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J.D. Vance wins GOP primary for Ohio Senate seat

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Author J.D. Vance won a crowded Republican Senate primary in Ohio on Tuesday, in a race that was viewed as a test of former President Donald Trump’s continued influence on the GOP.

The Associated Press called the heated race in favor of the “Hillbilly Elegy” scribe at 9:35 p.m., as Vance jumped out to a lead over six other candidates vying for the nomination.

Vance, 37, had previously criticized Trump in 2016 but softened his stance and embraced the 45th president on the campaign trail. Last month, Trump endorsed Vance, which gave him a boost in polls pundits called “The Trump Bump.”

The first-time candidate’s poll numbers jumped by 12 percentage points pushing him ahead of the previous frontrunner, former Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel, according to a Fox News poll released last week.

Trump’s late endorsement came only three weeks before the end of the primary and after several candidates jockeyed for the former president’s endorsement and fought for support among his base.

“We cannot play games. It is all about winning,” said Trump, who acknowledged Vance’s changing stance in his endorsement.

“Like some others, J.D. Vance may have said some not so great things about me in the past, but he gets it now, and I have seen that in spades,” Trump said at the time.

Senate candidate JD Vance, left, greets former President Donald Trump at a rally at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Vance, giving him a boost in the polls.
AP/Joe Maiorana

“This is not an easy endorsement for me to make because I like and respect some of the other candidates in this race – they’ve said great things about “Trump’ and, like me, they love Ohio and love our country.”

During his victory speech Tuesday night, Vance thanked the former president for his endorsement and called out the “fake news” for doubting his election bid.

“I’ve gotta say, a lot of the fake news media out there … they wanted to write a story that this campaign would be the death of Donald Trump’s America First agenda,” Vance told his supporters.

“Ladies and gentleman, it’s not the death of the America First agenda,” he declared to rousing applause.

Vance, who had also been backed by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, had portrayed himself as a Washington outsider who would shake up the status quo if elected in the post-Trump GOP mold.

“There are a few good people in Washington – probably not even 15 or 20,” he said during a town hall meeting in East Canton on Saturday.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance and his wife Usha Vance wave to supporters after winning the primary.
Vance and his wife Usha wave to supporters after winning the primary.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“If we get more people who are fighters on Capitol Hill we can finally start to reverse the decay in this country.”

Also running in the primary were investment banker Mike Gibbons, former state GOP leader Jane Timken and former Rep. Matt Dolan — the only candidate who didn’t actively seek Trump’s endorsement.

Vance’s win sets up an election showdown with US Rep. Tim Ryan, who won a three-way Democratic Party primary for the Senate seat on Tuesday.

The GOP is favored to hold onto the seat in Ohio, a longtime swing state that has been growing reliably red. The winner of the general election will replace Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who is set to retire.

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