J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy Author and Early Never Trumper, Likely Candidate for Ohio GOP U.S. Senate Nomination


COLUMBUS, Ohio – J.D. Vance is expected to announce his candidacy for the 2022 U.S. Senate in Ohio.

“All signs point to J.D. launching a run in the coming months,” a source told the Washington Times.

Vance is a venture capitalist and author Hillbilly Elegy, his memoir that became a Netflix hit.

The news of his likely bid for the seat from which U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) will retire comes after reports that PayPal co-founder Peter Theil donated $10M to Project Ohio Values – a super PAC launched last month to sign up supporters and raise funds for Vance.

A Washington, D.C. political operative told The Ohio Star, “I’m not sure that a $10 million investment to a super PAC supporting a potential candidate means that the potential candidate is on the fence. Most likely J.D. will be in.”

The PAC also received contributions from the Mercer family – Robert Mercer was a key donor to President Trump’s 2016 campaign but was less so in 2020.

The Project Ohio Values website states, “We’re a network of grassroots conservatives committed to electing a Senator who will stand for and defend Ohio’s values in Washington, DC. We believe J. D. Vance is the right man for the job and we are signing up supporters and raising funds to demonstrate a groundswell of support in the Buckeye State.”

In a video sent to The Star, Vance appears to be the first high-profile candidate who will not position himself as a Trump Republican – if his views from 2016 are the same in 2021. The video shows a series of clips beginning with comments from September 2017 and working back to 2016.

However, Project Ohio Values spokesperson Bryan Lanza believes Vance’s position has changed.

Lanza told The Star, “We don’t speak for J.D. or his campaign. But look, in ’16 Mandel and Jane [Timken] were with other people. I can’t speak for J.D., but I suspect he thought DJT’s tone was too aggressive but once he [Trump] was in office, J.D. saw that the civility of the GOP wasn’t going to work to change D.C. … the left doesn’t play by the rules.”

Lanza continued, “Ken Cuccinelli, Matt and Marcy Schlapp, and Sarah Huckabee all started where J.D. started” – saying they supported people other than Trump, but became strong supporters of the President.

“J.D. was there and clearly supportive of Trump – on CNN, defending him in ’19 and ’20. Trump was taking on more than policies, he was taking on institutions. I think J.D. will say the same,” Lanza concluded.

The D.C. source said, “Someone doesn’t need to be a 100% pro-Trump candidate to win with this many candidates, but [they] can’t be anti-Trump. They would need to navigate it carefully. Point out where they agree with Trump and play up their agreements, but decline to criticize Trump when given the opportunity.”

Vance worked as a principal for Mithril Capital Management – a firm co-owned by Thiel – after graduating Yale Law School. Thiel was a financial backer of Narya Capital, Vance’s early-stage venture capital fund based in Ohio that initially raised $93 million.

Thiel is a billionaire who sits on the board of directors at Facebook and co-founded data-mining company Cambridge Analytica.  Robert Mercer is a computer scientist and hedge fund manager who was a principal investor in Cambridge Analytica and a key broker of the United Kingdom exit from the European Union.  The Mercer Family Fund is a private grant-making foundation run by Rebekah Mercer, Robert’s daughter.

J.D. Vance was contacted but had not responded before press time.

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Jack Windsor is Statehouse Reporter at The Ohio Star. Windsor is also an independent investigative reporter. Follow Jack on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “J.D. Vance” by New America. CC BY 2.0.








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