By: Lucy McCalmont Via Politico
Saira Blair is probably the only candidate who had to head to class the morning after winning an election.
But that’s to be expected for the 18-year-old, who just became the country’s youngest state lawmaker.
“I actually had a couple of geology classes this morning,” Blair, a Republican who was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates, said in an interview Wednesday. “It was fine, just like any other day of class.”
Blair is like many other people her age except that in addition to preparing for her freshman year at college this past summer, she was also running a political campaign. Blair, elected Tuesday to represent West Virginia’s 59th delegate district — which lies about 1½ hours from Washington, D.C. — is an economics major at West Virginia University. Blair trounced her Democratic opponent 63 percent to 30 percent, The Associated Press reported.
She said her interest in politics started long before her election to the 100-member state legislature.
“I’d been involved with [politics] since I was about 6 years old, when my father first ran for [the West Virginia] House of Delegates. I wasn’t new to the world [of state politics]; I’d gone to the meetings, to dinners, and really been involved with the life for over 10 years, just kind of shadowing him,” Blair said. “I’d always known that I wanted to do it.”
And Blair will have access to some unique fatherly advice, since her dad will also be heading to the state capital next year as a state senator. The teenager laughed off whether there will be any typical embarrassing parental moments, and the pair haven’t decided if they’ll carpool either.
“We’re not sure yet; we haven’t talked about that yet, how that’s all going to go down,” Blair said, adding that there will be a lot of other familiar faces from growing up with her dad as a state politician.
“It’s nice to have them there, and especially my father, because it’s nice, off-hours, to be able to ask him if I have any questions about a particular bill or something along those lines,” she said.
Blair launched her campaign earlier this year and unseated a two-term incumbent in a May primary — the first time she could vote herself.
Blair said that after taking part in a mock government program, she knew young people were just as capable as lawmakers 30 years their senior.
“When I saw how capable the students were of creating such progressive legislation and really getting work done, it really made me realize that we really didn’t need to wait,” she said.
And while Blair was able to balance her campaign, school and activities before November (she’s involved with student government, crafting club and knitting club), she said she will be deferring her spring semester to work as a delegate. She will return to school during the summer and fall.
Blair pushed back against criticism that young people are apathetic and Democratic claims that the GOP has a war on women. An anti-abortion, pro-gun conservative, Blair said fiscal issues and jobs will be her priority and should be on the minds of other young voters as well.
“I do stand behind my conservative social issues. … I think those are important,” Blair told POLITICO. “I think what gets lost is the fiscal issues, and that’s really what I believe in. The biggest thing I want to see in West Virginia is jobs.”
Blair said she has never felt the Republican Party had a war on women, citing Sen.-elect Shelley Moore Capito as one of her role models. “The most [negativity] that I get for my age and for my gender is from the Democratic Party, not from my own.”
Blair said seeing her name on the ballot Tuesday “was a unique, kind of heartwarming feeling.”
“Because it was something tangible. You work for months on your campaigns, but you don’t really see a result, but seeing your name on the ballot — it was definitely a unique feeling,” she said.
Blair said her time in politics won’t be forever.
“I do not believe in career politicians,” Blair said. “I would like to serve, I’m not sure for how long, in the House of Delegates and potentially in the state Senate, but my ultimate goal is to be a financial adviser, and that’s why I’m attending school for [economics].”