Since the arrest of state Rep. Stacie Laughton nearly a month ago, NHJournal has been asking Granite State Democratic leaders if the Nashua Democrat — and repeat criminal offender — should be allowed to serve as a member of the House. Those Democrats, including House Minority Leader Rep. Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester) and state party chairman Ray Buckley, had refused to respond.
Just minutes after Organization Day attendance was tabulated on Wednesday (GOP 200, Dems 191) and it was clear Laughton was not in attendance, both Wilhelm and Buckley released statements demanding her resignation.
“I call on Rep.-Elect Laughton to resign immediately,” Buckley said. “The charges against Laughton are extremely serious and troubling and have no place in our state legislature or in our party.”
Wilhelm added, “We had hoped that Rep.-Elect Laughton would decide to not be seated ahead of Organization Day today. If true, the allegations against her are deeply troubling — domestic violence and stalking is reprehensible behavior. While Rep. Laughton’s attorney has stated that she will be unable to undertake legislative activities for a couple of months, I call on her to issue a formal resignation and allow the citizens of Nashua to elect a new representative in a special election.”
Contacted by NHJournal, Laughton’s attorney said he had no new information on the Democrat’s status as a legislator, but he added that could change tomorrow.
Republicans argue the treatment of Laughton is more proof of the partisan double-standard in cases of abuse and harassment of women, and that a Republican engaged in the same behavior would be hounded out of office by Democrats and the media. And, some said, waiting until Organization Day was underway allowed Democrats to remain flexible if turnout resulted in a potential tie. Laughton’s vote could have theoretically put Democrats in the majority.
While Democrats were silent, victim advocacy organizations were speaking out.
“There is no place in the New Hampshire legislature for those who perpetrate abuse,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, NHCADSV director of public affairs. “Stalking is rooted in a pattern of behavior intended to cause fear in the victim and can have long-term impacts on a survivor. Stalking is a very serious crime that has the potential to escalate to physical and even lethal violence.”
As recently as June, Ray Buckley was praising Laughton as part of the “backbone of the Granite State” in an op ed celebrating Pride Month.