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David Krucoff, who is running as an independent for D.C. delegate, is an advocate for making DC part of Maryland so the District gets full representation.

David Krucoff would one day like to welcome you to Douglass County, Maryland, which lies — in his vision and on maps he’s made — on land now occupied by the nation’s capital.

Krucoff is a commercial real estate executive and third-generation Washingtonian who imagines a 24th Maryland county created from land reacquired from the District of Columbia, which lacks U.S. senators and a voting member of the U.S. House.

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He says his long-shot plan — it lacks the support of key players — would grant disenfranchised Washington the voting representation in Congress that residents long for.

While the capital is his principal concern, Krucoff says his proposal would represent a big win for Maryland. He likens the acquisition of most of Washington and its 700,000 residents to Maryland being selected for an Amazon headquarters. (Maryland’s bid for the online giant didn’t make it to the final round in 2018.)

Washington has “got a huge economy, we’re really well off, we’re a beautiful place with tons and tons of culture,” said Krucoff, naming Rock Creek Park, Washington National Cathedral, theaters, restaurants, universities and other attractions.

Flags fly at sunset Sept. 15, 2019, in Washington with 51 instead of the usual 50 stars, part of a display in support of statehood for the District of Columbia. Candidate David Krucoff has another idea: turning most of the district into Douglass County, Maryland. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Flags fly at sunset Sept. 15, 2019, in Washington with 51 instead of the usual 50 stars, part of a display in support of statehood for the District of Columbia. Candidate David Krucoff has another idea: turning most of the district into Douglass County, Maryland. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

“And we’re also of a political like mind, for the most part” with Maryland, he said, in that Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans in the District, just as they do in Maryland.

Krucoff, 52, is hoping to tap into Washington’s zeal for voting rights. He filed Tuesday to run as an independent for the district’s nonvoting seat in the House. And he said his No. 1 campaign issue is getting current Washington residents full representation in Congress, using the Douglass County, Maryland, plan.

The district’s latest effort in the direction of full representation was displayed Thursday during a packed House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on Democratic Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s bill to make Washington the nation’s 51st state. Her bill would create a new “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.” Like Krucoff’s proposal, the new entity would honor Frederick Douglass. He was born a slave in Maryland, escaped to freedom and became an abolitionist and newspaper publisher in Washington and New York.

Either proposal would carve out a section of Washington — essentially where the monuments and the National Mall are — to remain under federal control as “the seat of the government of the United States” as directed in the U.S. Constitution.

Krucoff does not oppose the statehood push, saying “51st statehood is much, much better for us than the status quo.”

But, Krucoff said, it’s politically simpler for Washington to share in Maryland’s representation than to create a new state with two new U.S. senators. District voters would likely elect two Democrats to the Senate, a nonstarter for the Republican Party.

“I would argue it [statehood] has not succeeded,” he said.

Krucoff attended Thursday’s hearing wearing a light purple dress shirt he said symbolizes his efforts to unite blue Democrats and red Republicans around a common theme: representation for all.

Norton’s legislation has 220 co-sponsors — more than half the House. They include every Maryland congressman except Rep. Andy Harris, the delegation’s only Republican.

"I have said around the country that one of the greatest blots on our democracy is having 700,000 of our citizens unable to be fully represented in the Congress of the United States,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, the Southern Maryland Democrat, said in a statement submitted at the hearing.

In the Senate — where the Republican leadership is unlikely to consider Norton’s bill — Democratic Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen are co-sponsors of the statehood bill.

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In fact, no lawmaker has come out publicly for Krucoff’s plan, which would require approval in Congress and in Maryland. Based on precedent, Krucoff believes his proposal would need the approval of the General Assembly and of Maryland voters in a statewide referendum.

Norton declined to comment on Krucoff’s proposal, which is formally called “retrocession” because it involves returning a territory to a governmental entity. Maryland gave land on its southern border to create the District.

“Retrocession has no constituency in Maryland or the district,” she wrote earlier this year in a letter to The Washington Post.

Krucoff filed with the Federal Election Commission to run against Norton. He will need to collect 3,000 signatures following the Washington primary in June to get on the ballot.

Krucoff notes the 23rd Amendment specifies how the District participates in the Electoral College vote for president, giving Washington three electors. But he said the amendment language may offer flexibility not to have the electors. Alternatively, he said: “If no one lives in the area, then there is no one to elect the electors in the first place.”

Krucoff said he advised Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of his plan at a reception during a 2018 convention, saying: “I’d like you think about creating Douglass County, Maryland.” The governor smiled and nodded, Krucoff said. Hogan’s office had no comment on the meeting, a spokesman said last week.

Variations of Krucoff’s proposal have a long history.

Virginia, as well as Maryland, donated land along the banks of the Potomac for the federal capital in the 1780s. By 1846, residents of Alexandria had grown irritated over being disfranchised, and political control of that area returned to Virginia. Residents on the other side of the Potomac River, in what had once been Maryland, remained under federal jurisdiction.

In the 1990s, Republicans talked about returning to Maryland most of the district, except for an area that includes Capitol Hill, the White House, the monuments and the federal agencies. And in 1992, the late Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat, said he would welcome the District back to the state. But few in Maryland or the District seemed interested.

District politicians — then and now — overwhelmingly support statehood.

And so for now, Douglass County remains as mythical as Narnia or Middle-earth.

Krucoff is undeterred.

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“This is a long campaign,” he said. “I think there will be movement toward this in due course.”

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