Should DC ditch its efforts for statehood and instead become part of Maryland? Local commercial real-estate executive David Krucoff has spent years pushing what’s known as “retrocession,” a plan in which most of the city—excluding monuments and federal buildings—would become a different DC: Douglass County, Maryland (after Frederick Douglass).
In 2016, Krucoff created a nonprofit to advocate for retrocession, and since then he’s met with a whopping 30 of the city’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. He acknowledges he hasn’t persuaded any local politicians yet, but he’s planning to ramp up his advocacy after the November elections. He’s even mulling a congressional run in 2020 against the District’s longtime nonvoting representative on Capitol Hill, Eleanor Holmes Norton, a leading supporter of independent statehood.
Krucoff is certainly passionate about his plan. When we met up with him recently after he made his case at an ANC meeting at St. Elizabeths Hospital, he sounded intense—even irritated—at times during the conversation, as if tired of waiting for everyone else to catch up to his idea’s obvious logic. Skeptics are “not going to ignore it anymore,” he said, “because my organization is here, and I’m here, and I speak well, and I speak loud.”
Retrocession does have advantages. It would give voters full representation in Congress, of course, and end the federal government’s oversight of DC. It would also placate Republicans who oppose statehood because it would create an additional blue state. Plus it would allow DC residents to join a state that already has institutions such as a research university.
On the other hand, Marylanders don’t seem keen to take on DC’s issues—just 28 percent supported the idea in a 2016 poll—and for Democrats, adding seats to Congress is a fundamental part of the appeal.
A native of the District, Krucoff remembers supporting the statehood movement when he was a teenager. But he came to believe that independent statehood just wasn’t realistic. “Fifty stars on the flag is a beautiful thing. It’s not changing, okay? If we can understand that, we can have a congressperson.”
Krucoff is an Independent who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and he sees retrocession as a “radical centrist platform” that could bring people together. “I want to change the world,” he said. “I’m serious. This can be the start of reaching across party lines. It can be the front of the march to sensible politics.” Then again, when former Republican representative Jason Chaffetz raised the idea last year, Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings dismissed it as “a frivolous proposal.” Apparently, Krucoff still has work to do.
This article appears in the November 2018 issue of Washingtonian.