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Group calls for western Md. counties to secede

WESTMINSTER — A group is calling for five western Maryland counties to secede and form their own state.

Scott Strzelczyk, leader of the Western Maryland Initiative, says people are fed up with the liberal majority and want an “amicable divorce.” He wants to live in a smaller state, with more “personal liberty, less government intrusion, less federal entanglements.”

The five counties — Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick and Carroll — represent just 11 percent of Maryland’s population, but the majority of their registered voters are Republicans in a heavily Democratic state.

“If you don’t belong in their party,” Strzelczyk says of Democrats, “you’ll never have your views represented” in Maryland. “If we have more states,” he says, “we can all go live in states that best represent us, and then we can get along.”

The U.S. Constitution allows regions to separate with approval from the state legislature and Congress. There are similar efforts around the country and there was one the Eastern Shore in the 1970s in a bid to keep tourism money. West Virginia is the last state to successfully break away from another — 150 years ago.

Strzelczyk launched the initiative with a Facebook page in July, and it has drawn more than 2,200 likes so far. But the possibility that the effort would gain the necessary support in the General Assembly is “exceedingly slim,” according to Sen. Jamin Raskin, a law professor at American University and Democrat from Montgomery County.

“The rhetoric of secession today is the language of a protest movement, not a serious campaign to change political geography,” said Raskin. “Western Maryland is a vast and important part of our state, and I’m sure nobody wants to let it go.”