Freshman college student Saira Blair made history Tuesday when she defeated her 44-year-old opponent in the race to represent a small West Virginia district, becoming America’s youngest elected politician.
It was the first election where the 18-year-old was legally able to vote.
Blair, a student at West Virginia University, defeated Democrat Layne Diehl 63% to 30% in the state’s House of Delegates race. She is also the daughter of West Virginia State Senator Craig Blair.
After her victory in the 59th District was declared, the fiscally conservative Republican wrote on her campaign Facebook page that “I am honored and humbled to have been elected the youngest member to ever serve in the West Virginia House of Delegates.”
“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,” the post read.
Diehl, an attorney, congratulated her opponent in a Facebook post late Tuesday night, writing “Tonight, the people have spoken and, in the end, it is the collective voice of the people that determines how we will be governed. I have come to truly respect my opponent, Ms. Blair.”
“We don’t always get the most desirable press attention in the Mountain State, but Ms. Blair’s candidacy has brought on us a national spotlight that is very uplifting and that I hope will encourage young people throughout the country to get involved and to contribute what they have to make a difference as early as they can in life,” Diehl wrote.
Support for the 2nd Amendment features prominently among Blair’s conservative positions – she states on her campaign page that “firearms allow our law abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families” – as does her pro-life advocacy, belief in voter ID and opposition to same-sex marriage.
Blair received 20 official endorsements during her campaign, including an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.
The young woman first made national headlines when she beat a two-term state delegate in her primary election – before graduating high school.
West Virginia on Tuesday also elected the state’s first woman to the U.S. Senate, Shelley Moore Capito. Capito, who also becomes the first Republican senator from West Virginia in more than 50 years, replaces retiring five-term Democrat Jay Rockefeller.