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‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author J.D. Vance launches exploratory bid for US Senate seat in Ohio

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J.D. Vance

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J.D. Vance has formed an exploratory committee for the Senate seat in Ohio being vacated by Republican Rob Portman, a close associate of JD Vance told Insider.

Ohio Values Project, the exploratory committee, is now accepting online donations for the 36-year-old’s campaign on a recently launched website of the same name.

“Short of an act of God, J.D. is going to be a candidate for the Ohio Senate State in the near future,” the Vance associate told Insider. “He has a message that is resonating with voters. And based on the reaction from the people that are already in the race, it’s clear that he will be a formidable force.” 

The venture capitalist and best-selling author of “Hillbilly Elegy”— the Rust-Belt, Trump-era memoir-turned Oscar-nominated Netflix film that captured growing up in Middletown — has been flirting with a run for months. 

His exploratory committee will now exist alongside the Vance-aligned super PAC Protect Ohio Values, which was seeded with a $10 million donation from Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire. Thiel met with Vance and former President Donald Trump recently at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Axios reported last month.

Vance worked with Theil at Mithril Capital in Silicon Valley before moving back to his native Ohio. In April, Axios also reported that Vance departed from the board of AppHarvest, the Morehead, Kentucky-based company behind high-tech indoor farms in Appalachia. 

Vance declined to comment. 

At least 10 GOP candidates are weighing bids in the Ohio Senate primary, which will be one of the biggest tests of Trump’s enduring appeal during next year’s midterm elections.

Former Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken have each declared their candidacies.  The long list of possible candidates also includes businessman Bernie Moreno and Mike Gibbons and Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Tim Ryan has announced his candidacy. 

The source close to Vance said an official announcement could come as early as the summer.

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