Republican J.D. Vance will win the Ohio Senate race, CNN projects, outlasting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Democrat Tim Ryan and keeping the seat under GOP control.
Vance’s win is a boon for Republicans and a victory for former President Donald Trump, whose endorsement in the Republican primary helped Vance emerge from the contentious intraparty fight.
Vance continues a long line of Republican victories in a state that has tilted towards the party in recent years. Other than Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, no Democrat has won nonjudicial statewide office in the state since 2008 and former President Barack Obama was the last Democratic presidential nominee to win the state in 2012.
“Whether you voted for me or not, the thing I promise to do is go to the United States Senate and fight every single day for the people of Ohio,” Vance said in his victory speech.
The famed “Hillbilly Elegy” author added: “And I guess my simple promise to everybody here: you’re not always going to agree with every vote that I take, you’re not going to agree with every single amendment that I offer in the United States Senate, but I will never forget the woman who raised me, I will never forget where I came from and I will never forget the great people of Ohio,” he said.
The race between Vance and Ryan was a contentious and, at times, personal affair, with both candidates holding a clear animosity towards the other.
Ryan’s stout challenge to Vance worried Republicans in Ohio and Washington, DC. That contributed to the acrimony, a feeling that played out on the campaign trail and during their two debates – both of which devolved into Vance and Ryan trading personal barbs.
“These leaders in DC will eat you up like a chew toy,” Ryan said of Vance’s support for Trump, even after the former president publicly accused him of “kissing my ass” to get him to campaign for him. “I am just telling you, like, I have been in this business, it is tough business. If you think you are going to help Ohio, you are not. If you can’t even stand up for yourself, how are you going to stand up for the people of this state?”
And Vance repeatedly questioned Ryan’s character. “Tim Ryan has put on a costume where he pretends to be reasonable moderate,” the Republican said during their first debate.
Despite the combative race, Vance had some kind words for his Democratic opponent, saying Ryan was “very gracious” in his concession phone call.
“We obviously disagree on a lot of issues. The guy loves the state of Ohio. I appreciate the gracious phone call. I appreciate the effort this campaign put in,” Vance said.
Money loomed large in the race, with Ryan consistently enjoying a significant fundraising advantage over Vance.
In the third quarter of 2022, Ryan raised a sizable $17.2 million, compared to Vance’s $6.9 million. In the second quarter, the gap was even more dramatic: Ryan raised $9.1 million to Vance’s roughly $1 million.
Still, because of Democratic skepticism about their chances in Ohio, Ryan had to largely go it alone in the state, pouring all the money he raised into a slate of television ads. Vance, by contrast, received considerable outside help – including from the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, which announced in August it planned to spend at least $28 million in the state.
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Kim Berryman contributed to this report