On Talkline, when anything concerning the Commonwealth of Virginia comes up, I often refer to our eastern neighbor as “The Mothership.”
We were carved from Virginia during the Civil War and the fact that we retain “Virginia” in our state’s name means we are forever linked.
We peacefully co-exist with our big sister for the most part–I doubt Virginians even think much about their former western appendage—however, there is a bubbling dispute now between us.
It started when Senator Charlie Trump (R-Morgan) proposed a resolution inviting Frederick County, Virginia, which borders our eastern panhandle, to come home to West Virginia. I won’t go into all the history here, but suffice to say Trump makes a valid, if obscure, point that a quirk in the creation of our state allows for Frederick County to vote to be admitted to West Virginia.
Trump says the feedback from Frederick County has been a polite, but restrained, “thanks-for-the-kind-offer-and-we’ll-get-back-to-you-if-we-want-to-take-you-up-on-that.”
Hey, it was a fun history lesson for us all and prompted plenty of wisecracking at the Capitol. Now let’s move on.
However, House of Delegates Government Organization Committee Chairman Gary Howell (R-Mineral) took the Senate resolution and doubled down. His committee passed not only Trump’s resolution, but also a House resolution inviting all interested Virginia counties to join West Virginia.
Howell insists many Republican lawmakers in Virginia are interested but won’t say so publicly. I reminded Howell last week that without some hard evidence, West Virginia’s courtship of the Commonwealth will make us look foolish.
Interestingly, however, this is happening while Virginia is in the middle of an emotional debate over the 2nd Amendment. A large gathering of pro-gun supporters is expected in Richmond today to protest several gun control measures being considered by the Democratically controlled Virginia Legislature.
Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has angered gun-rights activists by issuing a temporary gun ban for Capitol Square in Richmond during the protest. Back in West Virginia, Howell’s resolution addresses gun rights, promising “their firearms rights shall be protected to the fullest extent possible under our Federal and State Constitutions.”
Mark this down: No Virginia counties are going to become part of West Virginia. However, it is worth noting that the western counties of the Commonwealth are now experiencing some of the same political alienation that led to the creation of West Virginia during the Civil War.
The population growth of northern Virginia, Richmond and the Tidewater area have flipped Virginia from a red to a blue state. It has not voted for a Republican for President since 2004. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump 50 percent to 44 percent.
However, Trump won 93 of the 133 counties. He was particularly strong in western Virginia. Trump won 12 of the 13 counties* that border West Virginia with an average of 71 percent of the vote. That is the same margin by which Trump won the 11 West Virginia counties that border Virginia—71 percent.
It is reasonable to argue western Virginia has more in common—at least politically—with West Virginia than the rest of the Commonwealth.
That doesn’t mean we’re going to start redrawing state boundaries. Start down that road and before you know it Pennsylvania will be laying claim to our northern panhandle and Jefferson County will be hooking up with Maryland or Virginia.
No, the states are what they are. However, people can and do move, and one of the driving forces of relocation is to be with like-minded people. So, Virginians, if you don’t like the direction your state is headed, come on over.
The hospitality is warm, the micro-brewed beer is cold, and the 2nd Amendment may as well be etched into the Fairfax Stone.
*(The lone exception was Loudoun County, where Clinton won with 55 percent of the vote.)