A Discussion with Non-partisan DC Candidate for Congress Krucoff:

David vs. the Washington D.C. Voting Goliath

Show notes, transcript and sources

October 20, 2020

Washington, D.C. is a living museum of political stalemates – the recent COVID relief talks, the decades long deadlock on immigration reform, but also the centuries long impasse over voting representation in Congress for D.C. citizens. 

Independent candidate David Krucoff is running for the non-voting D.C. Congress position without much hope of unseating incumbent Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton for her 16th term. Instead, Krucoff seeks to call attention to his non-partisan “retrocession” solution to D.C. disenfranchisement – the creation of Douglass (as in Frederick Douglass) County, Maryland as the new and fully enfranchised home for Washington, D.C. citizens. 

Meanwhile, the Democratic party in D.C. continues to lobby for statehood, having passed a measure in the U.S. House via HR 51 earlier in 2020. And Republicans push back with lip service paid to retrocession, but without the bipartisan appeal of Krucoff’s Douglass County, MD proposal. 

Could David’s retrocession proposal slay the D.C. voting Goliath? Krucoff says he is in it for the long game with the hope of seeing Douglass County, Maryland created before the 2030 census. Tune in to find out how non-partisan candidates and proposals can take on partisan politics in Episode 12 of The Purple Principle.

Transcript

David Krucoff:

Back in 2016, we had a non-ballot referendum1 in the District of Columbia that said, “Hey D.C. voters, would you like to be the 51st state?” That’s kind of like, “Would you like to win the lottery?” 

Robert Pease (Host):

That’s our featured guest today, independent candidate for Congress, David Krucoff.2

David Krucoff:

In addition to running for delegate, which is the Congress position in the District of Columbia, I’m the creator of something called Douglass County, Maryland as the future of the District of Columbia.3

Robert Pease (Host):

Welcome to the Purple Principle, and our episode focused on the longstanding, highly partisan issue of full representation for Washington D.C. citizens. I’m Robert Pease.

 Emily Crocetti (reporter): 

And I’m Emily Crocetti. And it’s often said that democracy is a process without an end.

Robert Pease (Host):

And democracy in our nation’s capital is still very much in process, because the 700,000 residents don’t have a voting representative in Congress, but they pay the highest federal taxes in the nation.4

 Emily Crocetti (reporter): 

Efforts to solve this problem go all the way back to 1801, when Congress first created the District of Columbia.5

Robert Pease (Host):

Our guest David Krucoff thinks the solution to this two century long stalemate is something called retrocession. That means returning D.C. territory and residents to the neighboring states it came, in this case from Virginia and Maryland.6 Various retrocession proposals were made numerous times in the 1800s, mainly involving Virginia in one memorable petition put it this way:

 Emily Crocetti (reporter): 

“Characters differ altogether from those of the citizens of Washington and Georgetown, that we are men of industrious habits, consequently, and capable of cooperating with the vagabonds and speculators in the city.”7 

Robert Pease (Host):

In recent times, both major parties have attempted to solve the problem, but always to their own political advantage. Democrats have brought D.C. statehood up for a vote on the U.S. House floor no less than 12 times.8

 Emily Crocetti (reporter): 

And Republicans proposed some form of retrocession no less than 13 times.9 So, if D.C. disenfranchisement were a movie, it would probably be Groundhog Day. 

[Archival audio collage]

Emily Crocetti (reporter):  

But the recent U.S. House passage of D.C. statehood in HR51 is the first time the proposal has passed either chamber of the U.S. Congress.10

Robert Pease (Host):

But it’s dead on arrival in the Senate. The Republican party will naturally block any proposal likely to add two Democratic senators.

Emily Crocetti (reporter): 

Which is why Krucoff’s nonpartisan, or maybe bipartisan, proposal, that D.C. become Douglass County, named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, could gain traction. 

Robert Pease (Host):

Remember, Washington, D.C. is nearly 50% African American and something like 90% Democratic party members.

Emily Crocetti (reporter): 

Let’s get to know Independent candidate Krucoff and his thinking about this two century long partisan battle.

David Krucoff:

There was a predecessor group of which I was part called the Committee for the Capital City.11 And their founder, Larry Morrell, said to me, “you know, we should just call it Douglass County, Maryland.” I snapped my fingers, and I said, that’s it. 

Robert Pease (Host):

And that’s a reference to Frederick Douglass?

David Krucoff:

Yeah, so Frederick Douglass was born a slave on the eastern shore of Maryland. He died a second-class citizen, not by nature of his color, but by nature of his residency in D.C., on Cedar Hill in Anacostia.12 He was a prominent Washingtonian and obviously a fantastic abolitionist and an incredible speaker and writer. And the initials of Douglass County are obviously D.C. So it’s a no brainer, and he’s prominent in the city.

Robert Pease (Host):

So David, how long have you been registered as an independent? 

David Krucoff:

I grew up in the District of Columbia. I was a resident of Maryland for a while. I moved back into D.C. about three years ago. And I registered as an independent then because I basically grew up as a D, became an R, and now I’m an I. So, my progression to non-partisanship and reform has developed over time. 

Robert Pease (Host):

And what would you say are the advantages of running as an independent or an I in D.C.?

David Krucoff:

It’s a very divisive time. And my thought would be to expose ourselves to the electorate for as long as possible by running as an I. And also the fact that our campaign doesn’t really care for the partisanship. In fact, we are sort of purposely nonpartisan and reformist, and we believe that the non-voting delegate position from the District of Columbia is the ideal platform from which to espouse reform, provided that the person in that position is unaffiliated with one of the major parties, and that’s who we are. 

Robert Pease (Host):

We have the color purple in common. You’ve decided to call your campaign the Purple New Deal. Tell us how you decided to brand the campaign with purple.13

David Krucoff:

I’m part of the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers14 and many nonpartisans embrace purple as a mixture of red and blue, red being from one of the major parties and blue being for the other, to sort of say that they’re not one or the other, but something that is maybe good from both. So we branded our campaign the Purple New Deal.

Robert Pease (Host):

So if the current polling is accurate, and it may not be, Democrats could control both chambers and the White House in 2021 and then push through statehood, so more Republicans have made some positive noises about retrocession.15 Does that make it more difficult for you to be viewed as kind of nonpartisan and independent? Are there Democrats who say you must be working for the Republicans?

David Krucoff:

Yeah. I mean, when I first created Douglass County, Maryland, it was accused of being Republican-funded when actually it came out of my bank account. And then I was called, I’m still called, like a Jim Crow, by one gentleman on Twitter. But for the most part that does not prevail. For the most part, people are happy that someone is putting forward a position that is not partisan, and that is solution-based, and has basically geared his or her whole campaign on solution solving, on problem solving.

Robert Pease (Host):

So the other factor obviously big for any campaign is COVID. How is that making this more difficult for you?

David Krucoff:

It’s very difficult. I mean, we can’t have events that we would have, we would have tons of events. We would have fundraisers, we would have cocktail parties, we would do things that are out there. And now we are manufacturing things that are very poor substitutes. So it’s difficult. And it’s difficult for anybody who’s challenging the power structure, and we are really challenging the thought police, the whole power structure of the District of Columbia, even the state of Maryland. And frankly, the nation in some ways, because the duopoly loves not being challenged.

Robert Pease (Host):

How about volunteers? Is it difficult getting volunteers in a city that’s so overwhelmingly one party, in this case Democrat?

David Krucoff:

Yes, no question. It’s difficult. There’s an agency of the District of Columbia, which purely just advertises for D.C. to be the 51st state. I mean the mayor has four full-time employees that just advocate and just advertise D.C. 51st statehood.16 I mean, it’s kind of crazy. It’s not really – in my humble opinion – it’s not about success. It’s about incumbency. Like, you can get all excited about it, but to what end?

Robert Pease (Host):

That’s our featured guest today, David Krucoff. He’s running for D.C. congressional delegate as an independent.

 Emily Crocetti (reporter):  

Without much hope of winning, but rather to call attention to his less partisan solution to the D.C. dilemma: the transformation of D.C. into Douglass County, Maryland giving D.C. residents a vote in Congress for the first time.

Robert Pease (Host):

And this may seem like a strange proposal, but the historical context here is pretty strange. For example, it wasn’t until 1871 that a municipal government was finally established in Washington.17

 Emily Crocetti (reporter):  

And It wasn’t until the 23rd amendment in 1961 that D.C. residents were given any say in presidential elections.18

Robert Pease (Host):

And not until 1971 that D.C. was granted that delegate seat in Congress.19

 Emily Crocetti (reporter):  

But a non-voting seat, and it’s currently held by the incumbent Democratic candidate, 85 year old Eleanor Holmes Norton.20

Robert Pease (Host):

That’s the incumbent and frontrunner who David Krucoff is running against. So with that in mind, let’s hear what he has to say about his prospects for the Douglass County, Maryland solution, or any solution to the D.C. dilemma.

David Krucoff:

So, D.C. is disenfranchised not entirely by the Constitution. It’s more disenfranchised by something called the Organic Act of 1801.21 The Organic Act of 1801 can be diminished or shrunk. At the monumental core, the District of Columbia can remain the District of Columbia. And the rest can either be Douglass County, Maryland, which is a branding which we created, or a Douglass Commonwealth, which is a branding that the power structure in town started using. So, for us to be the 51st state, we’d have to have an Act of Congress. If the Democrats were to control the House, the Senate, and the presidency, and were somehow to change the rules of cloture in the Senate, then potentially the 51st state could be created.22 We like to say that so long as our advocacy for complete voting rights is partisan in its foundation, it will fail. That’s what we believe. 

Robert Pease (Host):

Alright then, from the state of Maryland perspective, what needs to happen for them to allow a new county?

David Krucoff:

So the precedent of Arlington County, Virginia – which was all Alexandria back in the 1840s – is that an act of Congress was created that shrunk the Organic Act to become part of Virginia. Then the folks in Alexandria accepted it, backed by referendum, and the people in Alexandria County around that time accepted it, backed by referendum. It went to the House of Delegates in Richmond, which accepted it back. It was signed by the governor of Virginia, and then it was signed by President Polk.23 So presumably a similar process would occur for the creation of Douglass County, Maryland. And we believe that this will occur prior to the 2030 census.

Robert Pease (Host):

Oh, I see. So it’s really ironic that you have all of these senators and congressional members living in D.C. You would think they might be more seriously involved at some point.

David Krucoff:

Republicans don’t have the guts yet to provide a middle ground solution. The Democrats are totally interested in doing their HR1 and HR51, and what’s left in the middle is just more than 700,000 of us in the District of Columbia just being screwed. 

Robert Pease (Host):

Well, we do live in such a partisan age. Do you have any fears if the Democrats do push through statehood, that the Republicans would just repeal it at the first chance?

David Krucoff:

I don’t think that I see D.C. becoming the 51st state and then having the statehood removed, unless it’s through the courts. So I have concerns about D.C. being the 51st state because we’re already going broke in the District of Columbia, and we’re looking at it, and it would significantly enhance costs if we’re the 51st state, so we’re in trouble.24 So, I’m also concerned about the country, right? The action of us being the 51st state is obviously an action designed for the creation of two more Democratic senators. I think that the whole situation is destabilizing. I asked that we get together, that we unify, work forward for democracy. And as a passionate pragmatist,in a passionately pragmatic way. And we do this by creating Douglass County, Maryland, we save money, we create economies of scale, we solve problems.

Robert Pease (Host):

Well, it seems like statehood has been in this kind of promising position before, for example when Obama was president and they had the 60 votes in the Senate.25 

David Krucoff:

We just know that the Democrats appear more angry than ever. We also know that the Republicans are appearing more duplicitous than ever. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a pioneering figure and adored by Democrats, and by women in particular. And, you know, Donald Trump is somebody who is norm breaking to say the least. So we see that the Democrats are saying that all bets are off, and they could eliminate the filibuster.26 Now I think that that would be a mistake for the country. Not necessarily the filibuster per se, but the action now to bring in D.C. and Puerto Rico. And then we could see a response to have Texas break into two. All sorts of destabilizing things for the country, which is a path that I don’t think we should go down. I am hopeful that we won’t go down that path.

Robert Pease (Host):

That was our featured guest today, David Krucoff, independent candidate for D.C. congressional delegate.

 Emily Crocetti (reporter): 

He’s advocating for Douglass County, Maryland retrocession as a less partisan way to break up this political stalemate.

Robert Pease (Host):

And any partisan solution focused on D.C. voters could reverberate throughout the nation.

Emily Crocetti (reporter): 

And that’s in part due to the lack of a political center, as former three-term Congressman Jason Altmire told us in an earlier episode.

[Previously recorded audio, Jason Altmire]

It’s all about the way we handle elections in this country. One of the questions I get asked most often when I speak around the country about these issues is, “Why is there so much partisanship in Washington? We don’t see that in our neighborhood. Why is that what we’re getting in Congress?” Well, the answer is, because we’re electing partisans.

Robert Pease (Host):

We’ll be checking back on the D.C. issue after the 2020 election. 

Emily Crocetti (reporter): 

But next episode, we head to Alaska, our nation’s most independent state.

Robert Pease (Host):

Where a 2020 ballot proposal targets the partisanship just described by former Pennsylvania Rep Jason Altmire. Polarized politics creating stalemates nationwide.

Emily Crocetti (reporter): 

Alaska ballot question two proposes opening primaries to non-partisans and independents, as well as creating ranked choice voting.

Robert Pease (Host):

And with greater campaign finance transparency, all this with one check of the ballot box. Our featured guest will be the campaign manager for Alaskans for Better Elections, Shea Siegert.

Shea Siegert:

We can’t make this ballot measure about a certain party. We can’t make this about a certain politician, because it’s simply not. Its genesis was, how are we going to provide the best election system to the Alaska voter? How are we going to provide Alaska voters with the most voice, the most choice, and the most power? And we found that open primaries and ranked choice voting and financial disclosure was that way. 

Robert Pease (Host):

Join us on the Purple Principle as we investigate these questions: how did we get so incredibly partisan? How could we get less partisan? And can independent-minded Americans help break through stalemates in our polarized capital, in the great state of Alaska, and points in between? 

This is Robert Pease for the Purple Principal team. Emily Crocetti, staff reporter; Kevin A. Kline, audio engineer; Janice Murphy, marketing and outreach; Emily Holloway, research and fact-checking. All music on today’s episode was composed and created by Ryan Adair Rooney. Here’s more info and connectivity via social media and our website, purpleprinciple.com.

Source Notes

1Douglass County, Maryland 

2David Krucoff for Congress

32016 Referendum for D.C. Statehood

4Katherine Loughead (1/23/19), “How High are State and Local Tax Collections in Your State?” Tax Foundation. 

5“Washington, D.C. History.” D.C. History Center.

6Mark David Richards (2004). “The Debates Over the Retrocession of the District of Columbia, 1801-2004.” Washington History.

7Young vs. Bank of Virginia, United States Supreme Court Reports, Volume 2, Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Company, 1882, p.655.

8“New Columbia Admission Act”; “Washington, D.C. Admission Act”, U.S. Congress (1983-2019).

9“District of Columbia Self-Government Act”; “District of Columbia Retrocession Act”; “District of Columbia-Maryland Reunion Act”, U.S. Congress (1973-2013)

10H.R.51: Washington, D.C. Admission Act (6/26/20), U.S. Congress.

11District of Columbia Appropriations for 1998. “Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations”, House of Representatives, 105th Congress, First Session, p. 904.

12“Cedar Hill: Frederick Douglass’ Home in Anacostia.” National Parks Service.

13“David Krucoff.” Ballotpedia.

14National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers 

15Mikaela Lefrak (10/8/20). “Republicans introduce three bills to block D.C. statehood.” DCist.

16New Columbia Statehood Commission 

17“An Act to Provide a Government for the District of Columbia” (2/21/1871). 41st Congress.

18The 23rd Amendment

19“Section 1-401: Delegate to the House of Representatives from the District of Columbia.” Code of the District of Columbia. 

20Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

21“The Organic Act”. National Archives.

22Haley Talbot and Julie Tsirkin (7/1/20). “D.C. statehood proponents pin their hopes on Democratic-controlled Senate.” NBC News.

23Richard Brownell (7/8/16). “The Alexandria Recession of 1846.” Boundary Stones.

24Alice Rivlin (7/13/09). “If the District of Columbia becomes a State: Fiscal Implications.” 

Brookings Institute; David Schleicher (2014). “Welcome to New Columbia: The Fiscal, Economic and Political Consequences of Statehood for D.C.” Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. Journal. 

25Martin Austermuhle (6/30/09). “Obama pushing for Statehood? That’s News to Us.” WAMU.

26Molly Reynolds (9/9/20). “What is the Senate filibuster, and what would it take to eliminate it?” Brookings Institute. 

1994
2017

In 1986, 34 Democratic and 29 Republican Senators signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, creating a citizenship path for illegal immigrants while making it a Federal crime to employ illegal workers. The House also voted in favor, 238 to 173. The bill was signed into law on November 6, 1986. 

congress.gov

In 1972, 17 Republican Senators joined 35 Democratic Senators to override the Nixon Administration veto of the Clean Water Act, a landmark piece of environmental legislation. The House override vote was 247 to 23, including 96 Republicans and 151 Democrats in the majority.

govtrack.us

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