J.D. Vance has embraced former President Donald Trump after previously calling him 'reprehensible.'
Ohio voters in both major parties on Tuesday selected nominees for the open Senate seat of retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman. Democrats selected Rep. Tim Ryan, a staunch advocate for American workers and their families. Republicans selected J.D. Vance, a millionaire venture capitalist and author who spent much of the primary campaign running away from his previous positions.
According to the New York Times, with 86% of the votes counted, Ryan won the Democratic primary over two opponents in a landslide, with 69.7% support.
Vance received 32.2% of the GOP vote with 95% of the vote counted, prevailing over former state treasurer Josh Mandel, state Sen. Matt Dolan, and several other candidates.
Ryan was first elected to Congress in 2002. During his 10 terms in the House, according to his House website, he has focused on helping working families and on protecting manufacturing jobs. As a senator, his campaign website says, he will work on "cutting workers in on the deal," "beginning with passing the PRO Act, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expanding access to high-quality and affordable child care, and protecting the promise of a dignified retirement." The Ohio AFL-CIO is among the 25 unions listed on the website as having endorsed his candidacy.
Vance, the author of the bestselling book "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis," was a vocal so-called "Never Trumper" during Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. He endorsed independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, called Trump "xenophobic" and "an idiot," and said in a since deleted tweet, "Trump makes people I care about afraid. Immigrants, Muslims, etc. Because of this I find him reprehensible."
After becoming a Senate candidate, Vance apologized for his comments, telling Fox News in July, "I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I've been very open that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy. I think he was a good president, I think he made a lot of good decisions for people, and I think he took a lot of flak."
Vance also flip-flopped on an array of issues, abandoning his previous support for gun safety laws and decrying COVID-19 safety rules he once embraced. As the Daily Beast reported in January 2022, Vance told interviewer Ezra Klein in 2017, "I think it's always important to note that there are obviously still advantages to being white, there are still disadvantages to being black, even when you control completely for class, income, and so forth"; during a speech in 2021, the Daily Beast noted, he said, "If you are actively teaching racism in American schools, in American corporations, if you're creating a hostile work environment because you have to tell everybody that they need to deconstruct their privilege, or they need to sacrifice or repent of their whiteness, then you are committing what should be a violation of the law in this country, and people should be able to sue you."
Vance has campaigned as a "conservative outsider," but played up endorsements from Trump and from a number of right-wing members of Congress and the GOP establishment.
On his campaign site he vows to "dismantle big tech oligarchy" and "break up the big tech companies, to reduce their power in our economy and our politics." But he has received at least $10 million in outside campaign support from white supremacist-linked tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and Palantir Technologies.
Vance's campaign website says, "Crime has skyrocketed, and even many successful families find it harder to get ahead. Every day, we read about a new assault on our country: from the Chinese who are stealing from American industry, or from our own 'leaders' who teach our kids to hate their own country. Why is this happening? For a simple reason: our leaders have failed." Meanwhile, he has repeatedly spread false claims about the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrectionists and has agreed that those arrested in connection with the riot are "political prisoners" and "political hostages."
After Politico reported on Monday that the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and eliminate the right to have an abortion in the United States, Ryan tweeted Tuesday, "Every single one of my GOP opponents supports extreme, restrictive anti-abortion laws. We cannot let them near the Senate. Our only choice to protect abortion is to flip this seat blue and expand our Democratic Senate majority."
Vance cheered the news, writing, "Hope the news of the leaked opinion is true. Would be an amazing victory for the pro life movement and, most importantly, the innocents we fight for."
Despite Vance's extreme positions and flip-flops, he starts the general election race with a bit of an advantage: Ohio voted for Trump in 2020 by a 53%-45% margin. But Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown won reelection in the state in 2018 by a similar 53%-47% spread.
After winning the Democratic nomination, Ryan released a campaign ad accusing Vance of abandoning Ohio for San Francisco and showing footage of the Republican saying, "People may not always agree with my rhetoric, but I think, unfortunately, our country's kind of a joke."
"Now Vance says he feels out of place in Ohio," Ryan tells viewers. "And he wants to represent you in the Senate? What a joke."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.