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
Vice Chair of the United States House Committee on Ways and Means
In office
January 3, 2019 – January 3, 2021
Preceded byBrian Higgins (as Vice Ranking Member)
Succeeded bySuzan DelBene
Personal details
Born
Terrycina Andrea Sewell

(1965-01-01) January 1, 1965 (age 56)
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)
Theodore Dixie
(divorced)
EducationPrinceton University (BA)
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. She is a member of the Democratic Party. She has served as the U.S. Representative since 2011 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 is a graduate of Princeton University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University. Before entering politics, she had been 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 to have been elected to Congress from Alabama and, along with[3] Republican Martha Roby, 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 other than Doug Jones' term as a 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 City Councilwoman in Selma. Her mother was the first black woman elected to the Selma 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 graduate from Selma High School to attend an Ivy League school. She was recruited to attend Princeton by Julian L. McPhillips, who read about Sewell 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, titled "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. It was there where 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 titled, Black Tribunes: Race and Representation in British Politics (1993).[9] She 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. 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 the 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, in Selma, 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 being the catalyst for her serving in politics. Weeks after the Obama speech, Kirsten Gillibrand called Sewell, recruiting Sewell to run for office.[6]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]

Elections[edit]

2010

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 percent of the vote.[11] In the runoff, she defeated Jefferson County commissioner Sheila Smoot with 55 percent of the vote.[12][13]

In the general election, Sewell defeated Republican opponent Don Chamberlain in a landslide, taking 72.4 percent of the vote to become the first black woman elected to Congress from Alabama. The 7th is so strongly Democratic that Sewell essentially clinched her seat by winning the primary.[14]

2012

Sewell was the only candidate to file for the Democratic nomination in 2012, and won the general election over Chamberlain as in 2010.[15][16]

2014

Sewell was challenged in the Democratic primary by Tamara Harris Johnson, a former Birmingham City Attorney. No Republican candidate filed. Sewell defeated Johnson with 83.9% of the primary vote, effectively clinching a third term.

2016

Sewell was again unchallenged by a Republican in the 2016 general election. She easily won a fourth term against a write-in opponent.

2018

Sewell was once again unchallenged by a Republican in the 2018 general election. She easily won a fifth term against a write-in opponent.

2020

Like in 2016 and 2018, Sewell was unchallenged by a Republican in the 2020 general election. She easily won a sixth term against a write-in opponent.

Tenure and political positions[edit]

Sewell and U.S. President Joe Biden in 2020
Sewell and U.S. Senator Doug Jones in January 2018

Since being elected, Sewell has voted with her party 91% of the time. She was a strong supporter of President Obama's policies.[17][18] She has a lifetime rating of 8% from Heritage Action for America for voting for pro-conservative laws.[19] Despite this, for the 114th United States Congress, Sewell was ranked as the 94th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives (and the most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Alabama) in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy that ranks members of the United States Congress by their degree of bipartisanship (by measuring the frequency each member's bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party and each member's co-sponsorship of bills by members of the opposite party).[20] Sewell has established herself as a liberal with a focus on job creation.[21] Sewell is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.[22]

In January 2020, Sewell endorsed Joe Biden for president.[23]

Sewell was appointed as Speaker Pro Tempore, in the absence of Speaker Pelosi, on January 15 2021.[24] Months later, in March 2021, she voted in support of the American Rescue Plan. The plan includes $475 million in funding for Sewell's district including to support vaccinations and to pay city employees for overtime and hazard pay for pandemic response work.[25]

Abortion[edit]

Terri Sewell is pro-choice.[26] As of 2018, she has as 100% rating for her voting record on pro-choice legislation by NARAL.[27] Sewell opposed the Human Life Protection Act, which went into effect in 2019. She described the bill on Twitter as "both blatantly unconstitutional and a brazen, extremist attack on women’s rights."[28]

Civil rights[edit]

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

Sewell has a 79% rating from the ACLU for her pro-civil rights voting record.[29] As of 2015, she is the only representative from Alabama to have a 100% rating from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda for supporting Latino civil rights related legislation.[30] She has a 94% rating from the NAACP for her voting history regarding legislature supporting African Americans.[31]

Sewell has been endorsed by the Feminist Majority in past elections.[32] In 2011, Sewell signed the Equal Rights Amendment. Two years later, in 2013, Sewell voted in support of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act.[33] In 2019, she voted in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act.[34]

She has a score of "85" out of 100 for her voting on pro-LGBTQ laws from the Human Rights Campaign.[35] She 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.[33]

Sewell is a staunch advocate for voting rights. In 2019, she sponsored the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would update the Voting Rights Act of 1965, by providing increased oversight over voting changes, updating the pre-clearance formula to oversee contemporary discrimination patterns, and expanding the power of the Attorney General to send federal observers to jurisdictions in areas at risk for discrimination during voting.[36] In 2019, she co-sponsored the For the People Act of 2019.[34]

Corporations and labor[edit]

Sewell has a 92% lifetime rating for her pro-union voting history from the AFL-CIO and a 97% lifetime rating from the AFSCME.[37][38] She has a lifetime score of 61% from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for her pro-business votes.[39] Sewell is a proponent of a $15 minimum wage.[40]

Drugs[edit]

Sewell’s stance has been generally anti-drug. Although she supports scientific research to evaluate the medical use of marijuana, she does not support legalization of cannabis in Alabama. Sewell has a "D" rating from NORML, and a score of 3 out of 6 from National Cannabis Industry Association, regarding her voting record for cannabis.[41][42]

Education[edit]

Sewell is a major supporter of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In 2019, she sponsored a bill, which passed, funding HBCUs $70 million for capital improvements and to support their educational work.[43]

Energy and oil[edit]

Sewell opposes offshore drilling and opposes allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.[44]

Environment[edit]

In 2018, the Humane Society of the United States gave Sewell a rating of 45% for her pro-animal welfare voting history.[45] She has a 79% rating from the League of Conservation Voters for her pro-environment voting record.[46]

Families and children[edit]

Sewell has worked with Ivanka Trump to develop policies related to paid parental leave.[40]

Foreign policy[edit]

Sewell supported Obama's decisions regarding Afghanistan, citing "trust" for his policies.[17] She was part of a bipartisan delegation to accompany Nancy Pelosi on a 2-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."[47]

Free trade[edit]

Sewell supports tariffs on countries involved in currency manipulation. She signed the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act 2010.[48]

Government reform[edit]

Sewell co-sponsored the STOCK Act in 2011 and the DISCLOSE Act in 2012. That same year, she also co-sponsored the SIMPLE Voting Act, to require a minimum of 15 days of nationwide early voting.[49]

Gun law[edit]

In 2019, Sewell voted in support for the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, requiring background checks on anyone seeking to buy a firearm.[34]

Health care[edit]

Sewell is the only representative from Alabama to have a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood for voting history related to women's health.[50]

Sewell voted in favor of 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.[40]

Homeland security[edit]

Sewell supported extending the PATRIOT Act's wiretapping.[51] She voted against funding to support Trump's wall.[46]

Kay Ivey[edit]

When Alabama governor Kay Ivey shared that she had performed in a college skit in blackface, Sewell responded calling 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."[52]

Social security[edit]

As of 2018, Sewell has a 96% lifetime score from the Alliance of Retired Americans for her pro-retirement voting record.[53]

Tax reform[edit]

Sewell supported President 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.[17] 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."[54]

Sewell wants to see the Military Widow’s Tax eliminated.[55]

First impeachment of Donald Trump[edit]

On December 18, 2019, Sewell voted for both articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump and was the lone Representative from Alabama in the House to do so.[56]

War and peace[edit]

Sewell opposed removing armed forces from Afghanistan in 2011.[57]

Welfare and poverty[edit]

Sewell has voted in opposition to work requirements for welfare recipients.[58]

Committee assignments[edit]

Representative Sewell currently serves on the following House committees:[59]

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.[60] They are divorced.

Sewell is a lifetime member of Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Alabama.[61]

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 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. ^ a b c "On The Issues". Who Runs Gov. The Washington Post. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  18. ^ "Voting History". Open Congress. OpenCongress. Archived from the original on March 31, 2012. Retrieved June 26, 2012.
  19. ^ "Rep. Terri Sewell". Heritage Action For America. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  20. ^ The Lugar Center - McCourt School Bipartisan Index (PDF), The Lugar Center, March 7, 2016, retrieved April 30, 2017
  21. ^ "Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.)". Who Runs Gov. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 26, 2012.
  22. ^ "Membership". Congressional Black Caucus. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ "Congressional Chronicle - Members of Congress, Hearings and More | C-SPAN.org". www.c-span.org. Retrieved January 15, 2021.
  25. ^ Moseley, Brandon (March 1, 2021). "Sewell votes in favor of American Rescue Plan coronavirus relief bill". Alabama Political Reporter. Retrieved March 7, 2021.
  26. ^ "Terri Sewell on Abortion". On the Issues. June 24, 2019. Archived from the original on June 24, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  27. ^ "Terri Sewell". NARAL Pro-Choice America. Archived from the original on April 27, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  28. ^ "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.
  29. ^ "Legislative Scorecard 2018". American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  30. ^ "National Hispanic Leadership Agenda Congressional Scorecard 113th Congress" (PDF). National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  31. ^ "How Congress Voted 115th Congress" (PDF). NAACP. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  32. ^ "2018 Candidate Endorsements – Feminist Majority". The Feminist Majority. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  33. ^ a b "Terri Sewell on Civil Rights". On the Issues. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  34. ^ 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.
  35. ^ "Congressional Scorecard - 115th Congress" (PDF). Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ "Rep. Terri Sewell". AFLCIO. Archived from the original on August 24, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  38. ^ "115th Congress First Session Congressional Score Card" (PDF). AFSCME. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  39. ^ "2018". U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  40. ^ a b c Boykina, Teresa (June 6, 2019). "Sewell addresses issues at town hall - The Demopolis Times". The Demopolis Times. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  41. ^ "2016 Alabama Scorecard". NORML. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  42. ^ "Congressional Scorecard". The National Cannabis Industry Association. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  43. ^ "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.
  44. ^ "Terri Sewell on Energy & Oil". On the Issues. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  45. ^ "Humane Scorecard" (PDF). Humane Society of the United States. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  46. ^ a b "Check out Representative Terri Sewell's Environmental Voting Record". League of Conservation Voters Scorecard. July 3, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  47. ^ Mali, Meghashyam (May 13, 2012). "Pelosi leads delegation on Afghanistan visit". The Hill's Global Affairs. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
  48. ^ "Terri Sewell on Free Trade". On the Issues. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  49. ^ "Terri Sewell on Government Reform". On the Issues. June 23, 2019. Archived from the original on June 23, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  50. ^ "Congressional Scorecard". Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  51. ^ "Terri Sewell on Homeland Security". On the Issues. Archived from the original on August 20, 2016. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  52. ^ 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.
  53. ^ "Alabama Congressional Voting Record" (PDF). Alliance for Retired Americans. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  54. ^ "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.
  55. ^ 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.
  56. ^ Panetta, Grace. "WHIP COUNT: Here's which members of the House voted for and against impeaching Trump". Business Insider.
  57. ^ "Terri Sewell on War & Peace". OnTheIssues. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  58. ^ "Terri Sewell on Welfare & Poverty". On the Issues. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
  59. ^ a b c d "Committees & Caucuses". U.S. Congress. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  60. ^ "Theodore Dixie Jr., Terrycina Sewell". The New York Times. June 21, 1998.
  61. ^ 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.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Artur Davis
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
Austin Scott
United States representatives by seniority
151st
Succeeded by
Steve Stivers