Hawley backs Vance in Ohio's crowded Republican Senate primary

Trump ally takes sides in one of most competitive Republican Senate primaries in country

EXCLUSIVE – Conservative Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri is supporting venture capitalist and best-selling author J.D. Vance in the crowded and combustible field of contenders vying for the Republican Senate nomination in the 2022 race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio.

The endorsement, shared first with Fox News on Tuesday, is the first by Hawley in the 2022 election cycle in an open GOP Senate nomination race.

"I’m proud to endorse JD Vance for U.S. Senate from Ohio. JD knows well the devastating realities that our country faces. Especially in Ohio, families gripped by addiction have the cards stacked against them and entire towns continue to plummet. JD will fight for tighter restrictions at the southern border, bring back a robust manufacturing industry and put the needs of our own American citizens first," Hawley said in a statement.

WITH J.D. VANCE IN THE RACE, OHIO GOP PRIMARY BECOMES BIGGER, MORE EXPENSIVE

The first-term senator, former Missouri attorney general, and ally of former President Donald Trump whom pundits view as a potential 2024 GOP White House hopeful, emphasized that "JD is the only candidate out in front of the corruption in our technology industry. He will crack down on Big Tech bowing down to China, stand up for the American worker, and put our country back on the track of prosperity and opportunity."

Vance, who lives in Cincinnati, grabbed national attention after his memoir "Hillbilly Elegy" – which tells his story of growing up in a struggling steel mill city and his roots in Appalachian Kentucky – became a New York Times bestseller and was made into a Netflix film. Vance, who announced his candidacy at the beginning of July, is a first-time candidate, although he considered a 2018 GOP challenge to Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown before deciding against running.

"I'm honored to receive Josh’s endorsement. No one else in the U.S. Senate has fought as tirelessly against the Big Tech monopolists who censor conservatives and control the flow of information in our country. Josh points the way toward a conservatism that stands for the interests and values of American workers and families," Vance said in a statement.

NOEM ENDORSES TIMKEN IN OHIO GOP SENATE PRIMARY BATTLE

Vance is among 10 candidates vying for next year’s GOP Senate nomination in Ohio. The field also includes former Ohio treasurer and former two-time Senate candidate Josh Mandel; former Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken; Cleveland businessman and luxury auto dealership giant Bernie Moreno; and 2018 Ohio Republican Senate candidate Mike Gibbons, a Cleveland entrepreneur, real estate developer and investment banker.

Longtime Rep. Mike Turner, who represents the state’s 10th Congressional District, and state Sen. Mike Dolan, whose family owns Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians, have taken steps toward launching campaigns. 

Vance is being supported by Protect Ohio Values, a super PAC that was formed earlier this year. PayPal co-founder and billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel made headlines in March by contributing $10 million of his own money to finance the newly formed super PAC.

Hawley’s backing of Vance follows other high-profile endorsements in the GOP primary. Among the others was last month’s endorsement of Timken by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, the libertarian-minded senator and 2016 Republican presidential contender, is backing Gibbons. Conservative Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is supporting Mandel. Richard Grenell, who served as ambassador to Germany and acting director of National Intelligence during former President Trump’s administration, is backing Moreno. And Rep. Jim Banks of neighboring Indiana, the chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, is supporting Vance.

All of the major contenders are vying for Trump’s support in the primary, but the former president to date has remained neutral in the showdown.

The most recent polling in the GOP nomination race suggests Mandel atop the pack, with Vance steadily rising.

The winner of next year’s Republican primary may face off against longtime Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan of northeastern Ohio. Ryan, who declared his candidacy for the Senate in April, is considered the favorite for the Democratic nomination in a primary field expected to be much smaller than the large GOP roster of contenders. Progressive Morgan Harper, a former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau senior adviser and 2020 congressional candidate, announced her candidacy earlier this summer.

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The U.S. Senate is split 50-50 between the two parties, but the Democrats hold a razor-thin majority due to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, who serves as president of the Senate. That means the GOP only needs a one-seat pickup to regain the majority.

But Republicans are defending 20 of the 34 seats up for grabs in 2022. Besides Ohio, the GOP is also defending open seats in the key battlegrounds of North Carolina and Pennsylvania as well as in Missouri and Alabama.