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Report: 'Hillbilly Elegy' author J.D. Vance tells friends and colleagues he's running for US Senate seat in Ohio

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The best-selling author would seek to build a bridge between Trump's populism and the establishment GOP

Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post via Getty Images

"Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance is reportedly telling his friends and colleagues that he will run as a Republican for U.S. Senate in Ohio in 2022, competing to win the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Vance, a 36-year-old Marine Corps veteran, graduate of Yale Law School, and self-made venture capitalist resigned on Wednesday from the board of AppHarvest, a tomato grower based in Moorehead, Kentucky. According to a report from Axios, he told the other directors on the board that he is likely to run for Senate and did not want the company to become politicized after he launches his campaign.

Axios reported the best-selling author will seek to define himself as a bridge between former President Donald Trump's populist Make America Great Again movement and traditional establishment Republicans. He reportedly met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago recently along with supporter and Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel to discuss his prospective campaign.

A self-described conservative and contributor at National Review, Vance rose to prominence in 2016 with the release of "Hillbilly Elegy," a memoir that recounted his childhood upbringing in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. The communities he was raised in and wrote about face intergenerational problems of poverty, violence, and social decline, problems Vance has dedicated his professional career to helping to alleviate.

He began his career as a venture capitalist with Mithril Capital, a firm cofounded by Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan. In 2017, Vance became a partner at AOL founder Steve Case's firm Revolution LLC, which funds startup companies in parts of the country typically ignored by Silicon Valley and Wall Street. Two years later in 2019 he co-founded a venture capital firm called Narya — named for a magical ring in J.R.R. Tolkien's writings that has the power to inspire others to resist tyranny, domination, and despair — which is based in Ohio.

As a writer and public speaker, Vance often calls attention to the so-called forgotten Americans Trump spoke up for in his 2016 and 2020 campaigns for president. In a recent interview with the Daily Wire, Vance said that as someone who rose out of poverty through a combination of luck and hard work, he feels a duty to help others do the same.

"These issues are very close to my heart," Vance said. "At a very fundamental level, I want people to be able to achieve a middle class lifestyle if they're hardworking, and for a lot of folks right now, it's pretty hard to get by. It's hard for complicated reasons; we've seen the decimation of the manufacturing base in Ohio and other parts of the country. I do think that these are really important problems — whether you work on them in the private sector or in the public, I certainly feel that it's my obligation to give a little bit back. I mean, I've had a pretty fortunate life, here. I came from pretty tough circumstances, was raised by my grandparents, got to where I am now through some combination of luck and hard work and definitely feel a little bit like I'm obligated to at least try to solve some of these problems, though it's definitely not just one person's effort. "

Vance believes the Republican Party needs to shape its agenda around immigration, trade policy, and pro-family policies to rebuild American's manufacturing base and give workers the opportunity to rise and build a vibrant middle-class.

He is also an outspoken critic of Big Tech, which he has referred to as an "oligarchy," and called for raising corporate taxes and doing "whatever else is necessary to fight these goons."

The Ohio Republican primary for U.S. Senate is already crowded, with at least 10 Republican candidates vying for the GOP nomination. Prominent candidates include former Ohio GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken, who is backed by several establishment Republican figures in Ohio, and former two-term state treasurer Josh Mandel, who unsuccessfully ran for Senate against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in 2012 and ran again in 2018 before exiting the race citing his now ex-wife's health.

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