Campaign News
July 01, 2009

Cook Political Report

  ·  West: parts of Birmingham and Montgomery

AL-07: OPEN (Davis)
Solid Democratic. Fully 62 percent of this western Alabama district’s residents are African-American, but its population is far from homogeneous. Since its creation in 1992, the 7th CD has taken in two distinct areas: the heavily African-American inner city portions of Birmingham and the poorer, more rural Black Belt counties around Selma to the South. Its boundaries all but ensure that an African-American Democrat will succeed four-term Rep. Artur Davis now that Davis is running for governor in 2010.

Despite the fact that the primary is still more than a year away, there is no shortage of Democrats lining up to replace Davis. The candidate with the most familiar name is state Rep. Earl Hilliard, Jr., an attorney and filmmaker whose father served in the House for ten years before Davis beat him in a contentious 2002 primary. And insiders say Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot retains significant organizational support after having held office for six years in Birmingham, even amid the county’s well-publicized corruption and financial woes.

But the candidate who has made the biggest fundraising splash so far is Terri Sewell, a prominent Birmingham attorney and first-time candidate who reported raising $123,000 in the first quarter of 2009. Sewell’s resume speaks for itself: she grew up in Selma and was the first African-American valedictorian at her high school, was a classmate of Michelle Obama at Princeton University, earned her law degree from Harvard on an NAACP scholarship around the same time as Barack Obama, and earned a Marshall scholarship to study at Oxford in between. Insiders say she is politically the closest to Davis of the bunch, although it is unclear how much campaign assistance she can expect to receive from Davis or the first family.

Other candidates have all the time in the world to enter the fray, as well. Former Selma Mayor James Perkins and Birmingham attorney Martha Bozeman are in the race, and state Sen. Bobby Singleton, who represents much of the Black Belt, could be viable if other candidates split the Birmingham vote. Anything can happen between now and next summer, but it is likely that the identity of the district’s next member of Congress will be determined by a July 13th Democratic runoff.

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