I have always believed that politics should be viewed as a type of community service, a path by which to help make the world in which we and future generations live a better place. I believe deeply that politicians should be true public servants, but too often our elected representatives disappoint us, putting power above the people and placing their own self-interests ahead of their elected duties.
It is a non-partisan fact that politicians will sometimes do stupid, or worse, criminal, things and must be held accountable for those actions. When Rep. Todd Akin, R-MO, made a stupid statement about “legitimate rape,” I called him stupid and said he should resign. He didn’t, but his comments were public and the voters in his district were able to have their say on Election Day, and Akin is no longer a representative in the United States Congress.
Here in Nashua’s Ward 4, a Democratic stronghold in the heart of the city, voters chose a slate of Democrats to represent them in Concord, including Selectman Stacie Laughton. A few days ago, as reported on Patch, we learned that Representative-Elect Laughton has a criminal history, including a felony conviction for credit card fraud. After a review of state statutes, and I imagine, more than a little pressure from her party, Laughton has agreed to resign and a special election will take place to choose her replacement.
The difference between Akin and Laughton and is that the voters in Missouri knew what their choice was. Akin’s comments were widely covered by the press, and when Election Day rolled around voters were able to make an informed choice. In the case of Laughton, her criminal past was not uncovered during the election, in part because she was living under a different name at the time, and voters cast their ballots without the full knowledge they deserved.
In the end, it was determined that Laughton was legally unqualified to serve, as two of her sentences have not yet been completed, but the bigger issue for voters should be the fact that she willfully hid what can only be described as a significant and important piece of her history while campaigning, and as such, she was inherently dishonest with them.
At the very least, as citizens and voters, we deserve honesty from those who ask for the extraordinary privilege of our vote.
We do not have a right to know everything about our candidates – their personal lives, their finances, their children – being a candidate or an elected official does not mean that you give up all rights to privacy. A criminal record that includes a felony conviction, however, should be part of the conversation if you are running for office.
Resigning without the public specter of an investigation was the right thing to do. It shows a respect for the voters that was lacking during her campaign.