Earlier this month, voters in the eastern state of West Virginia elected an 18-year-old college student to the state legislature.
Saira Blair was part of the Republican surge that swept the nation during the Nov. 4 elections. The teenager will become the nation’s youngest legislator when she takes the oath of office in January 2015, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
Blair will represent her home district in the state’s House of Delegates. While you have to be at least 25 years old to run for Congress in the United States, in West Virginia, the minimum age to run for the House of Delegates is 18 years old. Blair will serve a 2-year term and receive an annual salary of $20,000.
Blair, whose home district is located about 1½ hours outside Washington, D.C., defeated her Democratic opponent 63% to 30%. The teenager ran on a conservative agenda and is pro-life and pro-guns.
“I decided that my generation shouldn’t have to wait until we’re 30, 40 or 50 to realize the importance of these conservative principles and to realize that we need to do something now because we’re the ones who are going to have to deal with the consequences,” Blair said in a television interview with Fox News on Nov. 17.
Blair said her priority as the nation’s youngest elected official will be to work to bring jobs to her state.
One of the ways she wants to accomplish that is by giving tax breaks to businesses.
“I’ve watched people my age get their high school and college education here in the state of West Virginia and then they leave because they can’t find a good-paying job,” Blair told Fox News. “And it’s hard for me because I love this state and I love being here and I’m scared for my future. I don’t want to have to leave to raise a family somewhere else.”
Blair has already met with her college advisor to discuss changes to her academic schedule. She plans to defer her spring term in order to attend the legislative session that begins in January and runs for 60 days.
The teenager takes office at an historic moment in West Virginia as Republicans assume control of the House of Delegates for the first time since 1931.
The GOP will have a 64-36 advantage over Democrats in the House, while the West Virginia State Senate will now be evenly divided between the two political parties.
The delegate-elect believes her age will be an advantage when it comes to working together with Democrats.
“One of the nice things about my age, coming into it, is that I’m not so set on what I’ve believed in for the past 30 years,” she said, “that I’m a little more open-minded when it comes to listening across the table.”
Blair also hopes her election inspires other young conservatives to be more open about their views.
“I think if more conservatives saw that it was OK to stand up for your views and you’re not going to be beat up on social media for it,” she said in a separate interview with Fox News shortly after her election, “…that [they’ll know] it’s OK to have the same views as your grandparents. I’m hoping that more young people will stand up for their beliefs.”
Terms in the House of Delegates technically begin Dec. 1, 2014, but new members can’t take office until the legislature convenes in January 2015, so technically at least, Blair remains an ordinary college student until then.
However, the teen’s ascendance to the national political stage has already brought on some changes. Reporters who call the Blair family house are now very politely directed to call her handler, who has a New York phone number, with any interview requests.