MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDBJ/WHSV) — Two conservative leaders, from different backgrounds but both known for unique press conferences, held one together on Tuesday.
WDBJ7 photo from news conference between Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. (L) and West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R)
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. held a joint news conference Tuesday afternoon in Martinsburg, West Virginia, speaking about the positives of West Virginia and inviting anyone from Virginia who wants to relocate to do so.
The appearance to announce a movement dubbed "Vexit" was at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in West Virginia.
Falwell said he believes policies moving forward in Virginia's General Assembly—after November's elections gave Democrats majority control for the first time in decade—have the potential to move Virginia too far to the left.
West Virginia, on the other hand, has a statehouse and state leadership team firmly controlled by Republicans. Gov. Justice initially came into office as a Democrat, but switched parties at a press conference with President Donald Trump in August 2017, saying Democrats left him behind.
There has been push-back against plans by Virginia's Democratic leadership to pass gun control measures such as universal background checks, a one-handgun-purchase-a-month limit, and red flag laws, as well as plans to repeal abortion restrictions.
That push-back has come in the form of more than 100 localities passing "Second Amendment Sanctuary" resolutions and tens of thousands of people rallying outside the Virginia capitol building in support of gun rights.
Justice said whole counties or anyone from Virginia who feels the same way as Falwell is welcome to move to West Virginia, because he says their state supports the policies of Trump wholeheartedly. He said anyone who wants to make West Virginia their new home won't regret it.
He said West Virginia fully supports the Second Amendment and the unborn and has plenty of resources and faith-based people.
Justice said a long time ago, the infringement of fundamental values is really what created the beginnings of West Virginia, and he says the government of Virginia is probably out of step now too. West Virginia split from the commonwealth of Virginia in 1862 after the majority of voters in northwestern counties of what was then Virginia did not support the commonwealth's decision to secede from the union.
During their press conference, Justice and Falwell acknowledged that the idea is a long shot.
West Virginia is one of just two states that has seen its population decline over the past decade. State leaders have been working in recent years to roll out a range of initiatives to get more people to move to the state.
Justice's press conference on Tuesday followed a recent discussion in the West Virginia Senate in which they extended an invitation to Frederick County, Virginia, to finally take up a standing invitation from the time of the Civil War and leave Virginia for West Virginia.
“In addition to the historical connections between Frederick County and the seven counties of our Eastern Panhandle, there are strong bonds and ties of every kind among the citizens – family, business, education, culture, and commerce. We share common values,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles S. Trump, IV said at the time. “Frederick County’s residents have so much in common with West Virginia that our separation has never made sense. The citizens of Frederick County are champions of freedom and personal liberty, and they would be welcomed with open arms by the citizens of the Mountain State.”
Frederick County politely declined to consider that invitation.
You can watch the Justice and Falwell news conference in the video player above or here.