Hillbilly Ellegy author saw his campaign surge after Trump announced support
Mr Vance, 37, is most widely known for his memoir, Hillbilly Ellegy, which recounts his upbringing in Appalachian Kentucky and the rural American culture that he blamed for the problems that affect poorer communities across the region.
The Associated Press called the race shortly after 9.30pm ET on Tuesday, with Mr Vance capturing close to 32 per cent of the vote with 67 per cent of the results in.
He will now face a Democratic challenger in November as he seeks to keep a Republican Senate seat in GOP hands while his party hopes to swing the balance of the Senate in their favour. US Rep Tim Ryan won his party’s primary Tuesday evening and will square off against the Yale-educated commentator and writer.
Mr Vance’s victory is a case study in the power of the former president. His campaign was languishing as far back as fourth place as recently as March but quickly surged past his competition after Donald Trump knighted him as his champion in the race in mid-April.
As the race results came in it was quickly clear that he had prevailed over other challengers like Josh Mandel, the former state representative who himself had courted Mr Trump’s endorsement as well as Matt Dolan, who according to polls had surged in support days before the primary took place.
Should he defeat Mr Ryan in November he will take office next year as one of the youngest members of the US Senate. The only sitting senator younger than Mr Vance is Georgia’s Jon Ossoff, a freshman as well, who is 35.
Mr Vance leaned heavily into support for Donald Trump before winning the former president’s endorsement and rolled out a list of national surrogates and supporters after the ex-president made his decision. Over the weekend he campaigned with Trump loyalists including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, and Charlie Kirk while he was joined on the trail by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, as well.
He took the stage in Cincinatti after 10:00 p.m. to cheers from an ecstatic crowd and gave his thanks to the former president for his support. Other who supported his campaign, like Mr Gaetz and Ms Greene, received shout-outs as well. So did the conservative Club for Growth, a backer of top rival Josh Mandel, who was excoriated by the candidate.
“I have got to absolutely thank the 45th president Donald Trump,” said Mr Vance, adding that the former president’s enemies were eager for his defeat to signal “the death of the America First agenda”.
“Do we want a Republican Party, that stands for the donors who write checks to the Club for Growth or do we want to Republican Party for the people right here in Ohio?” he asked the crowd.
The #NeverTrump-Republican-turned-Trump-loyalist experienced a moment of awkwardness over the weekend when the former president on Sunday flubbed his name at a rally and referred to him as “JD Mandel”, accidentally combining his name with his rival’s, but shrugged off the moment when questioned by CBS News on Monday.
“He gives, what, thousands of words of speeches every single week,” Mr Vance said. “Sometimes he’s going to misspeak. Everybody’s going to do that.”
“I’m not worried about it at all,” he added.
Mr Dolan conceded the race shortly before 10:00 p.m. local time and endorsed Mr Vance’s bid for the seat in the general election.