On Thursday, many residents of Maryland and West Virginia were somewhere between shocked, bemused and angered to learn of a proposal by a group of Maryland Republican legislators for the state’s three westernmost counties to break off and join West Virginia, a plan that’s destined to fail but that some in those counties argue makes perfect sense.
Letters were released on Thursday that the group of five Maryland GOP legislators sent earlier this month to the leaders of the West Virginia legislature proposing that it would be “mutually beneficial for both states” for the three counties to switch hands.
The three counties—Garrett, Allegany and Washington— sit along West Virginia’s northern border and voted heavily for former President Donald Trump in 2020, unlike Maryland as a whole, which President Joe Biden carried by more than 30 percentage points.
Maryland House Minority Leader Jason Buckel, a Republican from Allegany County, who signed one of the letters, told The Washington Post he knows there’s no real chance the counties will break away, saying the effort was meant as “a cry for help” from the region.
Buckel and other signees say the rural panhandle counties, which are well removed from the state’s population centers, have been ignored by Democrats in the legislature who focus on the state’s cities.
The argument goes that the counties would be better off in West Virginia, a state made up almost entirely of rural communities and one of just two states where Trump carried every county.
“Absolutely, without any question, the invitation is wide open,” West Virginia’s Republican Gov. Jim Justice said at a news conference on Friday, called solely to address the Maryland counties. “You sure as the dickens won’t ever regret it!”