In Democrat-dominated Maryland, there’s a secession movement — but not in the blue parts of the state.
According to a report Thursday, numerous Republican state legislators have reached out to West Virginia’s House Speaker Roger Hanshaw and Senate President Craig Blair.
Their letters asked West Virginia leadership to “consider adding us as constituent counties to the State of West Virginia.”
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Sent from state delegates and one state senator from Western Maryland’s Allegany, Garrett, and Washington counties, the Republican leaders asked to “open dialogue and request the possibility of these three Maryland counties to be added as constituent counties to the State of West Virginia.”
Two sets of letters — one on Oct. 5 and others on Oct. 14 — were signed by Maryland State Delgates William Wivell, Mike McKay, Wendell Beitzel, and Jason Buckel and by State Sen. George Edwards.
The letter from the Washington County delegates read:
Speaker Handshaw and President Blair:
We, the undersigned state representatives for Washington County in the State of Maryland, also request that you consider adding Washington County as a constituent county to the State of West Virginia.
We believe this arrangement may be mutually beneficial for both states and for our local constituencies. Please advise on the next steps.
The state delegates acknowledged that, like Eastern Oregon’s similar movement started earlier this year, the possibility of success is slim.
“Oh, I think we all know that it would be a long shot,” Wivell, R-Washington, said. “Because it would have to be voted on by the Legislature and put on the ballot. And then allow the respective citizens of those three counties to vote on it.”
The three counties are deep red in an otherwise Democrat-dominated state that is one of the most heavily gerrymandered in the United States.
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Despite Allegany, Garrett, and Washington counties all being won decisively by former President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, President Joe Biden easily won the overall state by a margin of 65 percent to 32 percent.
Wivell said that constituents have been asking to break away and form their own state for years, but joining West Virginia was more likely.
“Over the years different people have come to us asking either for that or to form their own state,” Wivell told the Herald-Mail Media, “I just don’t think it’s potentially feasible to form your own ‘West Maryland.’”
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s spokesman said the move was confusing —
This has probably left a lot of people confused—including many Western Marylanders—and we certainly hope that the legislators will provide some clarity here. https://t.co/AjcsJFo5ZY
— Michael Ricci (@riccimike) October 21, 2021
Del. Neil Parrott, who did not sign the letter but said he supported the idea, said frustrations with Democratic policies are why local residents want to secede and join West Virginia.
“Some of them really care about Second Amendment rights, where if you go across the line in West Virginia, you could have a carry permit reasonably able to be obtained, which is not reasonable in Maryland. If you go across the line, they’re much more friendly towards businesses and their taxes are lower,” he said. “Also the electricity costs are lower, because they haven’t passed so many laws to restrict electric companies from using regular fuels that work really well.”
“So there’s a lot of frustration that’s been on this side.”
But mostly, he said, the letters were meant to send a message to Hogan, as well as the Maryland House and Senate.
The delegates wanted to “call attention to the problem that central Maryland has been ignoring Western Maryland for a long time.”
The Horn editorial team