Kory Holdaway

State Rep. Kory Holdaway, R-Taylorsville, known as a moderate Republican in the Utah House, is resigning his seat to become the government relations director for the Utah Education Association.

Holdaway, a special education teacher in the Granite School District, will also leave teaching after 27 years, he said Tuesday morning.

"That is the hardest thing for me — to quit teaching. I just love it," said Holdaway, who will replace Vik Arnold at the UEA. Arnold retired from his job at the state's largest teacher union Sept. 1.

Salt Lake County GOP delegates from Holdaway's Taylorsville seat, District 34, will pick a replacement and send that name to GOP Gov. Gary Herbert for appointment. Whoever gets the seat will have to run for re-election in 2010, just as Holdaway would have.

Holdaway said he decided not to try to keep his seat and work for the UEA, even though there is one other legislator who is a registered lobbyist.

"I told (UEA) officials when they first came to me and asked me to apply for this post that I didn't think being a legislator and work for the UEA would go together."

The UEA has a love/hate relationship with many GOP legislators. It is still a powerful political force in state politics, and helped lead the anti-private school voucher repeal fight of 2007.

Each election it backs Democratic and moderate GOP candidates who run against conservative Republicans for the Legislature.

Holdaway, 51, has served in the Legislature since 1999, sometimes angering the right wing of his party by supporting more moderate political issues.

Hard feelings between House conservatives and moderates came to a head last summer with the ethics investigations of several House members. But Holdaway said Tuesday that many of those feelings have passed, and he said the 53-member House GOP caucus is as united as he's seen it in his decade of legislative service.

The UEA has just formally endorsed the Utahns for Ethical Government citizen initiative petition. And Holdaway said if he were serving in the Legislature and the petition came up for a vote, "I'd probably vote for it."

Ironically, the initiative would prohibit a legislator from becoming a registered lobbyist for two years, and so if the initiative were law Holdaway would not be able to go directly from being a legislator to his UEA job, assuming he would be lobbying the Legislature in his new position.

It is possible that in his new job Holdaway could be in the thick of the UEG battle — he as UEA political director supporting the initiative, many GOP legislators opposing it.

"This (new job) will be a big change for me," but he looks forward to the challenge, he said.

e-mail: bbjr@desnews.com