Saira Blair, a 17-year-old high school student, unseated an incumbent state lawmaker in a West Virginia Republican primary Tuesday.
Blair defeated Larry Kump, 66, by 144 votes. That earned her the chance to run against Democrat Layne Diehl in the November general election for a shot to represent the state’s 59th District in the House of Delegates.
“I’m really thankful that the people are willing to give me a chance regardless of my age,” Blair told The Herald-Mail, a local paper.
“I really want to work to prove to the people that I can do this,” she said.
Blair turns 18 in July, making her eligible to run for the seat. Seventeen-year-olds who will be 18 prior to the November general election are allowed to vote under West Virginia law according to the Associated Press.
Blair bills herself as a churchgoing conservative who is pro-life, pro-gun rights and pro-business. She promoted her young age as an advantage that she had over her opponent.
"The one thing that comes with a younger age is, I don't come in with many biases," Blair told WHAG News before the primary. ”I'm more willing to listen to the people and take exactly the views of my district down to Charleston.”
She said one of the main issues facing West Virginia is job creation.
"You can get a good education but what you can't get is a good paying job," Blair said. "A lot of my friends have been forced to leave the state because they just can't find work here. I think we need to work on promoting more jobs in the state.”
Blair will graduate from high school next week. She plans to attend West Virginia University in the fall. If she wins the November election she has said she will sit out the spring term to attend the legislative session that convenes from January to March.
Kump blames his loss on low voter turnout. Only 1,600 votes were cast in the primary election
"Quite frankly, she out-campaigned me," he said. "It was a low voter turnout election and she won.”
Blair is the daughter of Republican state Sen. Craig Blair. He said his daughter has attended GOP meetings with him since she was in the sixth grade. That certainly had an influence on the young Republican hopeful.
"People saw that you don't need to wait until you are 40, 50 or 60 to realize our conservative principles are beneficial to everyone," she said of her primary win.