Campaign News
July 21, 2009

Terri Sewell shows surprising early strength in 7th Congressional District race

TUSCALOOSA | Terri Sewell, a Birmingham attorney and Selma native, made some news in the nascent and crowded campaign to replace U.S. Rep. Artur Davis in Alabama's 7th Congressional district when second quarter fund-raising reports were filed with the Federal Election Commission at the end of June.

Sewell probably shocked several of the other five candidates, all Democrats, who have already announced they are running for the seat Davis is vacating to run for governor, when she reported $173,000 in contributions in the April-through-June period and had $247,000 in cash on hand, thanks to previous contributions, including $124,000 in the first quarter of the year.

Her fund-raising prowess was impressive enough to warrant a story in Roll Call, the insider newspaper in Washington that covers congress.

"While it is too soon to designate a frontrunner in the race, Birmingham attorney Terri Sewell (D) is leaving her competitors in the dust when it comes to early fundraising efforts," the Roll Call story said, pointing out that "Sewell's sum doubled that of state Rep. Earl Hilliard Jr. (D) who raised about $86,000 in the second quarter.

"But Hilliard -- the son of former Rep, Earl Hilliard (D-Ala.) [and the man Davis defeated to gain the seat in the first place] -- also spent nearly half of what he raised and reported about $46,000 in the bank at the end of June."

In a press release last week, Sewell did a bit of well-deserved crowing about her emergence from political obscurity to become the front-runner, at least in money to get her message out.

"We're off to a fast and strong start and I'm honored at (sic) the broad coalition of support that we've been able to attract from across the district," which includes part of Tuscaloosa County, as well as most of the Black Belt as well as most of Birmingham, Sewell said. "Supporters are energetic and optimistic about what we can accomplish for the 7th Congressional District..."

The 7th District is a "majority minority" district, which means that the voters are overwhelmingly black, and hence, Democrats. So who wins the Democratic primary next June will in all likelihood go on to take Davis' seat in Congress.

Roll Call reports that other financial reports from candidates in the race show that Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot has raised about $35,000 and has about $25,000 cash on hand and former Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. has raised $13,000, of which $12,000 is still in the bank.

The other two announced candidates in the race are Birmingham attorney Martha Bozeman and Tuscaloosa businessman Edison Walters, neither of whom filed any papers with the FEC.

Although Hilliard had to at least be surprised at the warchest Sewell, who once worked on Capitol Hill in Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby's office, has amassed. But he downplayed her financial advantage in Roll Call.

"I've been around campaigns for a long time and I think that there's always going to be somebody who raises more money," he said, perhaps stating the obvious. "I don't think we get into...needing to outraise somebody.

"It's just about raising enough money to do what your campaign has planned," he told the newspaper, "and that's what we're focusing on."

Follow Terri