COLUMBUS — “Hillbilly Elegy” author JD Vance defeated Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan for an open U.S. Senate seat in Ohio on Tuesday in a blow to Democrats who viewed it as one of their best chances nationally to flip a seat.
Vance, 38, a venture capitalist and newcomer to politics, benefited from a last-minute push by Donald Trump. The former Republican president had endorsed Vance in a crowded, ugly Republican primary — despite Vance having once declared himself a “never-Trumper” — and then rallied for him twice, most recently on election eve.
Vance and Trump successfully linked Ryan to the national economic climate he blamed on President Joe Biden, while Ryan failed to make stick his narrative that Vance’s Ivy League education and time in the San Francisco tech industry meant he was out of touch with Ohio values.
Yet Vance commended Ryan’s campaign in his victory speech Tuesday and praised his dedication to the state. He pledged to stand up for the working Ohioans around whom Ryan framed his campaign, and to represent all Ohioans whether they voted for him or not.
Vance’s victory was a devastating turn for Ryan, a 10-term congressman whose well-executed, well-funded campaign had buoyed his party by remaining within the margin of error of most polls since summer. That, despite Trump having twice won Ohio by 8 percentage points.
Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday gained a second term as he defeated challenger Nan Whaley, a Democrat who hoped to regain a seat last won by her party 16 years ago. The victory by the incumbent governor was part of a GOP sweep of statewide offices.
DeWine prevailed in a surprisingly tight three-way primary in May as conservatives angered by his efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus sought to unseat him. Whaley handily defeated former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley in her primary.
“This is Ohio’s time in history, things are coming our way,” DeWine said in his victory speech. But he also said unfinished business lay ahead, from ensuring proper prenatal and post-natal care for children, making sure students graduating from high school have a clear pathway to college or other career opportunities, and removing barriers to treatment for addiction and mental illness.
“I will continue to push forward and to lead and to talk about the things that we have to do,” DeWine said.