The Youngest Elected Official In The U.S. On Jobs, Feminism, & Taylor Swift

Photo: Courtesy Of Saira Blair.
Saira Blair, 18, is a few months into her first year at the University of West Virginia Morgantown. And, as of Tuesday night, she’s also the country’s youngest elected official, having beaten out a 44-year-old for a seat in her state’s House of Delegates. We talked to Saira about her conservative platform, busy schedule, and thoughts on Starbucks.
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Congratulations! Did you get a chance to celebrate your victory?
"I did! On election night, I had a thank-you dinner for my friends and family, who volunteered throughout the campaign and [held] up signs. On election night, we watched the results come in together. And then, on Wednesday morning, I drove back to Morgantown at 5 a.m. so I could make it to classes."
Now that you’ve got the seat, how will you balance school and politics?
"I’m going to finish up classes here in the fall this semester, I’m going to defer the spring semester and work in Charleston during the session, and then I’ll return to Morgantown in the summer and the fall."
You’re going to be serving with your dad who’s a State Senator. What’s that going to be like?
"We actually probably won’t see each other that often — it’s very rare that the Delegates and the Senators cross paths, even though we’ll just be across the building from each other. We’ll probably have dinner together often; it’ll be nice to have him there as a mentor, because I will be coming in green. It’ll be nice to have someone who knows the ropes."
Can you give a quick description of your platform?
"I ran on my uncompromising principles: I’m pro-life, I’m pro-Second Amendment, I’m pro-Constitution, but most importantly, I’m pro-business because that’s where jobs come from. I’ve watched a lot of young people get their high school and their college education here and then they leave the state because they can’t find a good-paying job. Our population’s been the same since 1980 and it’s looking to decrease in the future — we’ll be the only state to do so — and it scares me. I want to stay in West Virginia because I love it here. I want to raise my family here and I want to work here, but at the same time there’s not a lot of work opportunities."
Have you ever had a job?
"I worked on my family orchard for five years and I worked for my parents’ water softener business. That’s actually how I raised the money that I put into my campaign at the beginning — I put in $3,600 that I made working in order to prove to voters that I had skin in the game."
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Your social views are pretty conservative, and you’re pretty young. Are you out of sync with your generation?
"I think it is a misconception that all millennials tend to lean to the left. A lot of young people do have more conservative views, they’re just not as open with them because they’re afraid of how other people will call them close-minded or say they’re only listening to their parents’ views. I’m hoping that running and being an outspoken advocate will show people that they don’t have to be ashamed of their conservative views.
"It’s not something that bothers me, but I do get criticism on social media saying I’m close-minded or that I’m a pawn of my father, simply because I share the same views. They think that it’s impossible for a young female to have these views that I do — but it’s simply not so."
Because you’re a young woman, people think you couldn’t have your own ideas. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
"I do believe that women are capable of doing anything that they set their minds to. I wouldn’t give myself a label as a feminist, because I think in this day and age there’s a negative connotation to that word that didn’t use to be there — that feminists hate men and want to see them suffer. I just want to see that women and men have equal opportunities."
Photo: Courtesy Of Saira Blair.
"I’d also point out that I’ve never felt that the Republican party has a war on women; I’ve always been accepted with open arms by my party. Throughout campaigning events, people have always been really accepting of my age and my gender. And, I’ve had some female role models who I look up to — Condoleezza Rice, Mia Love, the newly elected West Virginia Senator, Shelley Moore Capito — they’ve all been great role models for me, and I just try to follow in their footsteps."
Do you think the House of Delegates will benefit from your perspective?
"The House of Delegates is meant to be the people’s house, to fairly represent the population of West Virginia. It should be 50% men, 50% women; we should have a range of ages. There should be students, doctors, farmers, everyone across the board, rather than just 50-year-old lawyers who are men."
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When you’re not running for office and going to college, what do you do for fun?
"I like to go out with friends to relieve the stress — we like to go out to eat, go thrift shopping. I like to be involved on campus: I’m part of the student government association as well as the crafting club and the community service club."
Awesome. What kind of crafting do you do?
"I used to be really set on scrapbooking, I used to do painting, but recently I’ve taken up knitting."
What’s your favorite Starbucks drink?
"I drink a tall, non-fat vanilla latté."
I have to ask: Do you have an opinion on the new Taylor Swift album?
"No, I’ve actually never listened to it — I only know the new song, um, Shake It…"
"Shake It Off"
[laughs ]"Off, yeah. 'Shake It Off.'"
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What’s next for you?
"I don’t support career politicians, I’m a staunch believer in term limits. I don’t want to serve more than eight years in the House of Delegates and the same in the State Senate. I don’t foresee myself climbing the political ladder — I’m actually going to school in order to become a financial advisor."
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