Sewell plans to create jobs in District 7
On June 1, 2010, Terri Sewell hopes to become the first woman elected to serve Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.
Being the first is nothing new to Sewell. She was the first black valedictorian at her high school in Selma in 1982.
She was also the first black female partner at Maynard, Cooper and Gale law firm in Birmingham.
Sewell took a leave of absence from the firm to run for the Congressional seat that will be vacated by Artur Davis, who is hoping to become Alabama’s first African American governor.
Sewell said she decided to run to unite district 7.
“My background both professionally and personally put me in a unique position to serve. Also, it’s exciting for me to give back to my community that gave so much to me,” said Sewell.
If elected, Sewell plans to focus on job creation and education as the main issues.
“It is all about providing resources and opportunities,” said Sewell.
She believes by creating jobs, specifically “green” jobs and improving public education, resources the district already contains can be turned into valuable opportunities.
“Getting our workforce trained and children educated for 21st century jobs is really important,” said Sewell.
“My life is a testament to what can happen to a person when provided with resources and opportunities. I want people to see that if you work hard in Alabama you can live the American dream,” said Sewell.
Sewell grew up in Selma, Ala., raised by educators. Her father was a math teacher and basketball coach. Her mother was a librarian and the first African American woman elected to Selma City Council.
Sewell completed her undergraduate studies at Princeton University and went on to Oxford University, where she graduated in 1986.
She went on to attend Harvard Law School, graduating in 1992, the class after President Obama’s.
Sewell worked at the New York firm of Davis, Polk and Wardwell in 1994 as a securities lawyer until she returned to Alabama in 2004.
“Moving back to Alabama is probably one of the things I am most proud of. I came back for my family and my community,” she said.
“My parents always told me that it was not just important to receive an education. I also needed to use that education to give back to the community,” said Sewell.
Sewell’s advice for the college students and other youth in district 7, including UA and UAB, is to “reach for the stars and not limit yourself and your goals by your current circumstances.”
“You have to truly believe it before you can achieve it. I had to think I could be a lawyer and be a public servant way before I could achieve it. You define yourself. Don’t let society or others define who you are,” she added.
Sewell said her confidence to dream “big dreams” as a little girl in Selma came from reading.
“I was inspired by reading. You know education is a great equalizer. Who would have ever thought this little black girl from Selma would get to walk the halls of Harvard Law School and compete with the best and the brightest?” said Sewell.
Now Sewell hopes to be elected to represent district 7 so she can inspire others to “dream big” and help them achieve their goals.
“It is important for me to help others achieve it. It wasn’t enough that I got to walk through the door; I had to kick down the door so others could come too. It is important for each one to teach one and not just help your self but also help others,” said Sewell.
According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, Sewell is competing with seven other candidates, all Democrats.
Some candidates, such as Sheila Smoot and Earl Hilliard, Jr., whose father held the seat before Artur Davis, have the benefit of name recognition.
Sewell considers her lack of name recognition her biggest challenge.
“The challenge for me is to let people know there is another option. My challenge each and every day is to make sure people know who I am and what I’m about,” said Sewell.
Although Sewell may not have name recognition, according to third quarter filings with the FEC, she is the leader in fundraising. According to the October reports, Sewell has raised $402,816 with over $300,000 cash on hand.
A distant second is Earl Hilliard, Jr. with about $120,000 raised and Sheila Smoot in third with $50,000 raised.
Four of the eight candidates reported no fundraising money.
Sewell believes the amount of fundraising money is a positive sign about the power of individuals, who contributed 98 percent of the money raised by Sewell’s campaign.
“I think that now is a great time to be a fresh new face. It is a good time to be a public servant to enter politics,” added Sewell.
Being a fresh face, though, may prove difficult in a race with so many contenders.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle for Sewell in this crowded field,” said Michele Dickey, a Birmingham public relations professional and a veteran of former Attorney General Charlie Graddick’s historical 1986 gubernatorial campaign.
“Not only is she entering the race as an unknown, Sewell is up against the statewide name recognition that Earl Hilliard Jr. carries,” added Dickey.
Dickey, a voter in District 7, would also like to hear more of Sewell’s ideas for the district.
“Sewell is definitely an accomplished young woman and those accomplishments speak well of her. However, I’d be interested in seeing more of what her plans for District 7 are, if she is elected,” said Dickey.
Over the next sixth months, Sewell hopes to meet and talk to many interested voters and members of District 7, like Dickey.
“I just like getting out there and talking to people, letting them learn my ideas and meeting the people of this great community,” said Sewell.
“This campaign is so not about me, though. It is about providing opportunities. This whole district can be elevated, and if we elevate this district, we can elevate this state,” added Sewell.