At a joint news conference on Wednesday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. invited counties in Virginia that are unhappy with the newly-controlled Democrat state government to secede from the state and join West Virginia.
While both conceded that the suggestion is a “long-shot,” it underscores the frustration that southern and western parts of the state feel about the current politics in Virginia.
The pair’s announcement comes months after Democrats took control of the Virginia legislature in November’s election. Coupled with the election of Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam in 2018, Democrats have the most political power than they’ve had in a generation.
Democrats have promised to expand abortion rights and impose gun control measures, which has sparked a conservative backlash in the state. Earlier this month, thousands of gun advocates rallied at the state capitol against gun control measures.
During a Wednesday event at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg, West Virginia, Falwell and Justice said that communities unhappy with Democrat control should consider leaving Virginia and join its neighbor to the west.
“If you’re not truly happy with where you are, we stand with open arms to take you from Virginia or anywhere you may be,” Justice said, according to WSLS-TV in Roanoake, Virginia.
“I’m supporting to give the people whatever they need to make this decision for the state for the counties and cities. I think it makes sense. I would vote for it,” Falwell said, according to WSLS.
Falwell, the son of pastor and televangelist Jerry Falwell Sr., is a lawyer and conservative icon. He’s been the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg since 2007 when he took over for his father.
Though he was a registered Republican, Justice ran for governor as a Democrat in 2016. Less than a year after winning the election, Justice announced he was switching his affiliation to the Republican party.
Prior to 1861, West Virginia was simply part of Virginia. However, with the Civil War brewing, countries in the northwest part of the state sympathized more with the Union and decided to break away and form its own state during the Wheeling Conventions. West Virginia was formally adopted into the Union in 1863.