Incoming West Virginia University freshman Saira Blair isn’t just focused on how her twin XL sheets will fit over her new dorm bed or how many meals she will have on her plan for the week.
She also has her sights set on representing West Virginia’s 59th House District, as the recent Hedgesville High School graduate beat out an incumbent delegate seeking a third term in office in the May 2014 Republican primary.
Blair, at just 17 years old, could become the youngest person ever seated in the West Virginia Legislature if she defeats Democrat Layne Diehl in November. And Blair is the favorite: The Martinsburg-area district has leaned Republican in past years. Blair characterizes herself as an anti-abortion, pro-family, pro-marriage and pro-jobs fiscal conservative.
Come August, Blair will be balancing the life of a House hopeful and a student.
Classes and caucuses.
Student IDs and Second Amendment rights.
PRT cars and politics.
Striking a balance between remembering homework assignments and distributing yard signs won’t be easy, but Blair is up for the challenge.
“I always stay really busy,” she said. “I have full faith in myself to do both. I function better when I’m multitasking. I’m known by my friends as the busy girl with the calendar.”
In fact, Blair has planned out the next couple years – in two different versions: one if she wins her election and another if she doesn’t.
“If I win in November, then I will go to school in the fall and take the spring semester off, then return in the summer for classes. I’ll continue that pattern for the next four years, and if I can take some online classes during the spring, then I will,” she said. “I have all my classes planned out for the next four years, and I should only finish a semester late – in December 2018 – with that schedule.”
The other situation – one where she wouldn’t win – would allow her to end up graduating a semester early, with study abroad experience and Greek life sprinkled in.
And her studies may come as a surprise.
Though she has been around politics since age 6 when her father, Craig Blair (R-Berkeley), first became involved – he is now a West Virginia state senator – she won’t be majoring in political science.
“I usually get asked why I’m not a political science major, but I have always had a passion for economics and the more financial side of things,” Blair said. “I think bringing a new economic perspective and new ideas to make sure the state has a surplus instead of the debt we do would be a good shift for West Virginia.
“And with Spanish – I’ve always been interested in it. I’ve taken five years of it between middle school and high school. It intrigues me, and I would like to travel one day.”
Scheduling and planning each class – some of which are only offered at certain hours or particular semesters – for the next four years required the same discerning attention to timing that helped propel Blair’s political career forward at a young age.
“I’ve gone to a lot of political events with my dad,” she said. “In junior high and high school, I went to Charleston, wrote a bill, went to the committee and discussed it on the House floor. That really inspired me.
“I always thought I would do something like this in my life – but not at this point,” she laughed. “But my experience made me realize I shouldn’t have to wait until I’m 30, 40, or 50. Right now is as good of a time as any.”
Amidst quilting, shopping and taking ice skating lessons, Blair enlisted her friends to vote for her and organized social media outreach efforts. In West Virginia, 17-year-olds can vote in the primary as long as they turn 18 by November. It worked: She won by an 872-728 vote margin.
Her father, who was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 2002 and to the West Virginia Senate in 2012, has no doubts his daughter will successfully follow in his footsteps.
“I’ve worked with many candidates over the years, and Saira’s the ‘real deal’,” he said. “She’s far more mature than her age would indicate. Her grasp of the issues and ability to craft commonsense solutions are nothing less than remarkable. She will make an excellent state delegate, and her mother and I are extremely proud of her.”
Blair is revving up for November – but still looking forward to her first day of classes in August.
“I’ve always known that I’ve wanted to go to WVU since I was 12,” she said. “I love the atmosphere of the school – it’s amazing – the school spirit.”
She’s excited for her 8:30 a.m. schedule and her first economics class.
Her dorm room in Summit Hall.
A large University, after graduating with a class of 400.
Her first sporting event as a WVU student.
While entering college the same time she enters the political sphere will be challenging, she finds that unique perspective to be beneficial.
“It’s a great opportunity to also represent the youth – have them talk to me and get their opinions so I can take those to Charleston and help represent all generations,” she said.
Her experience meeting fellow students from around the state at WVU will add yet another layer – that of the youth demographic – to her ultimate goal and why she embarked on both of these adventures in the first place.
“I want to bring something more to Charleston and offer a new perspective,” she said. “I want to better the lives of West Virginians.”
By Candace Nelson
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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