Terri Sewell

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Terri Sewell
Terri Sewell alt official portrait.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 7th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2011
Preceded byArtur Davis
Personal details
Born
Terrycina Andrea Sewell

(1965-01-01) January 1, 1965 (age 57)
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse
Theodore Dixie
(divorced)
RelationsBriana Sewell (cousin)
EducationPrinceton University (AB)
St Hilda's College, Oxford (MA)
Harvard University (JD)
WebsiteHouse website

Terrycina Andrea "Terri" Sewell (/ˈsjəl/; born January 1, 1965)[1][2] is an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, she has served since 2011 as the U.S. representative for Alabama's 7th congressional district, which includes most of the Black Belt, as well as most of the predominantly black portions of Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Montgomery.

A native of Selma, Sewell studied at Princeton University, Harvard Law School, and St Hilda's College at the University of Oxford. Before entering politics, she was a securities lawyer for Davis Polk & Wardwell and a public finance lawyer for Maynard, Cooper & Gale, where she was the first black woman to make partner. She is the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Alabama and, along with Republican Martha Roby,[3] was one of the first women elected to Congress from Alabama in a regular election.[4] Sewell has been the only Democrat in Alabama's House delegation during her entire term in office, and apart from Doug Jones's tenure as a U.S. senator from 2018 to 2021, she has also been the state's only congressional Democrat.

Early life and education[edit]

Terri Sewell was born in Huntsville, Alabama,[5] to Andrew A. Sewell, a former high school basketball coach, and Nancy Gardner Sewell, a retired high school librarian and former Selma city council member. Her mother was the first black woman elected to Selma's city council.[6]

As a child, Sewell wanted to be a star on Broadway. Because her mother had hoped for her to become a lawyer, Sewell joined the debate team in high school.[6] She was the first black valedictorian of Selma High School.[6][7]

After graduating from high school, Sewell went to Princeton University. She was the first Selma High School graduate to attend an Ivy League school. She was recruited to attend Princeton by Julian L. McPhillips, who read about her in the local Selma newspaper.[7] At Princeton, she befriended Michelle Obama, who served as what Sewell called her "big sister" on campus.[6] Sewell completed a 158-page long senior thesis, "Black Women in Politics: Our Time Has Come".[8] During her time at Princeton, she interned with Richard Shelby and Howell Heflin.[7]

After graduating from Princeton in 1986, Sewell attended Oxford University where she was a Marshall Scholar.[6] It was there that she befriended Susan Rice.[6] Her master's thesis, on the election of the first black members of the British parliament, was later published as a book, Black Tribunes: Race and Representation in British Politics (1993).[9] Sewell graduated from Oxford with a degree in political science in 1988.[5][7] She attended Harvard Law School for her J.D. degree, which she completed in 1992. There she overlapped with and was friends with Barack Obama, who became a lifelong friend and influenced Sewell's decision to enter politics.[6]

Early career[edit]

After graduation, Sewell served as a judicial law clerk in Birmingham, Alabama, to Chief Judge U. W. Clemon,[10] In New York, she worked at Davis Polk & Wardwell, alongside Kirsten Gillibrand, starting in 1994.[6][7]

Sewell returned to Alabama in 2004[7] due to her father's health problems.[6] She worked for another law firm, Maynard, Cooper & Gale PC, where she was the first black woman partner at the firm.[7] She was a public finance lawyer.[5]

In 2007, Sewell was at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, where she is a member, when then Senator Barack Obama spoke during the 2008 United States presidential election. Sewell credits Obama's speech (in which he asked "[t]he questions that I have today is, what’s called of us in this Joshua generation? What do we do in order to fulfill that legacy, to fulfill the obligations and the debt that we owe to those who allowed us to be here today?") as the catalyst for her serving in politics. Weeks after his speech, Gillibrand called Sewell, recruiting Sewell to run for office.[6]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Elections[edit]

2010[edit]

After four-term Democratic incumbent Artur Davis gave up the seat to run for governor, Sewell entered the Democratic primary—the real contest in this majority Democratic, majority-black district. She finished first in the four-way primary with 36.8% of the vote.[11] In the runoff, she defeated Jefferson County commissioner Sheila Smoot with 55% of the vote.[12][13]

In the general election, Sewell defeated Republican opponent Don Chamberlain with 72.4% of the vote.[14]

2012[edit]

Sewell was the only candidate to file for the Democratic nomination in 2012, and defeated Chamberlain again in the general election.[15][16] She has not had a Republican opponent since.

2014[edit]

Sewell was challenged in the Democratic primary by Tamara Harris Johnson, a former Birmingham City Attorney. She defeated Johnson with 83.9% of the vote, effectively clinching a third term.[citation needed]

2016[edit]

Sewell won a fourth term against a write-in opponent.[citation needed]

2018[edit]

Sewell won a fifth term against a write-in opponent.[citation needed]

2020[edit]

Sewell won a sixth term against a write-in opponent.[citation needed]

2022[edit]

Sewell is running for reelection in 2022.[17]

Tenure[edit]

Sewell and then former vice president Joe Biden in 2020
Sewell and U.S. Senator Doug Jones in January 2018

For the 114th United States Congress, Sewell was ranked as the 94th most bipartisan member of the House (and the most bipartisan member of the House from Alabama) in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy, which ranks members of Congress by their degree of bipartisanship (by measuring how often each member's bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party and each member co-sponsors bills by members of the opposite party).[18] Sewell has established herself as a liberal with a focus on job creation, and arguably has the most left-wing voting record of any person to represent Alabama in Congress.[19] She is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.[20]

In January 2020, Sewell endorsed Joe Biden for president.[21]

As of October 2021, Sewell had voted in line with Biden's stated position 100% of the time.[22]

Political positions[edit]

Abortion and women's issues[edit]

Sewell supports abortion rights.[23] Sewell opposed the Human Life Protection Act, which went into effect in 2019. She described the bill as "both blatantly unconstitutional and a brazen, extremist attack on women’s rights."[24] She also opposed the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade, calling it "devastating" and expressing concern that "state legislatures across the country will now begin racing to criminalize reproductive health care."[25]

In 2013, Sewell voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.[26]

Economic issues[edit]

Sewell is a proponent of a $15 minimum wage.[27]

In 2019, she voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, an act to address the gender pay gap.[28]

Sewell supports tariffs on countries involved in currency manipulation. She voted for the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act 2010.[29]

Sewell supported Obama's plan to extend tax cuts for low- and middle-income Americans, but declined to discuss her stance on taxation for high-income Americans.[30] In response to Obama's Framework for Business Tax Reform, Sewell said: "I applaud the President for outlining a bold framework for reforming the U.S. business tax system."[31]

In 2019, Sewell worked with Ivanka Trump to develop policies related to paid parental leave.[27]

Sewell wants to see the Military Widow's Tax eliminated.[32]

Sewell has voted against work requirements for welfare recipients.[33]

Voting rights[edit]

Terri Sewell with John Lewis and Frederick D. Reese in 2016

In 2019, Sewell sponsored the Voting Rights Advancement Act (which later became the John Lewis Voting Rights Act), which would update the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by providing increased oversight of voting changes, updating the pre-clearance formula to oversee contemporary discrimination patterns, and expanding the Attorney General's power to send federal observers to jurisdictions in areas at risk of voting discrimination.[34] In 2019, Sewell co-sponsored the For the People Act of 2019.[28]

Education[edit]

Sewell co-sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act in 2013 which, if enacted, would have protected LGBT students from anti-gay bullying and discrimination in public schools.[26]

In 2019, she sponsored a bill, which passed, granting historically black colleges $70 million for capital improvements and to support their educational work.[35]

Energy policy[edit]

Sewell opposes offshore drilling and opposes allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.[36]

Foreign policy[edit]

Sewell supported Obama's decisions on Afghanistan, citing "trust" of his policies.[30] She was part of a bipartisan delegation that accompanied Nancy Pelosi on a two-day trip to Afghanistan in May 2012. While there, they spent time "with American service-members and meeting local officials to discuss security and women's issues."[37]

Sewell opposed removing armed forces from Afghanistan in 2011.[38]

Government reform[edit]

Sewell co-sponsored the STOCK Act in 2011 and the DISCLOSE Act in 2012. The same year, she also co-sponsored the SIMPLE Voting Act, to require a minimum of 15 days of nationwide early voting.[39]

Gun policy[edit]

In 2019, Sewell voted for the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, requiring background checks on anyone seeking to buy a firearm.[28]

Health care[edit]

Sewell voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). She supports Medicaid expansion and offering incentives for states to do so. She is currently sponsoring bills to lower prescription drug costs, expand funding for rural hospitals, and to support more health studies on African American health disparities.[27]

In March 2021, Sewell voted for the American Rescue Plan, which included $475 million in funding for Sewell's district including vaccination support, city employee overtime pay, and hazard pay for COVID-19 response work.[40]

Homeland security[edit]

Sewell supported extending the PATRIOT Act's wiretapping.[41] She voted against funding to support Trump's wall.[42]

Kay Ivey[edit]

When Alabama governor Kay Ivey shared that she had performed in a college skit in blackface, Sewell called Ivey's actions "reprehensible" and "deeply offensive", adding that "racism – in any of its forms – is never acceptable, not in the 1960s and not now."[43]

Impeachments of Donald Trump[edit]

In both the first and second impeachments of Donald Trump, Sewell voted in favor of articles of impeachment against Trump, the only representative from Alabama to do so.[44][45]

Committee assignments[edit]

Sewell serves on the following House committees:[46]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Electoral history[edit]

Alabama's 7th congressional district Democratic primary, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell 31,531 36.8
Democratic Sheila Smoot 24,490 28.6
Democratic Earl Hilliard Jr. 22,981 26.8
Democratic Martha Bozeman 6,672 7.8
Total votes 65,674 100.0
Alabama's 7th congressional district Democratic primary runoff, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell 32,366 55.0
Democratic Shelia Smoot 26,481 45.0
Total votes 58,847 100.0
Alabama's 7th congressional district election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell 136,696 72.5
Republican Don Chamberlain 51,890 27.5
Total votes 188,586 100.0
Democratic hold
Alabama's 7th congressional district election, 2012
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell (incumbent) 232,520 75.8
Republican Don Chamberlain 73,835 24.1
Write-in 203 0.1
Total votes 306,558 100.0
Democratic hold
Alabama's 7th congressional district Democratic primary, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell (incumbent) 74,953 83.9
Democratic Tamara Harris Johnson 14,374 16.1
Total votes 89,327 100.0
Alabama's 7th congressional district election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell (incumbent) 133,687 98.4
Write-in 2,212 1.6
Total votes 135,899 100.0
Democratic hold
Alabama's 7th congressional district election, 2016
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell (incumbent) 229,330 98.4
Write-in 3,698 1.6
Total votes 233,028 100.0
Democratic hold
Alabama's 7th congressional district election, 2018
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell (incumbent) 185,010 97.8
Write-in 4,153 2.2
Total votes 189,163 100.0
Democratic hold
Alabama's 7th congressional district, 2020
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Terri Sewell (incumbent) 225,742 97.2
Write-in 6,589 2.8
Total votes 232,331 100.0
Democratic hold

Personal life[edit]

In 1998, Sewell married Theodore Dixie of Huntsville, Alabama.[48] They are divorced.

Sewell is a lifetime member of Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama.[49]

She is the cousin of Briana Sewell, a delegate in the Virginia House of Delegates.[50]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Terrycina Andrea Sewell - $1,802,819 raised, '10 election cycle, Alabama (AL), Democratic Party, Congress". Campaignmoney.com. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  2. ^ "New Members 2010 - Alabama - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill". TheHill.com. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  3. ^ "Black Lawmakers Break New Ground, Suffer Losses | Madame Noire | Black Women's Lifestyle Guide | Black Hair | Black Love". Atlantapost.com. November 3, 2010. Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  4. ^ Elizabeth B. Andrews was elected to fill an unexpired term in the House, while Senators Dixie Bibb Graves and Maryon Pittman Allen were appointed and never elected.
  5. ^ a b c "The Honorable Terri A. Sewell's Biography". The HistoryMakers. Archived from the original on January 15, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Thompson, Krissah (March 1, 2015). "Rep. Terri Sewell, a daughter of Selma, rues her city's lost promise". Washington Post.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Che, Erica. "Sewell '86 launches historic campaign for Congress". The Daily Princetonian. Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  8. ^ Sewell, Terrycina Andrea (1986). Black Women in Politics: Our Time Has Come (Senior thesis). Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University.
  9. ^ Gulden, Erin (May 2008). "Selma Bound". Alabama Super Lawyers. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  10. ^ "U. W. Clemon". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  11. ^ "AL - District 07 - D Primary Race - Jun 01, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  12. ^ "AL District 07 - D Runoff Race - Jul 13, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  13. ^ Sonmez, Felicia (July 13, 2010). "Robert Bentley clinches Republican nod for governor in Alabama". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 22, 2010.
  14. ^ "AL - District 07 Race - Nov 02, 2010". Our Campaigns. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  15. ^ Dean, Charles J. (January 13, 2012). "U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell uncontested in Democratic primary". The Birmingham News. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  16. ^ "Alabama Secretary of State "Official Election Results, 2012 General Election"" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 21, 2013.
  17. ^ Cason, Mike (March 24, 2021). "Rep. Terri Sewell won't run for Alabama Senate seat, aims to stay in U.S. House". AL.com. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  18. ^ The Lugar Center - McCourt School Bipartisan Index (PDF), The Lugar Center, March 7, 2016, retrieved April 30, 2017
  19. ^ "Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.)". Who Runs Gov. The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 28, 2013. Retrieved June 26, 2012.
  20. ^ "Membership". Congressional Black Caucus. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  21. ^ "Rep. Terri Sewell Endorses Joe Biden for President". The Birmingham Times. January 23, 2020. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  22. ^ Bycoffe, Anna Wiederkehr and Aaron (October 22, 2021). "Does Your Member Of Congress Vote With Or Against Biden?". FiveThirtyEight. Retrieved October 27, 2021.
  23. ^ "Terri Sewell on Abortion". On the Issues. June 24, 2019. Archived from the original on June 24, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  24. ^ "ACLU says it will sue Ala. again, others react to passage of abortion bill". WBRC. Archived from the original on May 15, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  25. ^ Sewell, Terri (June 24, 2022). "Today marks a dark day for women's reproductive rights in the United States. With this devastating decision, SCOTUS has reversed nearly 50 years of legal precedent and stripped away a woman's right to make her own decisions about deeply personal health care matters". Twitter. Retrieved June 25, 2022.
  26. ^ a b "Terri Sewell on Civil Rights". On the Issues. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  27. ^ a b c Boykina, Teresa (June 6, 2019). "Sewell addresses issues at town hall - The Demopolis Times". The Demopolis Times. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  28. ^ a b c Powell, Adam (December 30, 2019). "Sewell on front lines for explosive year in Washington - The Selma Times‑Journal". The Selma Times‑Journal. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  29. ^ "Terri Sewell on Free Trade". On the Issues. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  30. ^ a b "On The Issues". Who Runs Gov. The Washington Post. Archived from the original on April 28, 2013. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  31. ^ "Statement From Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell on President Obama's Framework for Business Tax Reform". House Press Release. Archived from the original on September 16, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  32. ^ Moseley, Brandon (September 20, 2019). "Sewell hopeful Congress will eliminate widow's tax in this year's NDAA". Alabama Political Reporter. Archived from the original on September 21, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  33. ^ "Terri Sewell on Welfare & Poverty". On the Issues. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  34. ^ Pilkingtonin, Ed (February 25, 2019). "'We should be outraged': Alabama congresswoman tackles voter suppression". The Guardian. Archived from the original on December 24, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  35. ^ "Terri Sewell successful in securing critical HBCU funding". Alabama Today. June 19, 2019. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  36. ^ "Terri Sewell on Energy & Oil". On the Issues. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  37. ^ Mali, Meghashyam (May 13, 2012). "Pelosi leads delegation on Afghanistan visit". The Hill's Global Affairs. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  38. ^ "Terri Sewell on War & Peace". OnTheIssues. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  39. ^ "Terri Sewell on Government Reform". On the Issues. June 23, 2019. Archived from the original on June 23, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  40. ^ Moseley, Brandon (March 1, 2021). "Sewell votes in favor of American Rescue Plan coronavirus relief bill". Alabama Political Reporter. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  41. ^ "Terri Sewell on Homeland Security". On the Issues. Archived from the original on August 20, 2016. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  42. ^ "Check out Representative Terri Sewell's Environmental Voting Record". League of Conservation Voters Scorecard. July 3, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  43. ^ Moseley, Brandon (August 30, 2019). "Sewell reacts to Ivey's blackface revelation". Alabama Political Reporter. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  44. ^ Panetta, Grace. "WHIP COUNT: Here's which members of the House voted for and against impeaching Trump". Business Insider.
  45. ^ "Alabama lawmakers react to Trump's historic second impeachment". CBS 42. January 13, 2021. Retrieved November 21, 2021.
  46. ^ a b c d "Committees & Caucuses". U.S. Congress. December 13, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  47. ^ "Congressional Cement Caucus". www.ciclt.net. Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  48. ^ "Theodore Dixie Jr., Terrycina Sewell". The New York Times. June 21, 1998.
  49. ^ Thompson, Krissah; Harris, Hamil R. (June 20, 2015). "What's the right reaction when a white stranger walks into a black church?". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  50. ^ "Newcomer Briana Sewell comes out on top of 51st District House of Delegates' race". Prince Williams Times. Retrieved November 21, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alabama's 7th congressional district

2011–present
Incumbent
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by United States representatives by seniority
146th
Succeeded by