CUMBERLAND, Md. — Dels. Wendell Beitzel and Mike McKay say an effort to pursue secession of Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties from Maryland and join West Virginia is a dead issue.
The remarks from Beitzel and McKay were echoed by Del. William Wivell of Washington County, who told the Hagerstown Herald-Mail on Monday the process was no longer viable.
The Republican lawmakers behind the initiative also included Sen. George Edwards and Del. Jason Buckel of Allegany County and Dels. Brenda Thiam, William Wivell and Sen. Paul Corderman of Washington County.
Wivell, Beitzel and McKay are the latest lawmakers to drop the initiative. Buckel, Edwards and Corderman withdrew their support Friday.
Beitzel said with so many members dropping support, the idea became moot.
“The way it’s unfolded, with Jason and George and Corderman (dropping out) and now with Wivell ... it’s obvious if we don’t all agree on this, nothing is going to happen. They way I see, the issue is pretty much dead in its tracks,” Beitzel, who represents Garrett County said.
Five Maryland lawmakers — Beitzel, McKay, Edwards, Wivell and Thiam — traveled to Charleston, West Virginia, in September to discuss the matter, according Del. Gary Howell, a Republican who represents Mineral County in the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Howell said Beitzel initially reached out to him about the secession process. The group of five Maryland lawmakers subsequently traveled to Charleston where they were told a letter requesting the move would be required to start the process. Beitzel, McKay, Edwards and Buckel subsequently drafted a letter dated Oct. 14 to the West Virginia Legislature asking to become, “constituent counties of West Virginia.”
“We believe this arrangement will be mutually beneficial for both states,” the letter read. “Please advise next step.”
Beitzel said the idea was first discussed among the Western Maryland delegation during the 2021 legislative session.
“This thing metastasized ... from discussions from the last (legislative) session where people contacted us and then talked to officials in West Virginia and said, ‘Can you help us get into West Virginia?’
“It started out first in Garrett and Allegany counties, the four of us discussing it. Then we decided to send a letter to (Charleston) and then Washington County, they approached us and said, “ ‘If you are going to do something, we want in.’
“All we wanted to do, the intent, was considering putting a referendum on the ballot to get a true sense if people may, or may not, want to do this ... have a ballot question. Then we thought maybe we better find out if West Virginia wants us.”
The question prompted the letter addressed to West Virginia Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw and Senate President Craig Blair.
“We were all together, all of Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties, in signing this letter,” McKay said. “We all said if even one person wasn’t interested in opening up the conversation, then no one would do it. So when Sen. Edwards and Del. Buckel, in respect to both of them ... if they are not interested then this issue is dead.
“What started off as a dialogue with everyone was fine, but as soon as one person or two were not interested ... then we were just not going to do it.”