JD Vance jumps into Ohio Senate primary

Conservative author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance jumped into the Ohio Senate race Thursday, marking a high-profile entry into the GOP nominating contest. 

Vance, in his announcement speech in Middletown, Ohio, cast himself as a “fighter” for everyday Americans. 

“I think what we need in Washington is not just leaders who talk about doing things, but have actually done them and continue to do them,” Vance said. “I think we need people in Washington who are fighters. And not just fighters, but smart fighters.”

“We need people in Washington, D.C., who know how the system works, who know how to reform that system and can make this country better. And that’s why I’m running to be your next senator from the state of Ohio.”

Vance particularly said he would fight against Democrats, who he suggested were limiting Americans’ freedom. 

“This is a beautiful country. Never let them take it away from us, never stop fighting for it,” he said.

Vance, known for authoring the best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” launched an exploratory committee for a Senate run in May. Speculation over a potential Senate bid skyrocketed after PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel dumped $10 million into Protect Ohio Values, a super PAC pushing Vance to run.

That financial backing, combined with Vance’s name ID from his book, are likely to make him a formidable contender in the GOP field to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

In a sign that Democrats view him as a potent contender, Sen. Sherrod Brown, the only Democrat to hold a statewide elected office in the Buckeye State, sent out a fundraising solicitation earlier Thursday in advance of Vance’s announcement.

“[W]ith the news that J.D. Vance is officially entering the race for the open Ohio Senate seat today, we need all hands on deck,” he wrote.

Vance is jumping into a crowded primary field. Other Republican candidates include former Senate candidate Mike Gibbons, former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, businessman Bernie Moreno and former Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken.

Other GOP contenders are anticipated to pounce on Vance over his past opposition to Trump, including during the former president’s 2016 run.

“I can’t stomach Trump. I think that he’s noxious and is leading the white working class to a very dark place,” Vance told NPR in 2016.

However, Vance has changed his tune, more vocally supporting Trump and tapping into culture war issues, including mask-wearing during the pandemic.

Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) is the only Democrat thus far to jump into the Senate contest.

Updated 7:48 p.m.

Tags Bernie Moreno Hillbilly Elegy J.D. Vance Jane Timken josh mandel Rob Portman Sherrod Brown Tim Ryan United States Senate election in Ohio

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