"Hillbilly Elegy" author Vance announces U.S. Senate bid in Ohio

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WASHINGTON, July 1 (Reuters) - J.D. Vance, the venture capitalist and author of the bestselling memoir "Hillbilly Elegy," announced his 2022 candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Thursday, joining a crowded field of Republicans vying for the chance to replace retiring Senator Rob Portman.

Vance enters a Republican primary contest that already includes six other candidates, among them former state treasurer Josh Mandel, former Ohio Republican Party chairwoman Jane Timkin and Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno. At least three other Republicans are said to be considering runs.

U.S. Representative Tim Ryan has announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination.

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Vance, 36, announced his candidacy at a steel tube factory in his hometown of Middletown, Ohio, near Cincinnati, billing himself as a "conservative outsider."

"I want to fight for the small businesses who are struggling to hire and struggling to build a great company because the government and multinational corporations make it harder," Vance said.

Ohio could prove key to Republican hopes of reclaiming the Senate chamber majority in 2022 as a Senate battleground state alongside Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Republicans lost their majority in two Georgia special elections in January, which left the Senate split 50-50 and Democrats in control only because Vice President Kamala Harris wields the tie-breaking vote.

Vance is a Yale-educated lawyer and venture capitalist who published "Hillbilly Elegy" in 2016. The bestseller described the economic and social struggles of the white working class appealed to by President Donald Trump when he won the White House later that year.

Initially a Trump critic, Vance visited Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort earlier this year to speak to the former president, who won Ohio by eight percentage points in both the 2016 and 2020 elections.

Portman, 65, a Republican who entered the Senate a decade ago, announced his retirement in January, saying that deepening political divisions had made it harder to break through the partisan gridlock in Congress. read more

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Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Jane Wardell

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