May 24, 2010, 5:40AM
Voters in this district traded way up when they elected U.S. Rep. Artur Davis in 2002 to replace longtime Rep. Earl Hilliard. With Davis running for governor, the voters' job is to find an able replacement.
This district, which includes Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and much of the Black Belt, is as reliably Democratic as any. Seventh District voters last elected a Republican in 1966, and it has since been redrawn to increase minority representation.
The Democratic primary features candidates with recognizable names, some political experience and money; the Republicans are little known, have no party support and are digging into their own pockets to pay for their quixotic quest.
Of the four Democrats, we like lawyer Terri Sewell. She has an impressive resume. Sewell earned degrees at Princeton University and Harvard Law School. In the for-what-it's worth department, Sewell was "little sister" to Michelle Robinson in a minority mentoring program at Princeton. Robinson's married name is Obama.
But that's not why Sewell is the best candidate. Growing up in Selma and now living in Birmingham, she has a clear grasp of the issues at both ends of the district. She also has some clear ideas on how to help.
Sewell wants to offer tax credits and incentives for businesses to help them grow and hire new workers, and she wants to increase funding for work-force development and career and technical education. She would also work to spur green manufacturing jobs and to improve infrastructure -- something she has been involved in as a public-finance lawyer raising money for public entities to do capital projects.
While Sewell has not held elected office, she is familiar with Congress, working for U.S. Rep. Richard Shelby when he was a Democrat and U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin. Sewell has the potential to be a fine congresswoman.
On the Republican side, the candidates are sounding much the same themes: repeal Obama's health care legislation, reduce the size of government and create jobs in the district.
Of the four, we like Don Chamberlain of Selma. He ran unsuccessfully in 1994 for the 1st Congressional District seat now held by Jo Bonner. Chamberlain, who holds two patents from his career in shipbuilding, pulp and paper and power plants, wants to recruit small technology companies, such as those with new patents, to the district.