Orange rejoins D.C. Council; grateful for his ‘resurrection’

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When the D.C. Democratic State Committee passed him over to temporarily fill a vacant at-large spot on the D.C. Council in January, Vincent B. Orange tuned his ear to the next Sunday’s sermon.

His pastor’s theme, he said, was “get up one more time.”

“My wife said, ‘I think he was talking to you,’ ” said Mr. Orange, who regrouped to win an April 26 special election for the seat.

Mr. Orange, who served as a council member from Ward 5 from 1999 to 2007, celebrated his return to public service before a packed council chamber Tuesday afternoon.

“Team Orange, thanks for the resurrection,” he told supporters, one of many applause-inducing moments during the swearing-in ceremony.

“To God be the glory,” he said. “I am very, very certain that it was divine intervention that allows me to be here, at this time, at this moment, at this season.”

Wendell P. Gardner, an associate D.C. Superior Court judge, administered the oath of office to Mr. Orange, who laid out an ambitious agenda in spirited remarks.

Mr. Orange said the city government must recapture the good will of D.C. residents, the support for budget autonomy and the spirit that had once put it on strong financial footing.

He drew on his personal experience - growing up in poverty before he leveraged a scholarship to a private high school in Colorado to become a lawyer and accountant - to call for tougher education standards.

Mr. Orange, who has opposed tax increases in Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s budget plan for the coming fiscal year, said the city must secure its rightful Medicaid dollars, real estate taxes and unpaid parking tickets.

“We must collect these dollars,” he said.

He also called on government to fight the HIV epidemic, improve literacy and help ex-offenders reconnect with their families and find employment.

Mr. Orange won the at-large seat with more than 28 percent of the vote, staving off Republican Patrick Mara by 2 percentage points and toppling Democratic incumbent Sekou Biddle, who had been appointed to fill the seat left vacant when Kwame R. Brown won the race for council chairman.

With Mr. Brown sitting behind him, Mr. Orange said he was not too happy losing out in January to Mr. Biddle during eleventh-hour negotiations for the temporary appointment to the at-large seat. Mr. Brown defeated Mr. Orange in the 2010 race for council chairman and was considered instrumental in tapping Mr. Biddle for the job.

But Mr. Orange said it was time to bury the hatchet, and Mr. Brown welcomed him to the council, saying he is “no stranger” to the legislative body.

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