Laufton Ascencao, a Democrat recently elected to serve as a Rhode Island State Representative for District 68 in Bristol, announced today that he will be turning down the office, leaving the seat vacant pending a special election. Ascencao falsified an invoice and a check for some mailers he promised to send out on behalf of Warren Democrats running for Town Council. After being confronted, Ascencao came clean.
Reactions were swift and over the last 48 hours grew. The Warren Democratic Committee and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) called upon Ascencao to step aside.The RICAGV wrote, in part:
“Many of our members gave up precious time with their families to knock on doors for Laufton because we trusted him. His actions are at minimum a betrayal of that trust, and we no longer believe that he can effectively advocate for the many causes he has championed, including the need to reduce gun violence in Rhode Island. We believe it would be in both Ascencao’s best interests, and in the best interests of his constituents for him to step down from his position as State Representative in District 68 at this time.”
The Reform Caucus, that group of 21 progressive challengers to Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, issued a press release saying that they no longer count Ascencao as a member, writing, in part:
“We firmly believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard. Ethics matter in public service. Our constituents expect and deserve honesty, integrity and transparency from their government leaders.”
Ascencao wrote on Facebook:
“I have spent most of my adult life fighting to improve people’s lives. I’ve given everything I had, whether on political races or on issue campaigns that move working people forward. It has been the joy of my life to do this work. Nothing has ever made me as proud as helping people organize, step up, and make a difference in their communities.
“In the last few days, as I have taken time to really reflect on the actions that I deeply regret, I have realized that my personal priorities are no longer what they should be. Viewing the inability to get a political mailer sent in time as a personal failing is a pretty silly way to see the world. Trying to cover it up was a mistake so unnecessary that it’s clear to me that my judgement has become skewed.
“Taking the time in recent days to be with the people I love and who love me has only made that clearer. That’s why I’ve decided to not assume my seat as State Representative.
“The elected officials I admire most are not those who best promote themselves, but those who never stop thinking about the people they represent. I’ve spoken to lots of the people I hoped to represent and it is clear that, given my mistakes, I cannot represent our shared values at the State House as well as I would want to and as they deserve.
“Values to me are not just catch phrases used on a campaign; they are the only good reason to get involved in politics. When an elected official doesn’t live up to those standards, it’s important that the community be able to hold them accountable. I messed up and I need to own that.
“I apologize to the voters who gave me their support. I let you down and I will continue to try to make amends even though I am not assuming the position. I hope to live up to the faith you placed in me by continuing to try to make a difference.
“My mistakes were my own and does not reflect the passion and commitment of the community members, activists, and leaders I have been proud to work alongside for years. I have complete faith in the future of our state because I know they are involved.”
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