Rep. Terri Sewell, breakout star of Congressional Black Caucus weekend
Scan a list of events for the Congressional Black Caucus’s annual gathering this week and you find one name — Rep. Terri Sewell — all over the place.
Don’t know her? Sewell, who won her seat in November with more than 70% of the vote, is the first African-American woman elected to congress from Alabama, the only Democrat currently serving from the state, and president of this year’s tiny Democratic freshman class. No wonder she’s the breakout star of the CBC this year.
“I feel like it’s a coming-out of sorts,” a beaming Sewell told us Wednesday at the Library of Congress where she was honored by her Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters (included her mom, Nancy Sewell), as well as special guests Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
The 46-year-old securities lawyer has degrees from Princeton, Harvard and Oxford, but has kept a low-profile compared to fellow soror and freshman lawmaker Frederica Wilson (D-FL.) and her dazzling collection of hats.
But this year’s CBC legislative conference — back with big names, glitzy parties and give-’em-heck energy — looks like Sewell’s moment: She was the star of the AKA party, honored at another by Alabama’s delegation at the Air and Space Museum, and headed Thursday’s panel on voting trends in the south with moderator Roland Martin.
Since her college graduation (when she was an district-office intern for Richard Shelby, back when he was a Democrat), she’s been to 10 CBC weekends — most as a lawyer in private practice; this was her first as an elected official.
“The times when I attended in the past, I was an activist, a politically motivated African-American who wanted to engage in the political discourse,” she said in a breathless, overachiever-in-a-hurry voice. “This is a great place to do that. Now, as a lawmaker, I have an opportunity to affect policy in a different way.”
The Selma native said she’s settling into Washington nicely — sharing a townhouse just two blocks from the Capitol with Wilson, Wasserman Schultz and Rep. Carolyn Maloney. “I feel like I get free advice all the time,” over “late-night popcorn sitting on each other’s beds.”
No time for that on CBC weekend: An Oklahoma state legislator in a fuschia blazer named Anastasia Pittman — the kind of bright young thing you can imagine following Sewell’s footsteps — bent our ear at the AKA party about . . . policy. “It’s not about the receptions, it’s about the networking,” she explained. “You can have fun in your own district. But when we come together, we can make progress.”