Republican J.D. Vance will be the next U.S. Senator from Ohio, keeping the seat in GOP hands.
Vance, a Yale-educated Marine veteran, defeated Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in the race to replace retiring Sen. Rob Portman. Republicans were favored to retain the seat in a state former President Donald Trump won by eight points in 2020, but polling showed Ryan in a dead heat with Vance for the entirety of the race.
A venture capitalist and Ohio native who returned to his home state to run for Senate, Vance rose to prominence in 2016 as the author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” a bestselling memoir that received much attention in the lead-up to that year’s presidential election.
Although the book was seen as a guide of sorts to why working-class white voters gravitated to Trump, Vance was critical of the erstwhile real estate magnate. He became a prominent anti-Trump conservative commentator, but shifted his stance in recent years, courting Trump’s support.
The former president endorsed Vance and helped push him through a competitive primary. Vance also received a primary boost in the form of millions of dollars in campaign contributions from billionaire Peter Thiel, whom he worked for prior to running for office.
In embracing Trump, Vance promoted the former president’s conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was illegitimate. “There were certainly people voting illegally on a large-scale basis,” he said in the lead-up to the GOP primary.
Trump mocked Vance’s about-face at a September rally, saying, “J.D. is kissing my ass, he wants my support.” Ryan repeatedly quoted Trump’s remarks in the final weeks of the campaign.
Vance won despite GOP concerns earlier this year about his campaign. He also initially claimed that he moved back to Ohio to establish a nonprofit organization that quickly folded as he turned his attention to the Senate contest.
Ryan, who has served two decades in Congress representing the Youngstown area and briefly ran for president in 2020, portrayed himself as a populist who wasn’t not afraid to go against Democratic leadership.
Following the 2016 election, Ryan mounted a failed bid against Nancy Pelosi to lead the party in the House. And while running for the Senate, he sold himself as a moderate who had stood up to his party, although Vance and his allies noted that Ryan was a reliable Democratic vote in the House.
“That rising energy price that people see at the pump, that they see in their utility bills, that our farmers see when they’re paying more for diesel — that was the direct result of policies enacted by Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and supported 100% by Tim Ryan,” Vance said at a debate last month.
Vance is expected to be to the right of many of his Senate Republican colleagues. He supported a proposed 15-week federal abortion ban other GOP candidates have sidestepped or denounced. And in line with other candidates supported by Thiel, Vance has called for a complete overhaul of the federal government.
“I think Trump is going to run again in 2024,” Vance told Vanity Fair earlier this year. “I think that what Trump should do, if I was giving him one piece of advice: Fire every single midlevel bureaucrat, every civil servant in the administrative state, replace them with our people.”
“We are in a late republican period,” Vance added. “If we’re going to push back against it, we’re going to have to get pretty wild, and pretty far out there, and go in directions that a lot of conservatives right now are uncomfortable with.”