was two-fold. A question of her eligibility was raised with Secretary of State Bill Gardner over whether she had fulfilled the "final discharge" requirement for a candidate with a past conviction.
Laughton still owes money in restitution, and consequently was advised to resign by Gardner.
However, the public trust also became an issue – many of those who responded to stories about Laughton's past said she should have disclosed the information prior to the election.
Laughton was convicted while living as a man in Laconia under the legal name Barry Laughton. She has since changed her name to Stacie and begun the process of transforming her identity, from male to female.
Leading up to the Special Election, the Nashua Telegraph published a story on the results of court background checks on both Brown and van Twuyver. Two items surfaced for Brown, one a dismissed restraining order requested by a family member, who Brown said suffers from mental illness; and a 2003 citation for driving an unregistered vehicle.