WINCHESTER — The cordial invitation West Virginia extended to Frederick County to join the Mountain State won't likely amount to anything, but the idea of Virginia's northernmost county jumping the state line certainly has people talking.
Online responses to a recent Winchester Star article about the proposition ranged from "Hell No!!!" to "I'll think about it" to "Of all the hare-brained ideas this takes the cake."
But it also got people on this side of the border thinking. "Better yet, make Northern Virginia and D.C. its own state," one commentator wrote. Another wondered if the invitation could be extended to neighboring Clarke County.
West Virginia State Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan County, introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 on Jan. 10 requesting that the citizens of Frederick County consider joining West Virginia. The West Virginia Senate adopted the resolution Monday, reminding Frederick County of a 158-year-old invitation to become the state’s 56th county. The resolution will later be considered by the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Frederick County’s border touches five West Virginia counties: Hardy, Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson. In 1862, the Virginia legislature met in Wheeling, W.Va., during the Civil War to consider forming a new state. According to Trump’s resolution, Frederick was one of three Virginia counties invited to join West Virginia after Virginia seceded from the Union. Only Berkeley and Jefferson counties voted to join West Virginia, while Frederick County stayed with the commonwealth.
In a telephone interview Friday, Trump said West Virginians have a lot of affection and admiration for Winchester and Frederick County, and West Virginians drive to Frederick County all the time to work and shop. He said Frederick County has a lot in common with West Virginia and would be a good addition to the state.
“I cannot imagine anyone in West Virginia that would not be delighted in having Frederick County be a part of the state,” Trump said.
In a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1870 that affirmed West Virginia’s existence as a state, the invitation to Frederick County to join West Virginia was ruled as still valid. Trump says he believes the decision will ultimately be up to the county’s residents.
Trump said the rapidly population growing Virginia cities and counties near Washington, D.C., may have overshadowed the voices and wishes of Virginia residents living in smaller, more rural areas of the state.
The area's delegates in Virginia's General Assembly aren't eager to see Frederick County go.
Del. Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton, said he thinks “West Virginia senses there is a high level of dissatisfaction on the part of many Virginians, people like those in Frederick County.”
In particular, after Democrats took control of the Virginia General Assembly in the Nov. 5 elections, dozens of rural counties have expressed concerns that proposed gun control bills will infringe upon their Second Amendment rights.
LaRock said some counties and jurisdictions in the state “are becoming more like California and New York.” Although LaRock said he definitely wants to keep Frederick County in Virginia, he could get behind a move to have more liberal jurisdictions such as Arlington and Alexandria become part of Washington, D.C., instead.
Meanwhile, Del. Wendy Gooditis, D-Clarke County, said it's hard to imagine that the citizens of Frederick County want to join West Virginia. “Loving Frederick County and Winchester as we do, I can’t imagine Virginia would let them go lightly!,” she said.
Del. Chris Collins, R-Frederick County, called the situation “a very interesting legal discussion.” When the state of West Virginia was being created, Collins said, a ruling from the Supreme Court of Virginia said that a magisterial district can vote to leave the state and join another state. To his knowledge, he said he is unaware of a Supreme Court ruling on the matter since.
Collins said in order to leave Virginia, Frederick County would likely need to hold a referendum that would ask Frederick County voters if they wished to secede from the commonwealth and join West Virginia. He thinks it may be a local process, rather than a process handled at the state level.
Collins wants to stay in Virginia and says he has yet to see demand from other county residents to secede from the state.
Frederick County Attorney Roderick Williams said he will not look into the matter unless he's directed to by the Board of Supervisors.
Frederick County Board of Supervisors Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. said Trump’s proposal is so deeply ingrained in history that it would take a lot of time for the county and courts to figure out the legality of how it would work.
Plus, he has no interest in joining West Virginia.
“We value our relationships with our neighbors, but we have no interest in this,” DeHaven said. “Back in the day when this was done and discussed … it was a very different world. Most of these areas were very rural. It just came through an unprecedented period in our nation’s history.”