The 51st State, Western Maryland: How to succeed without seceding

The 51st State, Western Maryland: How to succeed without seceding

Republic of Texas map 1836

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By Barry Rascovar


State of Western Maryland

State of Western Maryland

The mountain natives are restless in Maryland. They want to have it their way, though they represent just 10 percent of the state’s population.

Here are a few things that annoy them:

  • A stream of tax increases (including one on rain!) from Annapolis.
  • State restrictions that devalue their land.
  • Tougher gun-control laws.
  • A bleeding-heart law that does away with the death penalty.
  • A state law legalizing gay marriages.
  • Political map-makers who deprive them of their conservative congressman.

It’s enough to make you want to secede, which is the plan put forth by a Carroll County blogger, Scott Strzelczyk of New Windsor, for the five counties often lumped together as Western Maryland.

The verb “to secede” is a curious term not to be confused with the similar-sounding verb “to succeed.”

Indeed, were the five western counties to secede from Maryland, there would be no chance for that movement to succeed.

It won’t happen

Here’s why.

  • The 51st state: Western Maryland would be the third smallest by population (less than 660,000). Only Wyoming and Vermont would have fewer residents.
  • It would be a state divided between “haves” and “have nots.” Under-populated and impoverished Garrett and Allegany counties would be heavily outvoted by the far more crowded, well-off jurisdictions to the east. As the French say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
  • It would be one of the most homogeneous states, close to 90% white with few African Americans or Latinos. Nearly everyone would be Christian, too.
  • It would be filled with non-productive residents. Folks of retirement age and children 18 years or younger would constitute over 40% of the population.
  • –Two wealthy counties – Carroll and Frederick – would be forced to support the other three jurisdictions that have high unemployment (Washington County’s jobless rate, for instance, stands at 8.4%).
  • The five counties would lose $622 million in direct Maryland school aid and a lot more Maryland aid earmarked for other social programs. Yet these jurisdictions only produce $326 million in income tax revenue.
State of Jefferson flag

State of Jefferson flag

Too many economic barriers

How can secessionists afford to cut taxes? How will they pay for essential services without raising what they claim is an already onerous tax burden?

The numbers don’t add up.

The state of Western Maryland would lack a sound employment base.

Moreover, all the thousands of Maryland government jobs in the five counties (especially in the many state prisons) would disappear under secession.

It’s an idea whose time will never come.

Numerous states have secession movements

State of North ColoradoRural counties elsewhere want to try the same thing.

In August, Siskiyou County (population: 44,000) voted 4-1 to secede from California. It wants to join with southern Oregon rural counties to form the new state of Jefferson.

Their movement, Defend Rural America, started way back in 1941. Secessionists even designed a flag with two Xs – signifying the double-cross of rural residents by the two states.

Their complaints echo what is heard from rural Marylanders:

Urban legislators are attacking our way of life. No one with power listens to our complaints and concerns. Our constitutional rights are being taken away. Land-use laws are depriving us of our wealth. Our religious and cultural beliefs are being undercut.

Republic of Texas map 1836

Republic of Texas map 1836

Colorado has its own secession movement. Six counties vote in November on creating the state of North Colorado.

They hope to be joined by like-minded counties in Kansas and Nebraska.

In Michigan, residents in the Upper Peninsula feel isolated and unappreciated and want to secede.

In New York, politicians have proposed various secessions for New York City, Long Island, conservative parts of the Big Apple and upstate New York.

In California, partition proposals frequently surface. In 1965, the state Senate voted 27-12 to split the Golden State in two.

In Texas, the independence movement remains active. The Texas Nationalist Movement claims 250,000 members, though its website reminds seniors that under secession they’ll still receive their U.S. Social Security checks.

Disillusioned and disenfranchised

What binds these movements is disillusionment and a feeling of disenfranchisement.  America is changing and they don’t like it.

Urban and increasingly dense suburban communities control state legislatures. Residents there are growing more polyglot. What was once a white, church-going nation of farmers and small merchants is no more.

The battle to preserve and protect rural America really was lost in 1787.

That’s when urban Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton had the votes to write a Constitution creating a strong central government. This sealed the fate of Jefferson’s agrarian republic in which states would hold the power to define and defend individual rights and liberties.

Pockets of discontent with the governance structure championed by Hamilton and Washington have never disappeared. The only movement that achieved its goal was the breakaway of 50 pro-Union northwestern counties from Virginia during the Civil War to establish West Virginia in 1863. (Few landowners in mountainous western Virginia had slaves.)

Texas also seceded, but from Mexico, gaining its independence in 1836.

Nine years later, in 1845, the Republic of Texas voted to join the United States.

Three options to consider

For those unhappy with the current state of affairs in Maryland, there are three realistic options to consider.

1. Move

That’s been the answer for many discontented Americans. Religious minorities that felt persecuted sought greener pastures. Those wishing to control their destiny or start a new life moved into the western frontier.

There are plenty of states where strong conservative views predominate. Pick one and live there.

2. Stay and complain.

Shout at the top of your lungs at public gatherings. Write angry letters to the editor. Vent your spleen on blog posts.

None of this helps achieve your objective. In fact, it turns off the electorate and leaders who count.

But it is salutary and a form of therapeutic self-expression.

3. Stay and fight.

People with deeply held libertarian or conservative views probably will never be in the majority in Maryland.

Still, they have a shot at influencing public policy with thoughtful, innovative ideas and a willingness to debate, explain, compromise and work collaboratively with those in power. Incremental steps add up over time.

It comes down to whether you want to make a difference or make a statement.

In this country, thank goodness, the choice is yours.



About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. SplitMaryland

    Barry Rascovar, WOW! What a very unbiased OPINION you have.
    None of your “Won’t happen” reasons had any merit whatsoever.

  2. Thack

    Everyone who wants to leave Maryland is more than welcome. The idea that some spoiled, immature folks in the hills don’t like our laws, that’s just too bad. We aren’t changing them and you are certainly welcome find a nice red state to take you in and create that Conservative Utopia like the one they have in Mississippi. I’ve never see a more immature and petulant group of miscreants than today’s Tea Party. They hate this nation and everything for which it stands. They want to bring back the Confederate States of America, were blacks will once again be property, women are barefoot and pregnant and scientists are jailed for blasphemy. You people want to repeal the 20th Century and take us back to TV cowboy shows from the 50’s and 60’s. They weren’t real. 6 out of 7 cowboys were either black or Mexican.

    As of 2011, about 250 million Americans live in or around urban areas. That means more than three-quarters of the U.S. population shares just about three percent of the U.S. land area. Eventually, there won’t be enough of you out in BFE to get up a poker game.


      Spoiled, immature folks in the hills huh? Spoken like someone with true class. I would guess you would rather carry a purse then a gun.

      • Thack

        What would a person who wants to secede because gay people can get married know about class? Class is wanting to secede because sane people think there should be registration of guns just as their is for cars? You people don’t like black people. You think they are all on welfare. You think all of Baltimore is on welfare. You think the paltry 11% of you that live in those “secession counties” somehow pay more than the 89% who don’t live out there with you. Each of those counties has a higher percentage of it’s people on food stamps than Montgomery County.

    • Name

      I don’t really have an opinion on secession because I just moved here from Delaware but imagine if Maryland were a red state and I said “If you want to be a liberal why don’t you move to a liberal utopia like they have in California”. Maybe they wouldn’t want to secede if people from central Maryland wouldn’t treat us in western Maryland like we are lesser then them.

      • Thack

        I have no problem with people honestly expressing themselves. The problem is that white, rural and suburban areas want to secede because they see democrats as the party of their enemies, which seems to be anyone who isn’t a WASP. Since the USA will be 20% white by 2065, it appears they will have to leave the continent.

  3. Red Wolf

    This article failed to mention that all of Maryland, aside from the Baltimore-DC Metro belt is sick and tired of the garbage legislation coming from Annapolis. I believe that a much more viable solution would be to exile the Baltimore-DC metro belt and let it form it’s own state.

    • Thack

      What “garbage legislation”? You people always get fuzzy when asked what exactly it is you believe has been done wrong.

      You can’t exile them because they outnumber you. You seem to forget that land doesn’t vote. People do. Most people live in Maryland’s urban areas.

      Why can’t you people grow up?

  4. AJ

    Western MD counties are not subject to the “rain tax” only the eight most populous counties and Baltimore City are.

  5. TaurusPT111

    I moved to Maryland in 1987. I remember Liz Bobo putting in the roads Howard County needed (too bad Monkey Co. didn’t follow suit). I remember Billy Don and Hilda Mae, may God rest their souls. Maryland used to be a nice place to live and the government wasn’t breathing down our necks taxing and feeing us into poverty/ submission to the state. Maryland was the FREE state back then. It will never be so again. And in 6.5 years time, I will exercise option #1, and move. I tried Options #2 & #3 last February when the gun grab law was being passed. The radicals in Annapolis DO NOT CARE WHAT WE WANT OR THINK. They thumbed their noses at honest folks coming up to testify. And they passed the gun ban law. Options 2 & 3 are not real options.

  6. higgy01

    Let western Maryland join with the eastern shore to become an independent state. Then let Washington D. C. join with what is left of Maryland. The result is two states, one solidly democrat and the other pretty much conservative. Of course it will never happen to Maryland and hopefully D. C. will remain as is but the message to the Maryland legislature should be clear. Now we have an opportunity to begin a transformation with the gubernatorial election next year. We need a staunch republican in that office to offset the predominantly democrat legislature. It is time to stop the tax and squander mentality of the state government.

    • TaurusPT111

      Mike Miller needs to be fired. That would be a first step.

  7. h20andoil

    “It will never happen.” I disagree. There is a remote possibility. DC has been seeking statehood for years now and the movement is gaining strength.
    The major stalling point has been Republicans see this as a losing political proposition. The closest deal yet was to provide Utah with an extra Representative and withhold DC having Senators. Maryland’s a stones throw from DC. In a one in a million chance, the DC Council could cut a deal with the Maryland General Assembly that permitted Western MD to seek statehood contingent upon DC receiving statehood.
    It puts Congressional Republicans and Democrats on the line because neither would lose in the proposition. Meanwhile, it gives the MGA a face-saving means to rid themselves of an area of the state they clearly despise (see your above arguments).

  8. Eric Dubin

    Defend Rural America is not working towards the creation of the State of Jefferson. The organization focuses on making counties aware of their Constitutional power to control their destiny within existing States. DRA doesn’t actively object to those that work towards the creation of new states such as the State of Jefferson, it’s just that DRA has different ideas. I don’t speak for DRA but I know the founder, and as the Executive Director of in the region within the State of Jefferson, I know what DRA stands for. This is a minor mistake in your article, but it does make me wonder how correctly you have reported on what’s going on Western Maryland. Certain, the editorial position you take (“It won’t happen….”) might shape your reportage.

  9. Newguytoo

    Perhaps the secessionists would care to join West Virginia or Pennsylvania. Then they wouldn’t be constrained from fracking by legislators from Montgomery County, and the tax revenue generated by the oil and gas income would allow those counties to pay their own way.

    • John

      That’s what we are doing.

    • Name

      Actually a lot of us in western Maryland don’t want fracking

  10. abby_adams

    As many have taken your advice on #1 & moved, Barry, who will make up for the lost tax revenues? Numbers 2 & 3 offer no solice either. Stay & complain or stay & fight still involves the removal of $$ from the pockets of taxpayers to be spent how the legislature in Annapolis sees fit. I’ve always thought that if you aren’t part of the solution then you’re part of the problem. But in MD anyone who holds an opposing view is either castigated or treated as a imbecile, yet the State of MD still takes our money. So keep making fun of our fellow citizens in Western MD who object to “taxation without representation” & understand there will be more rumblings by a growing class of middle class MD taxpayers from the Alleghanys to the Atlantic, who painfully understand, like so many former residents have, that we are not welcomed here.

    • TaurusPT111

      Abby, all they want is our money to redistribute. Conservative thought/values is not welcome here. Just look at that poor man who went to the school meeting in Towson, concerned for his kids education. Ask a question they don’t like and you get hauled out, arrested, and face 10 years in jail.

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