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Would-be Secessionists Dream Up the State of Delmarva

Capital News Service
Friday, February 20, 1998

ANNAPOLIS - It would be three times as big as Rhode Island, but with less than half the population. It would have no sales tax and no big-city bureaucrats with their onerous water quality regulations.

And the state insect "quite naturally, would be the mosquito," said Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester, and one of two sponsors of a bill calling for a non-binding vote on Eastern Shore secession.

The 51st state of Delmarva is an idea whose time has come, said Colburn.

It's an idea whose time has come and gone, other elected officials said.

"It might have had support in 1775," said Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville. "How many people are going to take that seriously?"

Clearly, Gilchrest is not.

"Maybe we'll join Montreal. We could all secede," said Gilchrest. "My main role would be in coming up with a new design for the flag."

But Colburn's already beat him to the punch.

He said the new state's flag would be the Bonnie Blue, a lone-star flag flown by West Florida secessionists in 1810 and informally adopted in some form by five states of the Confederacy.

The state tree would be the loblolly pine and the state sport would be baseball.

The new state would not have a sales tax, but the resulting increase in tourist business would more than offset the loss in revenue, Colburn said.

"Look at the small state of Delaware, they do an adequate job" without a sales tax, said Colburn.

The lower two counties of Delaware would be welcome to join the new state, but urbanized Newcastle County would introduce an undesirable big-city element, Colburn said.

"We'd be trading government by the beltway bullies for rule by a government that would be controlled to some degree by Wilmington," he said.

That big-city element is responsible for a Glendening administration plan to fight pfiesteria by controlling fertilizer runoff from farms, he said.

That bill was "the straw that, for me, finally broke the camel's back," said Colburn. So he turned to secession, long a favored response on the Shore to perceived slights by the rest of the state.

Secession is "part of our nation's history and dates back to the American colonies seceding from an oppressive British Empire that was trying to tax and regulate Americans to death," Colburn said in a statement announcing his secession bill.

The bill would put a straw poll for Shore residents on November's ballot. The non-binding results would be forwarded to the General Assembly and Congress for action, if any.

Colburn's bill does not address Delaware's part in a secession movement.

But the First State would hardly relish a new role as an appendage to Maryland's nine Shore counties, said Sheri Woodruff, spokeswoman for Delaware Gov. Thomas R. Carper.

"We wouldn't be joining them, they'd be joining us," she said. "They could make us an offer."

If Delaware joined, Colburn said, the best site for the new capital would be Salisbury. But Dover Mayor James Hutchison begged to differ.

"You'd better come take a look at Dover before you start talking about capitals," he said. Come look at Dover's statehouse and governor's mansion, he said, "and then ask where you want the capital city to be.

"The state of Maryland has always been good neighbors, and we wish them well," said Hutchison.

Easton and Cambridge would be more central locations if Delaware elects not to join the new state, Colburn said.

And if Delaware withholds the "Del" from "Delmarva?" Then Colburn has another state name in mind: Maryland.