J. D. Vance, an Ohio-based venture capitalist and the author of the bestselling memoir Hillbilly Elegy, officially announced his bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio on Thursday.
“You have leaders of this country, in government and in business, who don’t think they owe anything to the country that made them who they are,” Vance said during an event in his hometown of Middletown, Ohio.
He said that he hopes to bring a new kind of politics to the Senate. Should he be elected, Vance would join Senator Josh Hawley in the GOP’s emergent populist wing, which is defined by its opposition to “elites” in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street, and an increased comfort with the use of government to rein them in.
However, Vance’s history of criticizing Donald Trump during the 2016 election cycle could pose a challenge to winning over Republican voters in that state that the former president won in 2020.
Vance called Trump “noxious” in 2016 and voted for independent Evan McMullin, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. He also described Trump supporters as being unmarried, uneducated and less likely to attend church.
“Trump makes people I care about afraid,” Vance said just before the election in 2016. “Immigrants, Muslims, etc. Because of this I find him reprehensible.”
However, Vance in recent months seems to have worked toward building a relationship with Trump, visiting the former president at Mar-a-Lago and attending one of his rallies in hopes of securing his support, the paper reports.
While Trump’s endorsement could be a game-changer in the race, it is unclear if the former president will throw his support behind anyone in the contest that is not of great importance to him personally.
Vance, a 36-year-old Marine Corps veteran, joins a crowded pool of GOP candidates vying to replace retiring Senator Rob Portman (R., Ohio), including former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, former state treasurer Josh Mandel, car dealer Bernie Moreno and investment banker Mike Gibbons.
Meanwhile, Democratic representative Tim Ryan also has announced his candidacy.
Vance’s campaign got a $10 million boost from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Thiel also invested in Vance’s Ohio-based venture capital firm, Narya. Vance once worked for Thiel’s Mithril Capital.