Saira Blair doesn’t turn 18 — the legal voting age — until next month, but she’s already defeated a two-term incumbent in the primary election for the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Come November, the recent high school grad will face off against Democratic candidate Layne Diehl, in a state that has turned red in recent years. If elected to represent the 59th House District, Blair will become the youngest person to ever serve in the West Virginia Legislature.
The Hedgesville High School graduate, recently named among Business Insider’s list of most impressive kids graduating from high school this year, tells us she has always been active in public service and enjoyed extracurricular activities. But a campaign for the House was a far cry from résumé padding.
Blair, who characterises herself as a pro-life, pro-family, and pro-jobs fiscal conservative, decided to run when she took a hard look at the reality that faced her and her peers after graduation. She realised the solution was to make W.V. more business-friendly.
“You can get a good education in W.V. if you choose to. What is difficult to get is a good paying job,” Blair tells Business Insider. “Students are our greatest export, and I want to work to address that issue through tax reforms, judicial reforms, and reducing government bureaucracy in an effort to attract more businesses to the state.”
She stocked up on enough credits as an underclassman so that she could take on a lighter workload during senior year, and enlisted the help of her community and dad, W.V. State Senator Craig Blair, in canvassing and getting the word out. Friends and family held signs up outside polling places on Election Day. Fellow classmates registered and voted on her behalf.
Running for public office at an age when most are contented to see R-rated movies, presented a unique set of challenges and surprises. Blair — who describes her hobbies as attending school sporting events, firearms, quilting, and politics — feared she wouldn’t be taken seriously. The response blew her away.
“I was surprised that the people in my community understood someone as young as I am could share their conservative beliefs,” Blair says, “and understand that you don’t have to wait until you’re 40, 50, or 60 years old to recognise the social and economic benefits of conservative principles.”
By the May 2014 primaries, which pinned her against incumbent Delegate Larry Kump, Blair spent about $US4,800 on her campaign. According to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail, with all 13 precincts in her Martinsburg-area district reporting, she beat Kump by an 872-728 vote margin.
Five months away from the general election, she marches on — organising her public outreach efforts on Facebook and Twitter and collecting donations on her website. Her social media pages regularly feature photos of her knocking on doors and hanging campaign signs on lawns. Her cover photo displays her cell number.
Whether or not she’s elected, Blair will attend West Virginia University to study economics and Spanish this fall.
“I want to use my education experience to promote better economic opportunities for the citizens of West Virginia,” she says. “My generation must have their voices heard if we want our state and our nation to grow and prosper.”
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