“Hillbilly Elegy” Author JD Vance Launches GOP Senate Bid in Ohio


MIDDLETOWN, Ohio – JD Vance, a venture capitalist known for “Hillbilly Elegy” – his best-selling memoir about growing up in the Appalachians and the industrial Midwest – entered the overcrowded Republican Senate primary in the Ohio.

“We need a new policy for a new generation,” said Vance, 36, as he launched his campaign Thursday night at a steel pipe factory here in his hometown. “The old way of doing things is not working.”

Vance’s launch could be the most disruptive development yet in a GOP primary already shaped by candidates’ zeal to win over former President Donald Trump and his supporters. The seat is up for grabs in 2020 because Republican Senator Rob Portman is not seeking another term.

Although he has never run for office and is not particularly well known in Ohio, Vance has a national profile thanks to his book and the Oscar-nominated film adapted, giving him unique access to coverage. free media, to elite donors and to the right. activists. Peter Thiel, PayPal co-founder and Facebook’s first investor who backed Trump in 2016, donated $ 10 million to a super PAC formed earlier this year to promote Vance as a Senate candidate.

That’s a hefty amount of money so early on for a race in Ohio, and it’s a sum that can help Vance’s allies present it to primary voters quickly. And the source of the money – a Big Tech entrepreneur – presents a certain irony to someone who, through his provocative Twitter presence, railed against Big Tech as being in cahoots with establishment Republicans.

At Vance’s Thursday event, guests held freshly printed signs proclaiming him a “conservative outsider.” He told familiar stories to his readers and gave a red meat speech that targeted coronavirus restrictions and incorporated his attacks on Big Tech. Specifically, he alluded to how social media networks, including Facebook, have banned Trump.

“It’s time to stop complaining about Big Tech,” said Vance, who is seeking successor to Republican Senator Rob Portman, who will not be running for re-election in 2022. “It’s time to start doing something.”

The campaign is the culmination of a sweeping transformation in the five years since the release of his book, which has coincided with Trump’s rise in the GOP and his march to the presidency and tapped into the times. of the white working class.

“Hillbilly Elegy” chronicles Vance’s childhood between rural Kentucky and Middletown, from his mother’s drug addiction and family poverty to the decline of industry in southwest Ohio. Vance then served in the Marines and graduated from Ohio State University and Yale Law School.

In 2016 interviews to promote his memoir, Vance was outspoken about his distaste for Trump and voted for independent Evan McMullin that year. “I can’t stand Trump,” he told NPR in August 2016, in a quote his Republican rivals, anticipating his entry into the race, brandished against him.

In December, in an interview with Cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, Vance admitted that Trump had “diagnosed very real problems” but was skeptical that he “had a lot of positive solutions.” He also criticized Trump for using “rhetoric that is not in the best interests of the party or the country.”

Establishment Republicans, including those aligned with John Kasich, a Trump critic who was then governor of Ohio, courted Vance to run for the Senate in 2018, but he succeeded.

Vance cultivates a different image now. He deleted old tweets, some directly critical of Trump, and uses his Twitter feed to position himself as a leading voice in culture wars while promoting the institutional mistrust maintained by the former president and his allies.

In April, Vance argued that President Joe Biden’s pressure to expand child care services favored “the lifestyle preferences of the rich over the preferences of the middle and working class.”

Last week he attacked General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for championing the study of critical breed theory. “Personally, I would like American generals to read less about ‘white rage’ (whatever it is) and more about ‘don’t lose wars’,” he wrote.

On Thursday, Vance peppered his launching speech with grievances. He denounced critical race theory, the academic term that seeks to recognize how inherent systemic racism is in American life and that the political right has become a major issue. He also placed emphasis on border security, saying it is not fair that a grandmother who complains about border security can be labeled as racist.

“What if I told you… that the reason she cares about the southern border is because she knows the drugs that killed her daughter are the same drugs that could kill her grandson?” Vance said. “What if I told you that she’s not racist because she loves her grand-baby more than she likes the approval of the people who hate her and hate this country?” “

Vance has worked to align himself with pro-Trump conservative media figures such as Tucker carlson and Steve Bannon. When he joined Bannon’s “War Room” show in May, the former Trump adviser praised him effusively as the “intellectual” leader of the nationalist-populist movement and for the attention that his tweets ” spicy “had received.

Bannon, who has argued his endorsement of the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump as a litmus test for GOP candidates, sought Vance’s opinion on the matter. Vance responded indirectly by proposing to end “this mail-in ballot” and saying that Election Day should be a national holiday. He also said he would support a bipartisan commission to investigate the deadly Jan.6 riot by pro-Trump supporters on Capitol Hill – if Republicans were represented by someone like Bannon on any panel.

“I think we need to investigate as much as possible,” Vance said of the 2020 election results. “I believe the sun is the best disinfectant. And we’re going to learn a lot about what happened. But, you know, I think at a basic level we already know a lot of what happened.

Other Republicans in the race have made false or unsubstantiated claims about the last election. Josh Mandel, a former state treasurer, said the election was stolen from Trump. Jane Timken, who served as Trump’s hand-picked president of the Ohio Republican Party, said there had been widespread fraud.

Cleveland-area businessmen Bernie Moreno, who once called Trump a “maniac,” but now embrace the former president’s brand, and Mike Gibbons, who have raised funds for Trump’s campaigns, are also candidates for the nomination of the GOP. The primary field could become even more crowded in the coming weeks. Rep. Mike Turner and State Senator Matt Dolan, whose family owns the Cleveland Indians, are considering GOP deals.

Trump did not back a candidate, although he did mention the four previously declared Republicans at a campaign-style rally last weekend in northeast Ohio.

Representative Tim Ryan is so far the only major Democratic candidate to run for Portman’s seat.

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