JD Vance, Trump’s Pick In Ohio, Wins GOP Senate Primary

TOLEDO, Ohio — JD Vance, the author and first-time candidate who nabbed former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, won Ohio’s GOP Senate primary on Tuesday, settling a tumultuous race for the Republican nomination.

Vance’s campaign had stagnated until last month, when Trump made his pick in Ohio’s crowded contest. The move bumped the “Hillbilly Elegy” author out ahead of his opponents, including Josh Mandel, a former state treasurer and the far-right evangelical candidate, and state Sen. Matt Dolan, a moderate who refused to kiss Trump’s ring.

Ohio’s GOP Senate primary was the first major test of Trump’s endorsement mettle — and the outcome seems to bode well for him in upcoming races. Trump is backing Republican primary candidates in more than two dozen states, but not every one is as well positioned as Vance. Trump’s other picks aren’t surging with his support, or they carry a baggage that could hurt them in a general election.

Besides Dolan and Mandel, Vance beat financier Mike Gibbons and former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken. He will likely face Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in November, in a state Trump won twice.

Vance wasn’t a tailor-made Trump man. The 37-year-old venture capitalist was an early Trump critic before coming around to the former president when he decided to run for the US Senate. Trump’s own embrace of Vance has been tepid. At a rally last month, Trump acknowledged that Vance had said “some bad shit” about him previously, but so have many Republicans, he said. “I have to do what I have to do,” Trump said, regarding endorsing Vance so he beats the Democrat in November.

JD Vance won’t Ohio’s GOP primary on Tuesday. (Photo: Joe Maiorana/Associated Press)

JD Vance won’t Ohio’s GOP primary on Tuesday. (Photo: Joe Maiorana/Associated Press)

At a rally in Nebraska over the weekend for gubernatorial candidate Charles Herbster, Trump seemed to forget whom he endorsed, touting a nonexistent candidate named “JD Mandel” in Ohio. “And he’s doing great,” Trump added.

This is the first time Vance has run for public office. The GOP nominee is known for his best-selling memoir about growing up around poverty and addiction in a former steel-manufacturing town. He writes about escaping his upbringing through enlisting in the Marine Corps. Vance graduated from Yale Law School and worked for PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who contributed $13.5 million to a Vance-aligned super PAC. Thiel is also backing Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters.

After returning to the area where he grew up, Vance started a nonprofit aimed at helping Ohioans struggling with drug addiction and other problems, although an investigation of its tax records revealed it mostly existed to pay consultants.

In his pitch to voters, Vance has rail against China, the illegal drug trade, teaching students about racism in schools, and Big Tech. In a bizarre ad released last month, Vance asked voters, “Are you a racist? Do you hate Mexicans?” The commercial seemed to be making a point about the names Republicans get called for wanting to see Trump’s border wall completed, but it never quite lands.

For much of the race, Mandel and Vance were each other’s main opponents. But Mandel’s support seemed to be cool after he and Gibbons almost came to blows during a debate. In a campaign stop for Vance, Donald Trump Jr. signaled that Mandel’s performance may have cost him the endorsement, but others speculate it was more a product of Thiel’s lobbying and vast resources.

“Rejection sucks, right? I mean to prostrate himself as ridiculously as he did to get rejected, that has to be rough,” a Republican consultant in Ohio told HuffPost.

Vance campaigned with Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Ga.), and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) leading up to Election Day, while Mandel enlisted former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Timken appeared with Sen. Rob Portman, whose retirement sparked this contest.

The race was a nail-biter until the very end.

“Oh god,” said Josh Culling, an Ohio-based political consultant, a few days before the primary, when asked to predict who might win. “Who the hell knows?”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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