DC Council members sworn in as leaders vow to continue statehood push

WASHINGTON — During a morning ceremony on the first Monday of the New Year, members of the D.C. Council were formally sworn in to office at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

“It is the day where we celebrate the elections and where we congratulate and welcome our new members,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser.

One of those new members is a familiar face: former D.C. Mayor Vince Gray who lost his race for re-election in 2014 when Bowser defeated him in the Democratic primary amid a federal corruption probe. Late last year, federal prosecutors announced Gray would not face charges, and they were closing the investigation.

Gray made his successful return to politics in November, winning a seat on the council representing Ward 7.

Other members taking the oath of office included at-large council members Robert White and David Grosso along with Trayon White of Ward 8, Brandon Todd of Ward 4 and Ward 2 council member Jack Evans, who has served on the council since 1991.

“I want to say that I have so appreciated getting to know all the council members coming in, said Bowser. “I have worked with most all of them, and I know their passion for the city.”

One issue that was mentioned repeatedly during the ceremony was a ballot referendum seeking D.C. statehood that passed with about 86 percent of the vote. It included a proposed state constitution that would have residents electing a governor, not a mayor, and a 21-seat state legislature instead of a city council. The constitution lays out new borders for the proposed state, with the White House, the Capitol and the National Mall carved out as a separate federal enclave.

“We cast the most pronounced statement for statehood for Washington D.C.,” Bowser said.

Congress must approve the measure, and D.C. leaders have said they will press the case for statehood on a new president and new Congress.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton promised to continue that effort.

“The challenge of the new year presents an opportunity to show we are embarking on that very mandate,” she said.

The new council has its first legislative meeting scheduled for Jan. 10.

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