By Len Lazarick
“I’ve had enough,” Del. Johnny Wood told his colleagues in the legislature last week, confirming he would not seek reelection after seven terms in the House of Delegates.
Wood, a St. Mary’s County Democrat, turns 78 today (Jan. 13). “After 28 years, it’s time to move on.” He made the decision at a family meeting Jan. 5, he told MarylandReporter.com.
Family gatherings are no small affair for Wood and his wife Barbara Ann. They have nine children, 26 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren, and most live in St. Mary’s County.
“It’s time for me to do what I want to do,” Wood said, and he’s anxious to get more use of the motor home he owns.
In a way, it’s the legislature that has moved on over three decades, and left Wood a dinosaur among Democrats. Conservative Democrats were plentiful in the House when Wood arrived the same year as House Speaker Michael Busch.
But over the years, the Democrats have moved to the left and Wood has found himself one of the few Democrats voting with Republicans on many fiscal, business and social issues.
District trending Republican
His home county has also become more developed and more Republican over the years. Wood said when he was first elected to a single-member district in 1986 he had 11 precincts, all majority Democratic registration. He now has 13 precincts and seven are majority Republican.
The 2010 election was the closest of his career; he won by just 283 votes in a district he had carried by 3,900 votes four years before that. In 2002 and 1994, he had no opponent.
The closeness of the last election “had nothing to do with” the decision not to seek reelection, he said. But he agreed it was “very possible” the district would turn Republican once he leaves.
The winning margins for other St. Mary’s Democrats in the legislature have also grown thinner. In 2010, Sen. Roy Dyson got 51.4% and Del. John Bohanan got 52.4%
Wood said his children had urged to leave while he was “on top.” But as he continued to buck the increasingly liberal Democratic leadership, he lost his post as chair of what was then the Commerce and Government Matters Committee in 2003, and no longer holds any leadership positions.
In his private career, Wood spent three decades in the grocery business, UPDATED 1/13, 17:30: and the last 25 years in the insurance business.
Other legislators retiring
Wood is one of several legislators in their 70s who are retiring at the end of the term.
Del. Mary Ann Love, 73, of Anne Arundel is retiring after 21 years in the House, and Sen. Jennie Forehand, 78, of Montgomery County recently announced her retirement. Other legislators in their late 60s and 70s continue to be some of the most powerful in Annapolis and are seeking reelection.
Del. Steve DeBoy, 58, of Halethorpe in Baltimore County, had announced last year he was retiring after three terms. Another conservative-leaning Democrat, DeBoy has been rumored to be reconsidering that move, but Friday he said he did not know who had started that rumor and he was sticking to his decision to leave the House of Delegates.
For a complete list of the status of incumbents, see our January update of General Assembly races.