Republican U.S. Senate nominee JD Vance speaks on stage at a rally hosted by former U.S. President Donald Trump in Youngstown, Ohio September 17, 2022.
Gaelen Morse | Reuters
Republican JD Vance defeated Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in the Ohio Senate race, keeping the seat red and stepping up the party’s attempt to flip control of the chamber, NBC News projected.
Vance’s win will increase the GOP’s chances of regaining control of the Senate, which is currently split 50-50 by party.
Vance and Ryan vied for the seat, which was vacated by retired Republican Senator Rob Portman. Ohio has emerged as a more reliable Republican in recent elections, voting for former President Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020.
Both Vance and Ryan positioned themselves as populists trying to appeal to the American working class.
Ryan sought to distance himself from President Joe Biden throughout the campaign, speaking out against the student loan forgiveness program and the party’s stance on immigration. He also refuted allegations that he was in the pockets of Democratic leaders, noting that he campaigned against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the position of minority leader in 2016. Ryan told Vance in a debate that he could “move back to San Francisco” if he wanted to debate with Pelosi.
In the final weeks of the campaign, Ryan received little support from Democrats nationally. Vance, who trailed the Democrat in fundraising, received nearly $30 million in support from the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC linked to Senate GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Vance is a venture capitalist and henchman of billionaire Peter Thiel. Thiel, his old boss, later backed Vance’s Ohio-based venture capital firm Narya Capital and was a key donor to the campaign early on. Ryan tried to portray Vance as a carpet digger who cares more about San Francisco and Washington DC than his home state.
Vance gained national recognition in 2016 with his memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, about white poverty and addiction in the Appalachian Mountains. First part of the “Never Trump” movement, he later embraced former presidents and many far-right positions.
Trump endorsed him early in his main campaign, which boosted his bid for the nomination. A month before Election Day, the former president welcomed his support for Vance, saying at a rally for the candidate that “JD kisses me — he wants my support so bad.”