Campaign News
June 02, 2010

Sewell, Smoot will meet in runoff

Patrick Rupinski   ·  Tuscaloosa News   ·  Link to Article
Sewell, Smoot will meet in runoff

Two women will vie for the Democratic nomination in the state's 7th Congressional District, the state's heaviest Democratic district and only majority black district.

Birmingham attorney Terri Sewell, who is making her first try for elective office, led with 37 percent of the vote in Tuesday's Democratic primary. She will face Jefferson County Commissioner Shelia Smoot, who had 29 percent of the vote, in the July 13 runoff.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, did not seek re-election. He lost his party's nomination for governor on Tuesday.

Sewell campaigned heavily as a supporter of President Barack Obama's agenda.

She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Smoot, a former TV reporter, edged out State Rep. Earl Hilliard Jr. of Birmingham, who had 27 percent of the vote.

The fourth candidate, Birmingham attorney Martha Bozeman, trailed far behind.

In the Republican primary, Selma businessman Don Chamberlain and Birmingham businessman Chris Salter were headed for their party's runoff. Trailing were candidates Carol Hendrickson of Tuscaloosa and Michele Waller of Alabaster.

The last time a Republican won the district's congressional seat was in 1964. Since then, the district's boundaries have changed several times through reapportionment, including in 1992 when the Alabama Legislature created the state's only majority black congressional district.

In November of that year, Hilliard's father, Earl Hilliard Sr., was elected the state's first black congressman since Reconstruction. He was defeated by Davis in the 2002 Democratic primary.

The seventh district is the only Alabama congressional district that President Obama carried in 2008. Obama won more than 72 percent of the district's vote.

“We beat the machine candidate,” Smoot said of Hilliard. “We ran a true grassroots campaign.”

Smoot said she had a campaign warchest of about $100,000, which she said paled compared with Hilliard's warchest, which she said was near $900,000.

But she said a grassroots effort in all the district's counties proved to be a key to the runoff.

Smoot said she decided early to campaign in all the district's counties and not just her home county, populous Jefferson County. She said that strategy paid off.

“We worked from the Mississippi state line back and ran pretty hard everywhere,” she said during a telephone interview Tuesday night.

With Sewell and Smoot in the runoff, there is a very strong likelihood that Alabama will send its first woman to the U.S. House of Representatives next year.

Smoot was a well-known Birmingham TV reporter before she entered politics. She was elected to the County Commission in 2002 and re-elected in 2006.

Sewell is a native of Selma who campaigned on her efforts to bring economic development and jobs to the district.

The 7th Congressional District stretches from Birmingham through Bessemer and into Tuscaloosa County, taking in a good portion of the city of Tuscaloosa.

It then continues into the western Black Belt, taking in Greene, Sumter, Wilcox, Perry, Hale, Marengo and Choctaw counties. Parts of Pickens and Clarke counties also are in the district.

Republicans Chamberlain and Salter both said Tuesday night that they see economic recovery and job creation as major issues in the district.

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