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Victim Advocacy Group: ‘No Place’ in NH House for Dem Accused of Stalking

As New Hampshire Democrats remain silent about one of their own sitting in jail on stalking charges, the state’s leading victim advocacy group is speaking out.

State Rep. Stacie Laughton (D-Nashua) is currently being held without bail in Manchester’s Valley Street Jail on grounds she presents an ongoing danger to the public as well as the victim of her stalking and harassment. Laughton had already been found guilty of stalking the same Hudson woman named in the current complaint. The charges go back to at least 2019 before Laughton was elected as New Hampshire’s first transgender state representative.

Incoming House Democratic Caucus leader Rep. Matt Wilhelm and state party chair Ray Buckley have both refused to condemn Laughton’s behavior or respond to multiple requests for comment about her arrest.

But the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) is speaking out.

“We are extremely concerned by the numerous charges filed against Rep. Laughton. It is critical that individuals that hold positions of power be held accountable when they cause harm. 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,” Grady Sexton said.

One reason for the Democratic Party’s silence, critics said, was the GOP’s extremely narrow 198-201 majority in the House. As a result, every vote will count at Wednesday’s Organization Day session when representatives are sworn in and leadership positions are settled. Laughton’s vote could decide which party has a majority.

Democrats are also mounting a major campaign to oust current Secretary of State Dave Scanlan in favor of former State Sen. Melanie Levesque (D-Brookline).

Could Laughton leave jail to cast a vote on the floor of the State House? Under New Hampshire’s Constitution, state representatives cannot be stopped from attending House sessions and police are prohibited from arresting representatives en route to the legislature.

“Democrats could solve this problem by announcing in advance they will refuse to seat Laughton,” said Rep. Ross Berry (R-Manchester). “But they haven’t, which means they care more about politics than protecting women.”

Laughton is accused of repeatedly violating orders to leave a Hudson woman alone as well as charges of stalking, criminal defamation, and making false 911 calls. Laughton is already facing jail time after pleading no contest last summer to charges of making false 911 calls about the same victim. Prosecutors have told the court they plan to ask for the imposition of the suspended nine-month sentence brought in that case.

She is scheduled for a hearing in Nashua District Court on Dec. 22, during which she could enter into a plea agreement to resolve her case. Even if she misses Organization Day, Laughton would be free to serve in the House once she is released as she is not currently charged with any felonies.

Laughton won a seat for state representative in 2012 but was forced to resign soon after her 2008 credit card fraud arrest became public. Despite pressure from the Democratic Party, Laughton tried to run again to fill the seat in a special election after her resignation. That bid was cut short when it was deemed she was legally ineligible for office at the time since she was still technically serving her suspended sentence for the felony credit card fraud case.

Judge Orders NH House Dem Accused of Stalking to Remain Behind Bars

State Rep. Stacie Laughton (D-Nashua) will remain in jail as her attorney negotiates a plea agreement in the criminal case alleging she serially harassed a Hudson woman. 

Laughton, New Hampshire’s first elected transgender state representative, is not leaving Valley Street Jail in Manchester until at least Dec. 22, the date of her next hearing. Her attorney, Elliot Friedman, told Judge John Curran he hoped to have a resolution to the numerous criminal charges worked out with prosecutors in the coming weeks.

“We are negotiating a resolution,” Friedman said.

Laughton’s continued custody complicates Democratic hopes of wresting control of the House of Representatives from the GOP. With a razor-thin 201-198 GOP majority in the House, control of the body and the outcome of the secretary of state election on Organization Day (December 7) will come down to attendance.

Laughton is accused of repeatedly violating orders to leave a Hudson woman alone as well as charges of stalking, criminal defamation, and making false 911 calls. Laughton is already facing jail time after she pleaded no contest this summer to charges of making false 911 calls about the same victim. Prosecutors have told the court they plan to ask for the imposition of the suspended nine-month sentence brought in that case.

Laughton is being held without bail on the grounds she presents an ongoing danger to the community and the alleged victim. She was under court orders to leave the woman alone when she allegedly continued her campaign of harassment that stretches back to 2019.

Laughton’s status hearing, held in the Nashua District Court on Thursday, left the troubled state representative in jail pending the plea negotiations. Laughton appeared in court via video feed from Valley Street Jail. Laughton offered little comment during the brief hearing other than to object to the presence of media in the courtroom.

“I object to the press,” Laughton told Curran. “I will give interviews, but I figure right now this is a personal matter I need to deal with without the pressures of the press.”

Curran denied her objection, stating there is no reason to keep the press out of an open court proceeding.

Laughton could technically still travel to Concord for Organization Day, legislative sources said. New Hampshire’s Constitution bars police from stopping representatives from attending sessions at the State House. The question is, how badly do Democrats want her there?

Democratic Caucus leader, progressive Rep. Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester), declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.

Laughton’s disturbed behavior has been apparent for years before she won office as a state representative in 2020. She was convicted in 2008 of credit card fraud for stealing from a person in Laconia. Laughton was then charged in 2015 for calling in a bomb threat at the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center hospital in Nashua. Those charges were later dropped as Laughton claimed she was suffering from a mental health crisis at the time.

Laughton won a seat for state representative in 2012 but was forced to resign soon after her 2008 credit card fraud arrest became public. Despite pressure from the Democratic Party, Laughton tried to run again to fill the seat in a special election after her resignation; that bid was cut short when it was deemed she was legally ineligible for office at the time since she was still technically serving her suspended sentence for the felony credit card fraud case.

Former Merrimack Dem Charged in Election Phone Jamming Scheme

A Merrimack man and former Democratic candidate for state representative, Michael Drouin, is accused of jamming the cell phone of a GOP candidate during a special election last year.

Drouin, 30, was indicted this week by the grand jury convened in the Hillsborough Superior Court — South on one felony count of interference with election communications connected to the April 13, 2021, Hillsborough District 21 special election to replace House Speaker Dick Hinch (R-Merrimack).

Drouin allegedly took out a Craigslist classified ad offering a free trailer in the Nashua area and listed the cell phone number for Merrimack Republican Bill Boyd in the ad. Boyd eventually won the election to replace Hinch, who died from COVID-19, beating former Democratic Rep. Wendy Thomas with 2,531 votes to Thomas’ 2,144.

“That election day was chaotic,” said Rep. Joe Sweeney (R-Salem) who was with Boyd that day. “(Boyd) was getting dozens of calls asking about this free trailer.”

Boyd had already posted his personal cell phone number to Facebook on election day as part of an effort to get voters to the polls. Boyd was anticipating hearing from voters who needed a ride, and instead got call after call from people asking about the free trailer, Sweeney said.

Boyd declined to comment on the charges when reached Wednesday. Drouin did not respond to a request for comment.

On the day of the election, Sweeney filed a complaint with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, which had the ad removed from Craigslist. Investigators zeroed in on Drouin as the ad’s creator, though he initially denied he was behind the free trailer stunt. When investigators told Drouin they had evidence linking him to the ad, Drouin then claimed he created the ad as a “poorly timed” joke. Sweeney said that excuse does not fly.

“Him trying to play it off as a badly timed joke seems insincere to me,” Sweeney said.

Drouin now faces up to three and a half years in prison if convicted, as well as the prospect of being barred from voting in New Hampshire. Drouin ran an unsuccessful campaign for state representative as a Democratic in 2018, though he has reportedly dropped that affiliation and is now labeled as an independent. He is currently an alternate member of the Merrimack Conservation Commission.

Sweeney said Election Day shenanigans like Drouin’s are unusual in New Hampshire. 

“I can’t think of a similar scenario where someone puts up a candidate’s phone number to mess with him on election day. I really don’t know what this guy was thinking,” Sweeney said.

The charges come at a problematic time for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, which has been plagued by charges of election interference and dirty tricks in the past few months.

During the run-up to this year’s midterms, for example,  Democrats were hit with a cease and desist order from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office over illegal mailers. Those mailers, paid for by the state Democratic Party, solicited absentee ballot requests be sent to a non-existent government agency. It also included false claims about voter histories, according to the order issued by Attorney General John Formella.

“In light of our conclusion that the NHDP has caused voter confusion given the incorrect return addresses to clerks on its mailers, the incorrect direction to non-existent ‘boards of election,’ and the incorrect voter domicile information, the NHDP is hereby ordered to cease and desist any and all activities which violate the law by causing voter confusion in the future,” Formella wrote.

And just last month, Fomella’s office said Democrat Steve Marchand lied about his role in a political scheme targeting his opponents in Portsmouth.

Marchand, a progressive Democrat who once served as Portsmouth mayor and sought his party’s nomination for governor, was issued a letter of warning to Marchand for his involvement in Preserve-Portsmouth.com and other websites that targeted sitting city council members in the last municipal election.

Marchand’s bogus website was built to mirror a legitimate site with a similar name, Preserve Portsmouth, and purported to support the same city council candidates the original site endorsed. But it falsely described them as far-right Trump supporters. According to documents obtained by the Attorney General’s Office, Marchand wanted to depress voter turnout among Republicans to benefit Democrats on the ballot.

Democrats are also accused of sending illegal mailers supporting MAGA Republican candidate Bob Burns in the Second Congressional District GOP primary.

The Reynolds DeWalt Corporation, a Democrat-aligned mail firm based in Massachusetts, sent the four mailers promoting Burns in the GOP primary, helping him defeat mainstream GOP candidate Mayor George Hansel of Keene. Burns, who won 33 percent of the vote, beat Hansel by fewer than 1,800 votes.

According to a complaint filed by the state GOP, the mailers were illegal because they “failed to identify in the mailers who sent them, including a failure to provide ‘paid for by’ disclaimers on multiple mass mailings.”

The Attorney General’s Office contacted Reynolds DeWalt about the mailers before the primary. It refused to tell the attorney general who paid for them. The company is represented by the law firm of Hillary Clinton’s former attorney Marc Elias, the attorney responsible for funding and disseminating the “Steele Dossier” that helped feed the claim of collusion between Russia and the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.

 

NH Dem State Rep Still in Jail On Stalking Charge as Organization Day Approaches

With control of the state House of Representatives down to a handful of votes, New Hampshire Democrats continue to count on every vote from their caucus — including one member currently sitting in a Manchester jail cell. And while Rep. Stacie Laughton (D-Nashua) is a repeat offender accused of stalking a Hudson woman for years, Granite State Democrats have declined to denounce her or call for her removal from the caucus.

Laughton is currently being held without bail after 9th District Court Judge Kimberly Chabot found clear and convincing evidence that the incumbent state representative is currently a danger to the alleged victim and the community at large. According to court documents reviewed by NHJournal, Laughton’s harassment of her alleged victim extends back to at least 2019.

Laughton is facing dozens of misdemeanor charges ranging from making false 911 calls to stalking to criminal defamation, all related to her harassment of the alleged victim. NH Journal is not identifying the woman named as Laughton’s target.

Prosecutors are also asking the court to impose the suspended nine-month jail sentence from a prior case involving the same victim. According to court records, Laughton pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor counts in August alleging she called 911 to make false reports about the victim.

Laughton is due to appear in the Nashua courthouse this week for a status conference hearing. It is not known if her public defender, Elliot Friedman, plans to argue for her release. Friedman was not available for comment on Tuesday.

Laughton’s next big date is Organization Day at the State House on Dec. 7, when House leadership positions will be decided and the secretary of state will be elected. With the GOP’s majority a slim 201 to 198 (with one tie outstanding), it is possible Democrats could hold the majority, depending on attendance. Every vote will count, including one cast by an accused criminal.

Rep. Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester), the progressive recently elected leader of the Democratic Caucus, did not respond to a request for comment. Would Democrats allow Laughton to participate as part of the caucus if she is still behind bars?

Under the New Hampshire Constitution, state representatives cannot be stopped from attending a House session for any reason, including arrest. If Laughton gets a ride from Valley Street Jail in Manchester to Concord on Dec. 7,  will she be sworn in?

House Clerk Paul Smith said that while he is not a lawyer, he does not think Laughton can get out of jail for the day to get sworn in and vote on leadership.

“I can’t imagine that a member-elect (who could theoretically be sworn any time) would be released for the purposes of being sworn in,” Smith said.

Anna Fay with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office said the protocol for a member who is being held on bail is not clear. However, members who are convicted of felonies are ineligible to serve, she said.

Former House Speaker Bill O’Brien said New Hampshire’s Constitution protects House members from being arrested while performing their duties, but he does not think that protection extends to cases like Laughton’s.

“When the framers of the New Hampshire Constitution in 1784 included Article 21, they were seeking to avoid the experience of about a hundred years prior in England when Charles I was seizing members of Parliament on their way to London to vote against him or while they were attending Parliament,” O’Brien said. “While seeking to avoid that, the framers surely weren’t intending to allow legislators to violate anti-stalking protective orders without consequence.”

Laughton has a long history of illegal behavior. She was convicted in 2008 of credit card fraud for stealing from a person in Laconia. In 2015, Laughton was charged with a crime after calling in a bogus bomb threat at the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center hospital in Nashua. Those charges were later dropped as Laughton claimed she was suffering from a mental health crisis at the time.

Laughton won a seat for state representative in 2012 but was forced to resign soon after her 2008 credit card fraud arrest became public. Laughton tried to run again to fill the seat in a special election after her resignation, but that bid was cut short when it was deemed, she was legally ineligible for office at the time since she was still technically serving her suspended sentence for the felony credit card fraud case.

Laughton has been engaged in harassing the woman and her parents for years, according to court records. She used her radio show and social media accounts to stalk and harass the woman and repeatedly called 911 to falsely report the woman was suicidal, according to court records. Alarming to the victim, at one point, Laughton referred to the woman as her “wife.”

Laughton, New Hampshire’s first transgender state representative, is already married to a different woman.

None of this stopped state Democratic Party chair, Ray Buckley, from giving Laughton a shout-out as part of the “backbone of the Granite State” in a June 2022 op ed celebrating Pride Month.

With the House so closely split, it’s possible the vote to pick the next Speaker could come down to a single vote. If that vote belongs to Stacie Laughton, will Democrats take it?

Scanlan Reopens Manch 6 Recount, GOP Expects to Hold Seat

With control of the State House down to a razor-thin margin, Secretary of State Dave Scanlan announced Thursday he plans to look again at one of the already recounted races, potentially returning a seat to the GOP.

On Monday, Democratic hopes of winning control of the House of Representatives were boosted when a recount of Hillsborough District 16, Manchester’s Ward 6, appeared to show incumbent Republican Larry Gagne lost 22 votes, handing a one-vote victory to challenger Maxine Mosley.

Almost immediately, however, Republicans suspected an error had occurred. Vote changes of more than a handful of ballots are rare. Rarer still are candidates losing votes in a recount. Scanlan, a veteran of many recounts, also took note of the unusual numbers.

“It’s unusual if it changes by more than 10 or 11 votes,” he told NHJournal.

Thanks to an audit of the district, it became clear that some 20 to 25 ballots were missed during Monday’s recount, bringing into question the results. Scanlan released a letter Thursday explaining the situation.

“Ballot counting will be continued in Hillsborough County state representative District 16 recount. The routine reconciliation process indicated that reconciliation and recount number were not equivalent,” the statement read. “The total number of ballots cast and counted for the office of governor in this district is greater than the total accounted for so far for the [Gagne v. Mosley] race. This indicates some ballots have not yet been counted in the recount.

“As a result, the process of recounting the ballots cast in that race will now continue on Monday, November 21, at 4 p.m.”

Republican House members told NHJournal they are pleased, but not surprised, by the decision. And they are very confident Gagne will ultimately hold the seat based on his original 1,820 to 1,797 margin.

“Every vote matters and should be counted. Anyone afraid to finish the recount should be questioned as to what they are afraid of finding,” said Rep. Ross Berry (R-Manchester). “This is a direct result of Republicans demanding transparency in our elections, and I look forward to bringing more sunshine into our voting process. The voters I represent in Ward 6 have a right to know all of their votes will be counted.”

There have been 17 recounts thus far, with a total of 29 currently scheduled, in the wake of last week’s midterms. Scanlan said it was a difficult decision to reopen the recount given the heightened scrutiny of the election process. But his office has more data available this year than in past years thanks to increased efforts to make sure the election results are accurate.

“It’s important that we get everything right,” Scanlan said.

The secretary of state has also created the Special Committee on Voter Confidence to examine concerns about election integrity in the state. While the committee has not found any evidence of widespread voter fraud, its final report has yet to be released.

Republicans currently have a one-seat majority in the House. A race in Rochester is tied. As a result, a Gagne win would be a significant development in determining control of the lower chamber.

Some candidates, mostly Republicans, requested recounts in races where they trailed by more than 100 votes, and it is extremely unlikely those outcomes will change during a recount. 

Manchester’s Ward 6 race isn’t the only one getting another look. Scanlan also announced 27 absentee ballots found in the Rockingham District 6 race could change the results. Democrat Eric Turer beat Republican Melissa Litchfield 1,213 to 1,198, a difference of 15 votes. However, an audit of that race found 27 absentee ballots were not counted on election night or during the recount this week.

Scanlan is asking the New Hampshire Ballot Law Commission to order the 27 absentee ballots be counted and made part of the total.

It is a situation that echoes the 2020 election fiasco in Bedford, where election officials failed to count 190 absentee ballots and then attempted to hide their mistake from the general public.

NH Dem Rep Defends Alleged Stalker: ‘She’s Basically a Good Person’

With control of the New Hampshire House just two seats from their grasp and the recounts going their way, state Democrats are staying silent on the behavior of Nashua Rep. Stacie Laughton, a repeat offender who was arrested over the weekend in a domestic violence-related stalking case. 

Laughton, New Hampshire’s first transgender elected official, spent the weekend at Valley Street Jail after she was arrested for allegedly violating a domestic violence order by stalking another person. Hudson police did not provide details about the misdemeanor charges when contacted this week, out of a desire to protect the identity of the alleged victim.

Democrats, who claim to be advocates for victims of domestic violence, have refused to respond to repeated requests for comment about Laughton’s case or condemn her actions. Some Republicans have compared it to state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, who was charged (and eventually convicted) of assaulting his girlfriend in 2018 yet faced little opposition from Democratic leadership in his primary and general elections. Woodburn won the primary but lost the general to obscure GOP newcomer David Starr.

Woodburn was eventually convicted and sentenced to 60 days in jail. Woodburn is appealing his conviction.

Laughton is charged with stalking a woman in violation of a civil restraining order, according to Hudson police. Laughton, and her spouse, were unavailable for comment about the arrest.

At least one House Democrat came to Laughton’s defense on Twitter. Rep. Timothy Horrigan (D-Durham) likened the stalking charges to a victimless crime.

“She’s gotten into a lot of trouble over the years & she keeps getting into trouble, but she’s basically a good person,” Horrigan tweeted. “She’s not violent or abusive, or harmful to anyone other than herself.”

Former GOP state Rep. Kim Rice was taken aback by Horrigan’s stance.

“I don’t think the person she was stalking would feel the same way,” Rice responded. “I am thinking that person would definitely think they were harmed. I’m shocked sitting on the [House] Judiciary Committee you would even say this.”

And Laughton’s criminal history is far from victimless. She was convicted in 2008 of credit card fraud for stealing from a person in Laconia. In 2015, Laughton was charged with calling in a bomb threat at the Southern New Hampshire Medical Center hospital in Nashua. These charges were later dropped as Laughton claimed she was suffering from a mental health crisis at the time.

Last year, as a sitting state representative, Laughton was charged with several counts of sending false texts to the city’s 911 system. Laughton claimed she did not send the texts in question, and the state and city party did seemingly nothing about her continuing legal adventures.

The protective order Laughton violated was issued in July, months before both the September Democratic primaries and last week’s midterm elections. That meant state and local Democrats were aware of Laughton’s actions and could have taken action.

Horrigan did not respond to NHJournal’s request for comment.

New Hampshire’s Democratic State Party has also declined multiple requests for comment, as have local Nashua Democratic Party leaders.

New Hampshire has few rules when it comes to legislatures in legal trouble. Paul Smith, clerk of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, said the state has no mechanism to remove a lawmaker charged with a crime.

“There are no rules,” Smith said. “There is no automatic process for expulsion.”

NH Dems Silent After Nashua Rep. Laughton Arrested Yet Again

Nashua Democratic state Rep. Stacie Laughton is back in legal trouble, this time being held at Valley Street Jail in Manchester on stalking charges. 

Laughton, 38, was arrested over the weekend by Hudson police on charges she was stalking a resident in that town, according to a report from Patch. Court records show Laughton was already on bail after being charged with sending fake 911 texts to police. Those charges resulted from an investigation last year.

Last week’s midterm elections brought better-than-expected results for Democrats, and they have an outside chance of winning control of the state House. Republicans say that is one reason Democrats, in Nashua and in Concord, are silent about Laughton’s history of criminal behavior. 

Reps. Steve Shurtleff (D-Penacook) and Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester) are locked in a race to lead the House Democratic Caucus. Both declined to respond to a request for comment about Laughton’s ongoing criminal prosecution.

Outgoing House Minority Leader Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua) also declined to comment on Laughton’s behavior, as did other Nashua Democrats NH Journal contacted regarding the matter. Rep. Michael Pedersen (D-Nashua), who serves as chair of the city’s Democratic Committee, did not respond to a request for comment, either.

Democrats may not be talking about Laughton’s latest arrest, but Nashua Republican Di Lothrop is fed up.

“She has a huge problem,” said Lothrop, co-chair of the Nashua Republican Committee. “She’s been through this before, she’s been in prison. Obviously, the lesson wasn’t learned.”

Laughton became the first transgender person elected to the New Hampshire Legislature in 2012, though she was quickly forced to resign when her criminal past became public. Laughton was sentenced to prison time in 2008 for a Laconia credit card fraud conviction. Laughton served a few months but was released on a 10-year suspended sentence.

Laughton was pressured to resign her House seat but signed up to run in the ensuing special election. That bid was cut short when it was deemed she was legally ineligible for office since she was still serving her suspended sentence for the felony credit card fraud case.

Under New Hampshire law, convicted felons may not vote or hold public office while they are serving their sentences. Once the sentence is discharged, however, people convicted of felonies may again vote and seek public office. The New Hampshire Constitution only states that people must reside in the district they are seeking to represent.

Laughton was charged with another crime in 2015 for allegedly calling in a bomb threat to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, an episode she later blamed on a mental health problem. That criminal case has since been closed.

Laughton’s political career restarted in 2019 when she was elected a Nashua Ward 4 selectman, and she won the House of Representatives seat in 2020.

 Lothrop blamed the city’s Democratic Party for promoting a person with clear mental health problems to represent voters. There is a good chance Laughton will still be in jail by the time state representatives gather in Concord for their swearing-in, she said.

“How can she dedicate her time and energy to the voters who she is supposed to represent? She’s unfit,” Lothrop said. “It’s abominable, and it’s an embarrassment to Nashua to have her go up to Concord and represent [the city.]”

Chris Ager, chairman of the Hillsborough County GOP, said any decision on Laughton’s status needs to be made by House leadership.

“This is a very serious matter that must be looked into with respect to actions the leadership of the House of Representatives can take,” Ager said.

With New Hampshire’s open qualifications for office, Ager said both parties have a responsibility to provide some oversight on who is running for office on their respective tickets. However, there is only so much a party can do, he added.

“There is some responsibility for the party, but ultimately the voters of the district elect the person,” Ager said.

Manchester Dem Rep Resigns, But Still On Primary Ballot

Democrat Manchester Rep. Andrew Bouldin resigned his House seat in early August, nearly two months after filing for re-election to serve a third term in Concord.

Now, Democrats are stuck with a candidate on the ballot who may or may not intend to serve should he win re-election and could eventually trigger a special election to fill the vacancy.

Bouldin was first elected in 2018 along with his then-incumbent wife, Rep. Amanda Bouldin, D-Manchester, in a district that leans Democrat representing Manchester’s Ward 5. Andrew Bouldin was set to run for a third term in the fall, signing up for the election this summer. His name is printed on the September primary ballots, and can not be removed according to Anna Fay, spokesperson for the N.H. Secretary of State’s office.

With no contest in the primary, both Bouldins are likely to move forward to the November general election, save for a last-minute Democrat write-in campaign to try to best Andrew next Tuesday.

“The candidate’s name would remain on the ballot unless they are disqualified (which would happen if they move to another district, for example). If the candidate is disqualified, the candidate’s party is given the opportunity to fill the vacancy,” Fay said. The Secretary of State’s office notes they have not been informed of any disqualifying factors in this instance, and therefore can not declare a candidate vacancy.

Paul Smith, the clerk for the House of Representatives, confirmed Andrew Bouldin’s resignation. The matter has yet to be formally announced to the House, but Smith said it will be part of the next session. Bouldin is the 16th resignation of the session and the 23rd overall vacancy created. Five seats were filled by special elections, three went to Democrats (one pickup, Catherine Rombeau of Bedford) and two were held by Republicans.

In a year Republicans are expected to outperform their averages, the point may be moot. Republican Lisa Freeman won a seat in Manchester’s ward 5 in 2016, edging out Andrew Bouldin by six votes. This year, Scott Mattiello is the lone Republican running in the district so far, but Republicans could nominate a second candidate with 35 write-in votes, or the N.H. Republican Party could appoint a nominee in the days following the primary.

Andrew Bouldin did not respond to a request for comment on his resignation. He was elected in 2018 promising to use his time in the State House to address the opioid epidemic, to reform Valley Street Jail, and to support other progressive causes.

“As your Representative in Concord, I will support expanded access to healthcare including reproductive care and addiction treatment, a minimum wage increase, workers’ rights, clean and efficient energy, access to quality public education for all students, and the right of every eligible voter to vote,” he told Manchester InkLink in his 2018 candidacy announcement.

House Minority Leader Rep. David Cote, D-Nashua, did not respond to a request for comment. Nor did Manchester Democratic Committee chair Alan Raff.

Andrew Bouldin was a reliable progressive vote in the House. In the last session, Andrew Bouldin voted against cutting the business profits tax, he voted against the parental bill of rights, he voted against letting churches and other houses of worship stay open during states of emergency, he voted against displaying the motto “In God We Trust” in schools, and he voted against a ban on late-term abortions.

That progressive voice will go missing even if Andrew Bouldin wins in November. If Andrew Bouldin wins, and declines to be sworn in, the seat will remain open until a vacancy is declared by the House, which could trigger a special election, according to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office. There’s little Democrats can do unless they find a last-minute write-in candidate that can exceed Bouldin’s vote total on Tuesday.

Amanda Bouldin, Andrew Bouldin’s wife and fellow representative of the district has not resigned her seat and is running for re-relection. Amanda Bouldin also did not respond to a request for comment.

Amanda Bouldin moved to New Hampshire in 2008 as part of the libertarian Free State Project, though she’s since moved to the left. Amanda Bouldin’s voting record is largely similar to her husband’s, and she cosponsored a bill to repeal the state’s 24-week abortion ban.

The Bouldins will have one Republican challenger on the ballot in Scott Mattiello. He could not be reached for comment.

Frustrated NH Dems Ask: Where Is ‘Leader’ David Cote?

Everyone knows there are three topics you are not supposed to bring up at a dinner party: Sex, politics, and religion.

If you are having dinner with a New Hampshire House Democrat, add a fourth: The whereabouts of state Rep. David Cote (D-Nashua).

In theory, Cote is the Acting Minority Leader of the House Democratic Caucus. In reality, he has been a no-show since the Trump administration. He has not cast a vote on legislation since March 11, 2020 — two years ago, according to House records. During that period he was the nominal Deputy Democratic leader to Rep. Renny Cushing, who was struggling with stage four cancer the entire time.

Cushing passed away on March 7, and Cote has been — on paper, at least — the caucus leader since.

Cote, 61, represents Ward 4 in Nashua. He has served in the House since 1983. According to court documents filed in an attempt to force the House to allow remote attendance, Cote disclosed he “has had cerebral palsy from birth, so wears leg braces for stability and uses crutches to walk.” He also had a heart attack in 2018.

He claims those health challenges are the reason he has refused to attend a single House session– whether they were held in a parking lot, a sports arena, or the State House.

By contrast, House records indicate Cushing was present at all but a few votes during the 2020 and 2021 House sessions, despite his cancer diagnosis and treatments.

So, where is Cote? And is his absence costing Democrats legislative victories? How do Democrats feel about his no-show leadership style?

The short answer: Don’t ask.

When NHJournal contacted state Rep. Michael Pedersen (D-Nashua) who heads the city’s Democratic Committee, for example, he hung up on the reporter.

When asked if Cote is currently doing his job and representing his constituents, Nashua Ward 4 City Alderman Tom Lopez offered praise for state Rep. Manny Espitia (D-Nashua)  – the other Ward 4 state representative.

“We are lucky to have representatives like Manny Espitia who will stand up to bigotry, bad governance, and moral corruption,” Lopez said. “We need more leaders like Manny.”

Cote declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.

Arnie Arnesen, a liberal talk radio host and N.H. Democratic nominee for governor in 1992, said Cote’s absence is no reason he cannot be an effective leader.

“I haven’t been to my studio in two years. I am still doing six shows a week and providing content commentary and the fact is that leadership does not require a desk and an office. How old school of you?” she said.

When told Cote has not voted in more than two years, Arnesen blamed Republicans for not accommodating requests for remote voting, unfairly keeping Democrats from voting.

“The GOP leadership has exercised voter suppression. Maybe you are writing the wrong story,” she said.

Some members of the House caucus do not agree, though they are unwilling to say so on paper. Asked how Cote was able to lead without being present, one caucus member said simply, “He can’t. He hasn’t. And he won’t.

While the members who spoke to NHJournal have sympathy for Cote’s health conditions, they also say the caucus needs leadership. If Cote can’t do it, a change needs to be made.

“It is irresponsible and unfair to the caucus and the people of New Hampshire,” the source said.

“Irreplaceable” Democratic Leader Renny Cushing Loses Cancer Battle

Democratic House Minority Leader Robert Renny Cushing is dead, less than a week after announcing he was stepping away from politics due to cancer.

Monday afternoon’s announcement that Cushing died, after months of being treated for stage four prostate cancer, hit New Hampshire politics hard.

“I will never have the right words to summarize Renny’s life of service,” said Senate Minority Leader Donna Soucy (D-Manchester). “His kindness, his humor, the way he would break into song when greeting you, the respect he commanded from colleagues on both sides of the aisle, his love of his family, and his unwavering belief in the place he called home. He truly was one of a kind.”

Even his political opponents praised Cushing’s public service.

“Although Rep. Renny Cushing and I were on the opposite sides of most public issues and policies, without exception I found him to be a person of remarkable courtesy and honor,” said former House Speaker Bill O’Brien. “He always accepted the integrity of those with opposing views.  Rep. Cushing has left all of us who worked with him in the legislature – and indeed, all of New Hampshire – with an enduring example of how we can disagree in politics without being disagreeable. He will be missed, but he will be remembered.”

Cushing represented Hampton and had been a part of New Hampshire politics for decades. He got his start as an activist founding the Clamshell Alliance, the environmental group opposed to the Seabrook nuclear power plant. A progressive pioneer in the Live Free or Die state, Cushing championed the environment, criminal justice reform, marijuana legalization, and ending the death penalty. 

Cushing was against the death penalty before his father was murdered by a neighbor in 1988, and Cushing remained an active death penalty opponent despite that tragedy. He helped secure a major victory in 2019 when the legislature passed a death penalty repeal with a veto-proof majority.

Cushing becomes the second party leader to die since the start of the pandemic. Speaker of the House Rep. Dick Hinch, (R-Merrimack) died in the spring of 2020 after becoming infected with COVID-19. In fact, Cushing filed a lawsuit against Packard, Hinch’s successor, over the legislature’s COVID protocols. Cushing wanted more remote access for legislators like himself, who have serious health concerns.

Packard has so far prevailed in court, though a ruling in Cushing’s appeal before the federal First Circuit Court of Appeals is pending. Cushing was seeking an expedited ruling in the case ahead of the planned return of lawmakers to Representatives Hall.

As news spread of Cushing’s passing, tributes poured in.

“The House, the Democratic Caucus and the people of New Hampshire today suffered an incalculable loss with the death of House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing,” said acting Democratic House Leader David Cote, (D-Nashua.) “He cannot be replaced. He was my friend before my Leader and became family to me. I will miss him every day.”

Gov. Chris Sununu released a statement saying Cushing “made a lasting impact on the issues he cared deeply about. My thoughts are with the Cushing family during this unimaginable time.” The governor also ordered state flags in the Town of Hampton to fly at half-staff on the day of interment.

Democratic State Party Chair Raymond Buckley said Cushing spent his life “fighting the good fight.”

“His sense of justice never wavered or compromised. His epic determination and strength led to impressive victories both inside the legislature and out,” Buckley said. “All New Hampshire Democrats are feeling an immense loss and mourn the passing of Leader Cushing. Our heartfelt condolences go to his wife Kristie Conrad and his three daughters, Marie, Elizabeth and Grace.”

House Speaker Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry) said he was honored to work with Cushing.

“He was a passionate and dedicated public servant – never afraid to take on controversial issues for the sake of bettering this great state. It was an honor to serve alongside Leader Cushing, and his presence will be greatly missed by all who had the opportunity to know and work with him,” Packard said.

NH House Dems Victory Committee Chair Representative Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester) said Cushing continued to provide leadership during the pandemic while he received cancer treatments.

“Even during his battle with cancer, Leader Cushing led our caucus with courage and conviction, all while inspiring House Democrats with his trademark charm, wit, and genuine kindness,” Wilhelm said.

Rep. Tony Labranche (I-Amherst), who quit the Democratic Party over leadership concerns, has repeatedly called Cushing an inspiration.

“He was such an inspiration to so many, including myself. He was a true leader and man of the people,” Labranche said.

Sara Persechino, Campaigns and Communications Director for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said Cushing leaves a lasting legacy on New Hampshire.

“From his efforts to make New Hampshire’s Constitution gender neutral to his modern-day work to increase the gender diversity of our state’s leaders honored in State House portraits, the Honorable Renny Cushing fought every day to advance equity in our state. Few have impacted the trajectory of the Legislature and our state as strongly as Renny; we are honored to continue the fight for equality for all in his memory – no matter what,” Persechino said.

House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) said Cushing will be remembered for his constant efforts for his constituents, and his strong advocacy for his beliefs. 

“Leader Cushing never gave up fighting for what he believed was right, even when the odds were stacked against him, and was well-respected by those who worked with him over the years. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Cushing family, his friends, and the Democratic caucus during this difficult time,” Osborne said.