2024 Election

Terri Sewell Says She’s a Product of Congressional District 7 and Focused on Its People

Terri Sewell is running for an eighth term representing Alabama’s Congressional District 7. (Source: Campaign)

Terri Sewell said she could do better for herself, if doing for herself were her focus.

The seven-term incumbent congresswoman says she has a seat at the table because the people back home have entrusted her to fight for them.

“That has always been my hallmark,” Sewell said. “You’ll notice I didn’t run for Senate. I didn’t accept any position in the cabinet. My job is to focus in and work hard and uphold the promises that I’ve made to Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.”

Sewell is bidding for an eighth term in Congress. She is seeking the Democratic nomination against challenger Chris Davis of Birmingham in the March 5 primary.

Read Sewell’s bio.

“We still have work to do,” Sewell said. “I’m asking to be reelected to continue to fight for the values that we hold dear, whether that’s strengthening Medicare and Medicaid, or it’s creating jobs or tackling inflation by lowering costs.”

The congresswoman said her mission is clear. She’s not working to improve her lot in life. Instead, she said, her aim is improving the lot of the people she is honored to represent.

“Congress hasn’t had a raise in 18 years,” Sewell said. “I think it’s important to know I’m not doing this for self. I think I could clearly make a lot more money as a lawyer, and definitely as a partner in these big firms I was a part of. This keeps me very much focused, laser focused on the people back home.”

Born Terrycina Andrea Sewell on New Year’s Day of 1965 in Huntsville, she is the daughter of Andrew A. Sewell, a math teacher and basketball coach, and Nancy Gardner Sewell, a high-school librarian. Nancy Sewell was the first African American woman elected to the Selma City Council.

The seven-term congresswoman is a product of the district she serves, having grown up in Selma.

“I felt very honored to grow up in this district and be mentored, encouraged and inspired by the people of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District,” Sewell said. “I understand that this is the poorest district in the state of Alabama, but I know what’s possible in this district with resources and opportunities. I get to live it every day.”

Sewell was the first African American valedictorian of Selma High School. She used her public-school education to earn a degree in finance with honors in 1986 from Princeton University.

While at Princeton, Sewell was mentored by fellow student and the future wife of President Barack Obama, Michelle Robinson, in a program the school had established to help guide minority freshman.

Sewell worked for her member of Congress for three summers when she was in college.

“That was Richard Shelby,” she said. “He was a Democrat back then.”

Sewell went on to earn a law degree from Harvard Law School. She credits her springboard in Selma for the heights she’s been able to reach.

“The foundation of who I am and the values that I have all stem from the people back home,” she said. “For me, this was an opportunity to give back to a community that gave me so much, that I feel totally indebted to.”

The attorney said her “come to Jesus moment’ came when she was a partner in a big firm in New York City and her father got very, very sick. As the oldest and only girl, she decided to go home to help her family.

“Dad had a series of strokes that left him in a wheelchair,” Sewell recalled. “I came back to Alabama as a partner in a law firm in Birmingham. I couldn’t go all the way back to Selma and practice corporate law, but I could certainly go to Birmingham.

“Who would have ever thought that Artur Davis would actually give up his (congressional) seat while I was home, but he did,” she said. “I clerked for Judge (U.W.) Clemon after law school and always had a very deep and abiding feeling about Birmingham and the community of Birmingham.  This was really an opportunity for me to serve, to serve my home district in a way that would help repay the debt that I felt very much grateful for.”

Sewell said she’s always made her charge to create better opportunities and provide more resources for Alabama’s 7th District. She said she’s concentrated on economic development and job creation, health care and helping with a safer community and a better quality of life for people back home.

The many needs of the district leave the congresswoman with retorts of, “What have you done for me lately?”

“There is always something that we can be working on, trying to stay focused on the bigger picture when it comes to economic development, job creation or quality of life, whether that’s the trains stopping on the tracks in Birmingham for hours and days at a time, to providing better job opportunities in the district,” Sewell said. “For me, it is really every day waking up with the charge of providing better opportunities and more resources back home. There’s always something that needs to be done, especially in a district that has so many needs. That is the challenge but boy is the reward amazing.”