MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — Middletown-born Marine veteran, author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate in front of several hundred supporters Thursday evening. It was a local announcement with national political implications.
Vance is running for the seat being vacated in 2022 by Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who announced in January he will not seek a third term in the Senate.
“We need people in Washington D.C. who knows how the system works — knows how to reform that system and make this country better,” Vance said to the crowd that gathered for his announcement.
Vance first gained nationwide-acclaim as the author of the memoir "Hillbilly Elegy," which was made into a movie shot on location in Middletown. His account of his own childhood and attempts to diagnose the cultural problems of white Rust Belt communities made the book a New York Times best seller and a magnet for political analysis in the wake of President Donald Trump's 2016 electoral win.
His speech on Thursday was a checklist of modern-day Republican talking points, with particular focus on preventing the teaching of critical race theory, bringing good-paying jobs to Ohio communities and representing middle-class workers.
“I’ve lived a lucky and blessed life,” Vance said. “There are a lot of kids all across this country, a lot of adults that look to the future more with frustration and fear than with hope and optimism.”
He also talked about taxing big tech companies and criticized the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Where did the idea (come from) that you’re not allowed to complain about the coronavirus restrictions?” Vance, who has criticized these restrictions on national television, asked the crowd. “It came from two places: Democrats and our public health leadership. I want to tell you something. It came from Fauci.”
That was the only remark of the night that got a mixed reaction from his audience.
West Chester resident Carl Reisen sees the Yale graduate and venture capitalist as a potential “disrupter” in Washington D.C.
“This is just the beginning,” Reisen said. “You want to see if it’ll grow from here. From Middletown to Butler County to Warren County, then carry through the rest of the state. I thought his message tonight was really strong.”
Vance said in a 2016 interview with WCPO he had considered a Senate run before but decided against it, stating at that time he was busy with investment work, a nonprofit and his young family