WHEN state Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, announced in January that he wouldn't seek a sixth and final two-year term, he cited increasing demands of his family business but also the tenor of life in the House. Morgan said he was concerned the Legislature could end up resembling Congress, “where compromise is a negative word and where you cannot have respect for the other side.”
He's among six House members and five senators who could have filed last week for another term in office, but instead chose to do something else. One of them, Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa, decided that as a 67-year-old breast cancer survivor who had spent 10 years in the Legislature, it was time to do other things. She would have had to give up her Senate seat in two years anyway, due to term limits, so she figured she would save taxpayers the cost of a special election and leave now.
Other reasons for leaving were pretty typical. Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, chose to run for another office, Cleveland County commissioner. Rep. Jabar Shumate, D-Tulsa, is running for a different seat, too — the one now held by McIntyre. Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, who was placed in the same district as a Republican incumbent after Senate redistricting, decided to move on after eight years. Sen. Charlie Laster, D-Shawnee, former Senate leader, said after serving two terms that he wanted to refocus on his family and his law practice.
And then there's Rep. Corey Holland, R-Marlow, who almost certainly would have cruised to re-election but instead surprised his party by deciding to leave after just four years at the Capitol. A teacher before being elected to the House in 2008, Holland will return to education, as principal at Cache High School. “My true calling is education,” he said.
A visit with Holland, 42, was refreshing. It reminded us that some people get into public service for the service part of the equation. Had Holland stuck around for just one more term, he would have become vested in the Legislature's retirement plan. Several colleagues reminded him of that. His response? “Can you guarantee me I'll be alive in two years? I'm going to live in the moment, and my heart is telling me it's time to go back into education.
“That's a bit of an oversimplification. But to stick around for two more years for that, that's the wrong reason to be doing it.”
Surely the unseemly side of life at the Capitol — the political games and the lobbyists and the backstabbing — played a part in his decision. “No, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I just look at these types of jobs as service. For me, my service ended after four years.” He did say, though, that members — particularly newer members — are pulled in every direction by special interests. “You'd better have a strong sense of who you are and what you stand for.”
Holland made his stance clear during a flap in March 2009 involving the Oklahoma City rock band The Flaming Lips. During a visit to the Capitol, a band member wore a T-shirt with a hammer and sickle, a symbol associated with communism. Holland took offense, others joined in and the House ended up rejecting what was supposed to be a routine resolution naming one of the band's songs as the state's official rock song.
The biggest stir Holland has caused since then came last week, when he passed up a sure thing in the Legislature for “the positive that people get to experience when they deal with kids.” As we said, refreshing.