POLITICS
08/23/2013 05:35 pm ET

Maryland Secessionist Sees State Split As 'Amicable Divorce'

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Scott Strzelczyk would prefer that his current efforts to turn a large chunk of the state of Maryland into its own new state not be thought of as a secessionist movement.

"The term secession, as we are accustom[ed] to it, is associated with the colonies seceding from Great Britain and the southern states seceding from the Union in the 1860s," Strzelczyk told The Huffington Post. "Can the interests and views of the people of the five Western counties of Maryland be better served by staying in the state of Maryland or by leaving and forming their own state? I believe leaving and forming a new state better serves the people."

Strzelczyk said he first spoke publicly about his idea in February, at a rally protesting Maryland's sweeping new gun laws (a sign of this area's schism from the rest of the state: one Western Maryland sheriff has declared his belief that the gun laws are unconstitutional, and won't be enforced).

Strzelczyk, who is involved with a conservative radio show called "The Forgotten Men," describes himself as a "constitutionalist" primarily concerned with "freedom and liberty for my family, my children and their children." In July, he launched a Western Maryland: A New State Initiative Facebook page, which has almost 2,000 followers about a month and a half later.

The movement's getting some attention outside the state as well. For example, the Washington Times recently published an editorial that seemed sympathetic to the cause, imagining the new jurisdiction would "become a real Free State -- free from the oppressive tax and regulatory regime in Annapolis and the Democrat-dominated General Assembly and Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat."

The five Maryland counties that would form their own state -- Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick and Carroll -- are more white, rural and Republican, than the rest of the state. Their total population comes to about 630,000, a little less than one ninth of Maryland's overwhelmingly Democratic total population.

"I believe the differences are irreconcilable and that an amicable divorce is the best thing for the five Western counties," said Strzelczyk.

The State of Western Maryland's constitution has not been written, nor has its tax plan been fully developed. A lot of issues relating to the State of Western Maryland's creation are in their "infancy," Strzelczyk said. "At this point in time I would characterize it as exploratory in nature." But, he said, he sees the possibility that popular, then political, support could grow.

American University law professor and Maryland state Sen. Jamin Raskin -- a Democrat from Montgomery County, a suburb of D.C. where Obama took nearly 70 percent of the vote in 2012 -- told the Carroll County Times that he is not convinced.

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

And, of course, we aren't talking about a no-fault secession regime where one party wanting a divorce could make it so; under Article IV, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, Maryland's legislature would indeed have to be willing.

"We simply want to institute a state government that better represents us," Strzelczyk said. "The only way to accomplish this is a peaceful and amicable divorce from the state of Maryland."

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