Terrycina Andrea "Terri" Sewell (//; born January 1, 1965) is an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, she has served since 2011 as the U.S. Representative for Alabama's 7th congressional district, which includes most of the Black Belt, as well as most of the predominantly black portions of Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Montgomery.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Alabama's 7th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2011
|Preceded by||Artur Davis|
|Vice Chair of the United States House Committee on Ways and Means|
January 3, 2019 – January 3, 2021
|Preceded by||Brian Higgins (as Vice Ranking Member)|
|Succeeded by||Suzan DelBene|
Terrycina Andrea Sewell
January 1, 1965
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
|Education||Princeton University (AB)|
St Hilda's College, Oxford (MA)
Harvard University (JD)
A native of Selma, Sewell is a graduate of Princeton University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford University. Before entering politics, she was a securities lawyer for Davis Polk & Wardwell and a public finance lawyer for Maynard, Cooper & Gale, where she was the first black woman to make partner. She is the first African-American woman elected to Congress from Alabama and, along with Republican Martha Roby, was one of the first women elected to Congress from Alabama in a regular election. Sewell has been the only Democrat in Alabama's House delegation during her entire term in office, and apart from Doug Jones's tenure as a U.S. senator from 2018 to 2021, she has also been the state's only congressional Democrat.
Early life and educationEdit
Terri Sewell was born in Huntsville, Alabama, to Andrew A. Sewell, a former high school basketball coach, and Nancy Gardner Sewell, a retired high school librarian and former Selma city council member. Her mother was the first black woman elected to Selma's city council.
As a child, Sewell wanted to be a star on Broadway. Because her mother had hoped for her to become a lawyer, Sewell joined the debate team in high school. She was the first black valedictorian of Selma High School.
After graduating from high school, Sewell went to Princeton University. She was the first Selma High School graduate to attend an Ivy League school. She was recruited to attend Princeton by Julian L. McPhillips, who read about her in the local Selma newspaper. At Princeton, she befriended Michelle Obama, who served as what Sewell called her "big sister" on campus. Sewell completed a 158-page long senior thesis, "Black Women in Politics: Our Time Has Come". During her time at Princeton, she interned with Richard Shelby and Howell Heflin.
After graduating from Princeton in 1986, Sewell won a Marshall Scholarship to attend Oxford University. It was there that she befriended Susan Rice. Her master's thesis, on the election of the first black members of the British parliament, was later published as a book, Black Tribunes: Race and Representation in British Politics (1993). Sewell graduated from Oxford with a degree in political science in 1988. She attended Harvard Law School for her J.D. degree, which she completed in 1992. There she overlapped with and was friends with Barack Obama, who became a lifelong friend and influenced Sewell's decision to enter politics.
After graduation, Sewell served as a judicial law clerk in Birmingham, Alabama, to Chief Judge U. W. Clemon, In New York, she worked at Davis Polk & Wardwell, alongside Kirsten Gillibrand, starting in 1994.
Sewell returned to Alabama in 2004 due to her father's health problems. She worked for another law firm, Maynard, Cooper & Gale PC, where she was the first black woman partner at the firm. She was a public finance lawyer.
In 2007, Sewell was at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, where she is a member, when then Senator Barack Obama spoke during the 2008 United States presidential election. Sewell credits Obama's speech (in which he asked "[t]he questions that I have today is, what’s called of us in this Joshua generation? What do we do in order to fulfill that legacy, to fulfill the obligations and the debt that we owe to those who allowed us to be here today?") as the catalyst for her serving in politics. Weeks after his speech, Gillibrand called Sewell, recruiting Sewell to run for office.
U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit
After four-term Democratic incumbent Artur Davis gave up the seat to run for governor, Sewell entered the Democratic primary—the real contest in this majority Democratic, majority-black district. She finished first in the four-way primary with 36.8% of the vote. In the runoff, she defeated Jefferson County commissioner Sheila Smoot with 55% of the vote.
In the general election, Sewell defeated Republican opponent Don Chamberlain with 72.4% of the vote. The 7th is so strongly Democratic that Sewell essentially clinched her seat by winning the primary.
Sewell was challenged in the Democratic primary by Tamara Harris Johnson, a former Birmingham City Attorney. No Republican candidate filed. Sewell defeated Johnson with 83.9% of the vote, effectively clinching a third term.
Sewell was again unchallenged by a Republican in the general election. She easily won a fourth term against a write-in opponent.
Sewell was once again unchallenged by a Republican in the general election. She easily won a fifth term against a write-in opponent.
As in 2016 and 2018, Sewell was unchallenged by a Republican in the general election. She easily won a sixth term against a write-in opponent.
Tenure and political positionsEdit
Sewell has voted with her party 91% of the time. She was a strong supporter of Obama's policies. She has a lifetime rating of 8% from Heritage Action for America for voting for pro-conservative laws. Despite this, for the 114th United States Congress, Sewell was ranked as the 94th most bipartisan member of the House (and the most bipartisan member of the House from Alabama) in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy, which ranks members of Congress by their degree of bipartisanship (by measuring how often each member's bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party and each member co-sponsors bills by members of the opposite party). Sewell has established herself as a liberal with a focus on job creation, and arguably has the most left-wing voting record of any person to represent Alabama in Congress. She is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
On January 15, 2021, Sewell was appointed speaker pro tempore in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's absence. In March 2021, she voted for the American Rescue Plan. The plan includes $475 million in funding for Sewell's district including to support vaccinations and to pay city employees for overtime and hazard pay for pandemic response work.
Sewell is pro-choice. As of 2018, she has as 100% rating for her voting record on pro-choice legislation by NARAL. Sewell opposed the Human Life Protection Act, which went into effect in 2019. She described the bill on Twitter as "both blatantly unconstitutional and a brazen, extremist attack on women’s rights."
Sewell has a 79% rating from the ACLU for her pro-civil rights voting record. As of 2015, she is the only representative from Alabama to have a 100% rating from the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda for supporting Latino civil rights related legislation. She has a 94% rating from the NAACP for her voting history regarding legislature supporting African Americans.
Sewell has been endorsed by the Feminist Majority in past elections. In 2011, she signed the Equal Rights Amendment. In 2013, Sewell voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. In 2019, she voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Sewell has a score of 85 out of 100 for her voting on pro-LGBTQ laws from the Human Rights Campaign. She co-sponsored the Student Non-Discrimination Act in 2013 which, if enacted, would have protected LGBT students from anti-gay bullying and discrimination in public schools.
Sewell is a staunch advocate for voting rights. In 2019, she sponsored the Voting Rights Advancement Act (which later became the John Lewis Voting Rights Act), which would update the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by providing increased oversight of voting changes, updating the pre-clearance formula to oversee contemporary discrimination patterns, and expanding the Attorney General's power to send federal observers to jurisdictions in areas at risk of voting discrimination. In 2019, Sewell co-sponsored the For the People Act of 2019.
In 2021, ahead of the once-a-decade reconfiguration of congressional boundaries, Sewell said that she would support "unpacking" her heavily Black 7th district. She argued that African-Americans make up a quarter of the population and therefore should hold a quarter of Alabama's 7 congressional districts. "I’m for broadening the representation of African Americans across Alabama, instead of concentrating it in my district," Sewell said in an interview.
Corporations and laborEdit
Sewell has a 92% lifetime rating for her pro-union voting history from the AFL-CIO and a 97% lifetime rating from the AFSCME. She has a lifetime score of 61% from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for her pro-business votes. Sewell is a proponent of a $15 minimum wage.
Sewell’s stance has been generally anti-drug. Although she supports scientific research to evaluate the medical use of marijuana, she does not support legalization of cannabis in Alabama. Sewell has a D rating from NORML, and a score of 3 out of 6 from National Cannabis Industry Association, regarding her voting record for cannabis.
Sewell is a major supporter of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In 2019, she sponsored a bill, which passed, granting HBCUs $70 million for capital improvements and to support their educational work.
Energy and oilEdit
In 2018, the Humane Society of the United States gave Sewell a rating of 45% for her pro-animal welfare voting history. She has a 79% rating from the League of Conservation Voters for her pro-environment voting record.
Families and childrenEdit
Sewell supported Obama's decisions on Afghanistan, citing "trust" of his policies. She was part of a bipartisan delegation to accompany Nancy Pelosi on a two-day trip to Afghanistan in May 2012. While there, they spent time "with American service-members and meeting local officials to discuss security and women's issues."
In 2019, Sewell voted for the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, requiring background checks on anyone seeking to buy a firearm.
Sewell voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). She supports Medicaid expansion and offering incentives for states to do so. She is currently sponsoring bills to lower prescription drug costs, expand funding for rural hospitals, and to support more health studies on African American health disparities.
When Alabama governor Kay Ivey shared that she had performed in a college skit in blackface, Sewell called Ivey's actions "reprehensible" and "deeply offensive,” adding that "racism – in any of its forms – is never acceptable, not in the 1960s and not now."
Sewell supported Obama's plan to extend tax cuts for low- and middle-income Americans, but declined to discuss her stance on taxation for high-income Americans. In response to Obama's Framework for Business Tax Reform, Sewell said: "I applaud the President for outlining a bold framework for reforming the U.S. business tax system."
Sewell wants to see the Military Widow’s Tax eliminated.
First impeachment of Donald TrumpEdit
War and peaceEdit
Sewell opposed removing armed forces from Afghanistan in 2011.
Welfare and povertyEdit
Sewell serves on the following House committees:
- Committee on Ways and Means
|Democratic||Earl Hilliard Jr.||22,981||26.8|
|Democratic||Terri Sewell (incumbent)||232,520||75.8|
|Democratic||Terri Sewell (incumbent)||74,953||83.9|
|Democratic||Tamara Harris Johnson||14,374||16.1|
|Democratic||Terri Sewell (incumbent)||133,687||98.4|
|Democratic||Terri Sewell (incumbent)||229,330||98.4|
|Democratic||Terri Sewell (incumbent)||185,010||97.8|
|Democratic||Terri Sewell (incumbent)||225,742||97.2|
In 1998, Sewell married Theodore Dixie of Huntsville, Alabama. They are divorced.
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- "Check out Representative Terri Sewell's Environmental Voting Record". League of Conservation Voters Scorecard. July 3, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
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- "Statement From Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell on President Obama's Framework for Business Tax Reform". House Press Release. Archived from the original on September 16, 2012. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- Moseley, Brandon (September 20, 2019). "Sewell hopeful Congress will eliminate widow's tax in this year's NDAA". Alabama Political Reporter. Archived from the original on September 21, 2019. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
- Panetta, Grace. "WHIP COUNT: Here's which members of the House voted for and against impeaching Trump". Business Insider.
- "Terri Sewell on War & Peace". OnTheIssues. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
- "Terri Sewell on Welfare & Poverty". On the Issues. Archived from the original on January 24, 2020. Retrieved January 24, 2020.
- "Committees & Caucuses". U.S. Congress. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
- www.ciclt.net https://www.ciclt.net/sn/clt/gsba/poc_detail.aspx?P_ID=&ClientCode=gsba&LegComID=19983. Retrieved September 7, 2021. Missing or empty
- "Theodore Dixie Jr., Terrycina Sewell". The New York Times. June 21, 1998.
- Thompson, Krissah; Harris, Hamil R. (June 20, 2015). "What's the right reaction when a white stranger walks into a black church?". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
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- Congresswoman Terri Sewell official U.S. House website
- Terri Sewell for Congress
- Terri Sewell at Curlie