CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Residents of Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties would cast nonbinding votes on whether to secede from West Virginia under legislation proposed Friday by an Eastern Panhandle lawmaker.
The bill introduced by freshman Delegate Larry Kump seeks to ask voters whether they want to become part of neighboring Virginia.
Stressing its nonbinding nature, the Berkeley County Republican said the measure would provide "some advice and consent on this issue." He cited West Virginia's poor showing in economic rankings.
"Our government is so centralized and so oppressive on economic growth, it affects everybody," said Kump, 62. "In the Eastern Panhandle, we're saying 'Let our people go to find prosperity.'"
The Associated Press sought comment from the presidents of those counties' commissions. Morgan County Commission President Stacy Dugan responded Friday, with incredulity.
"I can't believe that's been introduced," said Dugan, a Democrat. "I think the people of the Eastern Panhandle are true-blue West Virginians, and they're not going to want to go anywhere. We are Mountaineers all the way."
Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, said that while panhandle residents feel mistreated at times by Charleston and joke about seceding, "there are very few people who actually want to do it."
"That is worse than nonsense," Doyle said of the bill. "It comes across to a lot of West Virginians as if people of the Eastern Panhandle are saying, 'We're too good for you, we're better than you.' That's not how we feel."
Kump considers both Dugan and Doyle advocates of the sorts of policies he blames for West Virginia's economic problems. He also disagreed with Doyle's view that those counties would be worse off if they had to deal with Richmond, Va., or for that matter Annapolis, Md.
"Virginia treats its citizens much better" than West Virginia does, Kump said. "Many if not most if not a supermajority of people here are aware of the differences in economic prosperity between here and surrounding states."
The proposed ballot would have voters choose between "for secession from West Virginia to become a part of Virginia," or "against new secession from West Virginia to become a part of provision."
Kump is retired from a career that included turns at public administration, criminal justice, full-time lobbying and counseling sex offenders as a therapist. His campaign blog features links to conservative, libertarian and tea party groups and resources.