What’s next: Vance, candidate with well-told story, joins crowded race for Senate

Middletown native J.D. Vance announced his bid for U.S. Senate during an event at Middletown Tube Works with over 400 people in attendance Thursday, July 1, 2021 in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Middletown native J.D. Vance announced his bid for U.S. Senate during an event at Middletown Tube Works with over 400 people in attendance Thursday, July 1, 2021 in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The race to replace retiring Ohio Sen. Rob Portman got more crowded with the addition of an award-winning author whose well-told story was made into a movie.

Middletown native J.D. Vance, who wrote “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” and frequent guest on national talk shows, announced his candidacy Thursday night during an event at Middletown Pipe Works.

Vance, 36, a Middletown High School, Ohio State and Yale graduate, joined a slew of Republicans clamoring for Portman’s seat, including former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken, former state treasurer Josh Mandel, car dealer Bernie Moreno and investment banker Mike Gibbons.

Running so far on the Democratic side is U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

By the time Vance took the stage at 6:45 p.m. Thursday, the passionate crowd had grown to about 450 and many of them used Vance’s cardboard campaign signs as fans due to the extreme heat in the warehouse.

Much of the music that was played on the loudspeaker — from the Rolling Stones to John Mellencamp to Michael Jackson — was reminiscent of a 1980s high school prom soundtrack.

At times during his 30-minute speech, the crowd responded to Vance’s remarks by waving signs and chanting, “J.D. J.D. J.D.”

While some people in the audience said they wanted to hear Vance’s position on certain subjects before making up their minds who to vote for in the senate race, at least one was already in Vance’s corner.

“He’s family,” said Carol Vance, 75, who said her husband and J.D. are cousins. She made the 100-mile drive from Hilliard to Middletown. “He looks just like my husband did at that age.”

Butler County Treasurer Nancy Nix called Vance “one of the brightest people” she has met and his lack of political experience isn’t a concern.

“He has been tested in a myriad of other ways,” said Nix, noting Vance is a Marine, college graduate and best-selling author despite his troubled upbringing. “His life experience means more than if he had served in the Ohio senate or as a mayor.”

Former Middletown police Chief Rodney Muterspaw, who has said he is running for city council in Middletown, said Vance will be “good for the country” because he knows “both sides” due to his childhood.

State Rep. Thomas Hall, R-Madison Twp., said it’s “too early to endorse” any candidate because of the large field and diverse opinions. He was looking forward to listening to Vance’s political views.

Vance said he was committed to fighting for working-class Ohioans, defending traditional American values and standing up to ruling class elites and Big Tech. He said Washington needs “smart fighters” who are willing to shake up the system to make the country better.

He wants to lower taxes for the middle class and raise taxes on the companies that take jobs overseas, he said much to the delight of the crowd.

“We need people in Washington, DC who know how the system works and who know how to reform that system and make it better, and that’s why I’m running to be your next U.S. Senator for the state of Ohio,” he said.

On Wednesday, the day before Vance announced his candidacy, Club for Growth PAC, which has endorsed Mandel in March, released a statement from its president David McIntosh that in part read: “He claims to be a Trump Republican, but in the short time Mr. Vance has been active in politics he’s spent the bulk of it tearing down President Trump and mocking Trump voters. He says he’s a conservative, but in fact he favors more government control on individuals and businesses, supports more Big Government spending, and even calls for higher taxes.”

While the event resembled a pep rally, there were several times when Vance got emotional talking about his disjointed family. His parents, Donald Bowman and Bev Vance, divorced when he was young, and he was raised by his grandparents.

His parents were together Thursday for the first time since their son got married seven years ago, he said.

He talked about his grandmother, whom he called “mamaw,” who was the driving force behind his success and a major character in his book and Ron Howard’s movie. He said she owned 19 handguns and once when J.D. was hanging out with a boy who was “a little rough around the edges,” she threated to run the kid over with her car and nobody would find out.

“She kept me on the straight and narrow,” he said.

Middletown native J.D. Vance announced his bid for U.S. Senate during an event at Middletown Tube Works with over 400 people in attendance Thursday, July 1, 2021 in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Middletown native J.D. Vance announced his bid for U.S. Senate during an event at Middletown Tube Works with over 400 people in attendance Thursday, July 1, 2021 in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Middletown native J.D. Vance announced his bid for U.S. Senate during an event at Middletown Tube Works with over 400 people in attendance Thursday, July 1, 2021 in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Middletown native J.D. Vance announced his bid for U.S. Senate during an event at Middletown Tube Works with over 400 people in attendance Thursday, July 1, 2021 in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Middletown native J.D. Vance greets attendees after announcing his bid for U.S. Senate during an event at Middletown Tube Works with over 400 people in attendance Thursday, July 1, 2021 in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Middletown native J.D. Vance greets attendees after announcing his bid for U.S. Senate during an event at Middletown Tube Works with over 400 people in attendance Thursday, July 1, 2021 in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham