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Conservative teen rocks West Virginia politics

West Virginia Republican State Delegate Saira Blair on the campaign trail. Associated Press/Photo by Cliff Owen

Conservative teen rocks West Virginia politics

Saira Blair became the youngest state legislator in the nation earlier this month when she won the contest for a delegate seat in the West Virginia state legislature with 63 percent of the vote.

Only 18 years old, the college freshman ran most of the campaign from her dorm room at West Virginia University where she majors in Economics and Spanish. Her constitutional conservative platform focuses on 2nd Amendment rights and decreased spending from a pro-life, pro-faith, and pro-family perspective. She plans to delay her spring semester and make-up classes in the summer and fall so she can serve in the up-coming legislative session.

“History has been made tonight in West Virginia,” she said in a statement following her election Nov. 4. “While I am proud of all that we have accomplished together, it is the future of this state that is now my singular focus.”

She defeated Democratic candidate Layne Diehl, a 44-year old attorney in Martinsburg, W.Va. “Quite frankly, a 17- or 18-year old woman that has put herself out there and won a political campaign has certainly brought some positive press to the state. I look forward to seeing what her leadership brings to the state of West Virginia,” Diehl told The Wall Street Journal.

While Diehl prioritized improving secondary education and reducing drug abuse in the state, Blair’s campaign focused on pro-business economic policy. In May, Blair said she would prioritize bringing jobs to West Virginia. “In order to do that, we need to make it a more business-friendly state by lowering the corporate net tax, eliminating the business franchise tax and eliminating the tax on equipment and machinery,” she told the Herald-Mail. While it’s easy to receive a good education in West Virginia, it’s difficult to find a good job, Blair said.

Blair achieved her first victory in May while still 17-years old. She defeated the incumbent delegate, Republican Del. Larry Kump, who is more than 3 times her age in the primaries. Blair turned 18 in July, making her old enough to both vote and run in her first election.

But she views her youth as an asset rather than an inhibitor. “When I made the decision to run for public office, I did so because I firmly believe that my generation’s voice, fresh perspective, and innovative ideas can help solve some of our state’s most challenging issues,” she said. Though the average age for congressmen in 57, the nation has only gained more debt and fewer jobs, she told Teen Vogue last summer.

She also hopes to demonstrate to her peers that they don’t need to wait until they’re middle-aged to adopt conservative principles. And though she hadn’t planned to run for a legislative seat so soon, she realized in high school through a program called Youth in Government that she and her peers are capable of crafting beneficial legislation, she told Fox and Friends after her victory.

Blair contributed about $4,000 of her own funds to her efforts, The Wall Street Journal reported. She also crafted handwritten letters to different voters after attending morning classes, according to The Washington Post.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Courtney Crandell Courtney is a former WORLD correspondent.

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