- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Voters in the District overwhelmingly embraced a measure calling for a formal request for statehood and ushered in a couple of new faces — and a few familiar ones — onto the D.C. Council in Tuesday’s general elections.

With 81 of 143 precincts reporting, 161,933 D.C. residents (86 precent) voted for the statehood referendum, which calls for changing the name of the District of Columbia to New Columbia, Douglass Commonwealth. And 25,572 voters (14 percent) voted against the measure.

“We need [congressional] representation,” said 53-year-old bus driver Andre Williams, who voted for statehood.

The referendum’s aim is to demonstrate to Congress the depth and breadth of support that D.C. residents have for statehood. But even with voter approval, the possibility of the city becoming a state with voting representation in Congress is a long way off. City officials will have to lobby Congress, which would ultimately grant the District statehood.

But that’s far from a lock as Republican members consistently have spoken out against D.C. statehood and Democratic politicians, even those who have offered support for the cause, see it as a relatively low priority.

A general election ballot measure approving the legalization of marijuana in 2014 garnered almost 65 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, Democratic council members Jack Evans and Brandon Todd faced no opposition in their re-election bids. Mr. Evans has represented Ward 2 since 1991, and Mr. Todd has represented Ward 4 since 2015, after he won a special election to complete the legislative term of Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Also running unopposed was Democratic newcomer Trayon White in Ward 8. The former school board member defeated the incumbent, LaRuby May, in the June primary.

In the at-large contest, independent council member David Grosso won his re-election bid with 26 percent of the vote, and interim member Robert White won his election with 52 percent of the vote. Mr. Grosso has been an at-large member since 2013. In June’s Democratic primary, Mr. White defeated the incumbent, Vincent Orange, who resigned his seat in August to become the president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce. The D.C. Democratic Committee appointed Mr. White in September to complete Mr. Orange’s legislative turn.

Both Mr. Grosso and Mr. White faced competition from Carolina Celnik, a Republican; Matthew Klokel, a Libertarian; John C. Cheeks, an independent; and G. Lee Aikin, a Green Party candidate.

In the only other contested council race, Vincent Gray won his election with 87 percent of the vote in Ward 7, which he had represented from 2005 to 2007 before becoming council chairman and then mayor. Mr. Gray defeated the incumbent (and his former protege), Yvette Alexander, in June’s Democratic primary. He easily held off challenges Tuesday night from independent candidates Gary Butler and Christian Carter.

Mr. Gray lost his mayoral re-election bid to Miss Bowser in the 2014 Democratic primary, while he was under a cloud of suspicion amid a federal investigation of his 2010 campaign for mayor. Federal prosecutors announced in December the end of the investigation without charging Mr. Gray, even though a dozen of his associates were convicted as a result of the probe.

Some see Mr. Gray’s return to the political arena as an attempt at redemption and another shot at the mayorship in two years. He has said he’s heard from a lot of residents pushing him to run in 2018 and that he’s not ruling it out.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting congressional representative, won her 13th term Tuesday night with no opposition. The Democrat has held the seat since 1992.

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