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A day after it was reported that Republican lawmakers in West Virginia and Maryland met about incorporating some Maryland counties into the Mountain State, Gov. Jim Justice hosted a broadcast he said was in response to national and other media “calling like crazy” about the issue.

Only two hours later, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called the letters asking for the counties to become part of West Virginia “a game for attention,” saying secession is not really going to happen.

On Thursday, The Baltimore Sun reported that four Maryland state lawmakers sent letters to West Virginia Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hansahw, R-Clay, asking them to consider making Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties in Maryland, all of which border the Eastern Panhandle, part of West Virginia.

Del. Gary Howell, R-Mineral, said he met with Maryland Sen. George Edwards and Delegate Mike McKay in McCoole, Maryland, about three months ago. Edwards, McKay and other Maryland lawmakers traveled to Charleston about a month ago for a four-hour meeting with Howell, Hanshaw and Blair.

Justice organized the Friday morning broadcast specifically to address the request from the four Maryland lawmakers. The event was broadcast on the governor’s YouTube channel and social media. The news conference was not open to members of the media.

“When the national news starts calling like crazy and when all kinds of different news outlets are calling you to say, ‘We’re looking to you to comment,’ then we’ve got to step up to comment,” Justice said. “For those folks in those counties, a total population of 251,617 people, absolutely we would stand here with open arms and welcome each and every one of them.”

Justice and Blair noted West Virginia’s conservative values, making special note of the state’s energy production and their support of gun rights and opposition to abortions.

Hanshaw called the Marylanders’ request “flattering,” saying West Virginians “certainly would be more than accommodating and happy to open our borders and open our arms and our state to our friends elsewhere ... who may wish to see themselves aligned with West Virginia, instead of where they find themselves today.”

During a groundbreaking ceremony for a $150 million remodel of Penn Station, in Baltimore, part of the MARC train system that also serves Martinsburg, West Virginia, Hogan said the attempt to remove the counties from Maryland was a mistake, according to tweets from The Baltimore Sun reporter Hallie Miller, who covered the event.

“I think it’s really just a game for attention,” Hogan said. “I think it was a publicity stunt that worked well, because you guys are going to ask about it. But it’s not really going to happen.”

From a political standpoint, Maryland and West Virginia are opposites, with West Virginia’s executive and legislative branches having Republican supermajorities and Maryland’s government having Democrat supermajorities.

“I understand the frustration being in Western Maryland, sometimes feeling out of step, neglected or forgotten by an increasingly progressive Legislature that doesn’t seem related to some of the folks out in rural areas,” Hogan said. “But I don’t think [leaving Maryland is] the way to go to about it.”

Lacie Pierson covers politics. She can be reached at 304-348-1723 or lacie Follow @laciepierson on Twitter.

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