Author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance has been projected the winner of Ohio’s contentious Republican primary for Senate.
Holding the Ohio Senate seat soon to be vacated by the retiring Sen. Rob Portman is crucial to Republicans' efforts to win a Senate majority. The Cook Political Report has rated the race "Lean Republican," meaning the GOP will likely maintain the seat.
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In remarks to supporters at his election night party, Vance called his victory a referendum on both what the country and the Republican Party should be.
Vance said the party should be unified to take on Democrats in the fall and offered praise to each of his rivals at the conclusion of a brutal primary.
“The party that we need to unify to fight Tim Ryan is our Republican Party,” Vance said.
For months, the Republican race seemed to be driven by most of the candidates trying to prove their fealty to former President Donald Trump. Trump ultimately endorsed Vance last month and held a rally in Delaware, Ohio, to tout the endorsement. But Trump’s announcement came late in the process, after early voting in the state had already begun.
The field also included former state Treasurer Josh Mandel, businessman Mike Gibbons, state Sen. Matt Dolan, and Jane Timken, a former state party chairwoman.
Allies of Mandel, who also sought Trump’s endorsement, were critical of Trump’s selection of Vance, arguing the Hillbilly Elegy author spoke critically of Trump and his supporters in 2016. But that criticism did not ultimately deter Trump, who argued that Vance was best situated to win November’s election.
But at a Nebraska rally on Sunday, while discussing his endorsement in Ohio, Trump botched Vance’s name, appearing to confuse him with Mandel.
“We’ve endorsed J.P., right? J.D. Mandel, and he’s doing great, they’re all doing good,” Trump said. “And let’s see what happens.”
The race was also seen as a test of Trump’s influence in primary contests. Prior to Trump’s endorsement of Vance, the candidate lagged in the polls, at times trailing both Mandel and Gibbons.
Dips in polls for both Mandel and Gibbons appeared to follow a confrontation between the two rivals at a candidate forum where Mandel got in Gibbons's face and the two men appeared as if they might come to blows. Gibbons later said that although he was not at fault for the confrontation, he was embarrassed by it.
Timken, who sought and did not secure Trump’s endorsement in the primary, was endorsed by Portman but never gained traction in the race.
Dolan, a part-owner of the Cleveland Guardians, was the lone candidate in the Republican field who argued that the party should move on from Trump’s unfounded claims about the 2020 election. While declining to label himself anti-Trump and embracing aspects of Trump’s agenda, Dolan was critical of Trump’s claims of election fraud. Polling in the final stretch of the race indicated Dolan was gaining support, which could have been tied to a television and digital ad campaign with a positive tone.
Vance will go on to face Rep. Tim Ryan in November, who won the Democratic nomination for Senate. The state’s Democratic Party earlier this week argued the contentious Republican primary would leave its winner damaged going into the general election.
In a statement, Ohio Democratic Party Chairwoman Elizabeth Walters blasted Vance as the GOP nominee, arguing he is one of the elitists he campaigns against.
“It’s no wonder that an elitist like California Vance admits he feels ‘out of place’ in Ohio after leaving the state behind and moving to San Francisco, scoring a New York City book deal to cash in on Ohioans’ pain and making untold millions from a Netflix Hollywood movie deal," she said.
"California Vance is an elitist and a fraud who blamed Ohio workers for their own hardships while absolving unfair trade deals and giant corporations of their role in outsourcing jobs and devastating Ohio communities," Walters continued. "But it’s not just Ohioans who are fair game — California Vance actually thinks our whole country is ‘kind of a joke.’ Now, this Silicon Valley elitist is looking for another ticket out of Ohio so he can move back to Washington D.C. to become California’s third Senator. We look forward to holding California Vance accountable so every voter knows he’s an out-of-touch elitist who left Ohio behind and does not have Ohio values.”
A Monday memo from the Ohio Democratic Party argued that Trump’s “last-minute endorsement” of Vance “highlights the weakness of the GOP Senate field.”
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“The race to secure Trump’s endorsement has bloodied the GOP Senate candidates and left whoever wins Tuesday’s primary deeply damaged,” the memo said.