VIDEO: 'If You're Not Bold, You'll Never Get Anywhere'
Stacie Laughton is the first openly transgender candidate to run for a state office in NH.
Nashua, NH – Every election is historic, but if Stacie Laughton wins a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives this fall, she'll make history.
She would become the state's first openly transgender legislator.
Laughton was going to declare her candidacy for Ward 4 state representative ceremoniously on the first day to file Wednesday, but she's waiting until tomorrow, when she can arrive at the City Clerk's office with her fellow Democrats, in unity.
She did make the trip to City Hall on the first day of filing, just to pick up her paperwork, deliver a brief speech to the three people who came for her big moment, and consider the possibilities ahead.
"I'm not sure what historically it means," she said. "When I lived in Laconia, I was the youngest candidate to run for city council. And I believe I'm the first transgender female to be a selectman here in Nashua, but obviously, I represent all people, regardless of their gender identification."
"I believe what I'm doing will bring more acceptance to the trans community and interest them in being involved. I do have my fears, but when it comes to public office, if you're not bold you will never get anywhere," Laughton said.
Her own interest in politics goes back to childhood.
Laughton was born and raised in Nashua, although she moved to Laconia in 2003, where she ran unsuccessfully three times for a city council seat, once for state representative in 2010, and once as an at-large school board member.
She moved back to Nashua about a year ago and finally won a race, as a write-in candidate for Ward 4 selectman in the last election.
"I can remember going into the voting booth with my parents as a kid, and our TV was always tuned to either "Sesame Street" or the news. My parents were very interested in politics. At 16 I started taking an interest in it myself, and by the time I was old enough to vote at 18, I started getting involved," Laughton said.
As a teenager, she remembers attending meetings in Nashua for the Pennichuck Water Works, and also attending meetings about parking problems in the city.
"Parking is still an issue here, and it interests me in that I want to make sure we do something right for business owners here. The plan we have in place in Nashua is a first good step, but it's not a cure-all," said Laughton.
She earns a modest selectman's salary, and is in the process of relaunching a small business, M&S Green Goods, which sells environmentally sound products including cleaners, soy candles and light bulbs. She resides in Nashua with her ex-wife, best friend and campaign manager, Lisa Laughton.
Other hot-button city issues on Laughton's radar include advocating for commuter rail and for adequate housing for the poor.
"I believe it's important to lift people up from homelessness. I like the saying, that we should give a hand up and not a hand out – we do have a responsibility to make sure there's adequate housing for all people, especially in these times, when the economy is still so difficult," Laughton said.
Her Ward includes Bronstein Park, a subsidized housing complex that Mayor Lozeau would like to raze. Laughton isn't so sure that is the right solution.
That's a big reason why she's running, to represent the people who tend to not have a voice in Concord.
"In our Ward we have the Soup Kitchen and pretty much all of the 'tree streets,' and I lived in those areas and I recognize the needs – and I lived those needs. I figured it was time for somebody to step up to the plate that knew and understood those needs," Laughton said.
She said even if her candidacy as a transgender woman is a historic "first," she hopes voters will be able to focus more on her message than her gender identity.
In her estimation, political partisanship among our state representatives is a much more pressing problem.
"I don't want being transgender to be a focal point. I want to stand on the issues. Yes, I'm a Democrat and there is a level of distrust between us and the the other party. But because of who I am, I believe I can work between party lines and not let political partisanship hold us up when it comes to the important matters before us at the Statehouse," Laughton said.
Openly gay lawmakers have served in the New Hampshire Legislature before, including former Rep. Ray Buckley, now chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
The Legislature continues to debate some of the same social issues that raise emotions, and awareness, in other states. Same-sex couples are allowed to marry in New Hampshire, and a bill to remove gay marriage from statute fell short earlier this year.
Former state Rep. Jim Splaine, the Portsmouth Democrat who sponsored the gay marriage law, believes Laughton would be the first transgender lawmaker.
"We have had many openly gay members of the New Hampshire House," Splaine told Nashua Patch, "but I don't know of any other openly transgender members."