James David Vance (born James Donald Bowman;[1] August 2, 1984) is an American venture capitalist and author.[2] He came to prominence with his 2016 memoir Hillbilly Elegy. A member of the Republican Party, he is the nominee in the 2022 United States Senate election in Ohio.[3]

Born in Middletown, Ohio, Vance studied political science and philosophy at Ohio State University and earned a law degree from Yale. His memoir, which describes his upbringing in Middletown and his family’s Appalachian values, became a New York Times bestseller and attracted significant press attention during the 2016 United States presidential election.[4] Vance launched his first political campaign for Ohio’s Senate seat in 2021 and won the Republican nomination with 32% of the vote. He will face Democrat Tim Ryan in the general election.

Early life and education

James David Vance was born on August 2, 1984, in Middletown, Ohio, located between Cincinnati and Dayton, as James Donald Bowman, the son of Donald Bowman and Bev Vance. He is of Scots-Irish descent.[4][5][6] His mother and father divorced when Vance was a toddler. Shortly afterward, Vance was adopted by his mother’s third husband.[1] Vance and his sister were raised primarily by his grandparents, James and Bonnie Vance, whom they called “Mamaw and Papaw”.[5][7][8][9] J. D. later went by the name James Hamel, the surname of his stepfather, until adopting the surname Vance in honor of his grandparents.[10]

Vance was educated at Middletown High School,[11] a public high school in his hometown. After graduating, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps[12] and served in the Iraq War as a journalist with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, performing public affairs activities.[13][14][15][16] Vance later graduated summa cum laude from Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and philosophy.[17][18] While at Ohio State, he worked for Republican Ohio State Senator Bob Schuler.[19]

After graduating from Ohio State, Vance earned a Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School. During his first year at Yale Law, his mentor and professor Amy Chua persuaded him to write his memoir.[20]


Vance in 2017

After working at a corporate law firm, Vance moved to San Francisco to work in the technology industry. He served as a principal at Peter Thiel‘s venture capital firm, Mithril Capital.[21]

In 2016, Harper published his book, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. It was on The New York Times Best Seller list in 2016 and 2017. It was a finalist for the 2017 Dayton Literary Peace Prize[22] and winner of the 2017 Audie Award for Nonfiction. The New York Times called it “one of the six best books to help understand Trump’s win“.[4] The Washington Post called him the “voice of the Rust Belt,”[2] while The New Republic criticized him as “liberal media’s favorite white trash–splainer” and the “false prophet of blue America”.[23] Economist William Easterly, a West Virginia native, criticized the book, calling it a “Sloppy analysis of collections of people—coastal elites, flyover America, Muslims, immigrants, people without college degrees, you name it—has become routine. And it’s killing our politics.”[24]

In December 2016, Vance indicated that he planned to move to Ohio to start a nonprofit, and potentially run for office,[25] and work on combating drug addiction in the Rust Belt.[2]

In 2017, he joined Revolution LLC, an investment firm founded by AOL cofounder Steve Case, as an investment partner, where he was tasked with expanding the “Rise of the Rest” initiative, which focuses on growing investments in under-served regions outside Silicon Valley and New York City tech bubbles.[26]

In January 2017, Vance became a CNN contributor.[27] In April 2017, Ron Howard signed on to direct a film version of Hillbilly Elegy, which was released by Netflix in 2020, and starred Owen Asztalos and Gabriel Basso as Vance.[28]

In 2019, he co-founded Narya Capital in Cincinnati, Ohio, with financial backing from Peter Thiel, Eric Schmidt, and Marc Andreessen.[29] In 2020, he raised $93 million for the firm.[30] With Thiel and former Trump adviser Darren Blanton, Vance has invested in Canadian online video platform Rumble, which is a right-wing alternative to YouTube.[31][32][33]

2022 Ohio U.S. Senate campaign

In early 2018, Vance was reported to have been considering a bid for U.S. Senate as a Republican running against Democrat Sherrod Brown,[34] but declined to run.[35] In April 2021, Vance expressed interest in running for the Ohio Senate seat being vacated by Republican Rob Portman.[36]

Peter Thiel has given $10 million to Protect Ohio Values, a super PAC, created in February 2021 to support Vance in running for the 2022 U.S. Senate election in Ohio.[37][38][39] Robert Mercer also gave an undisclosed amount.[37] In May 2021, Vance launched an exploratory committee.[40] In July 2021, he officially entered the race.[41]

On May 4, 2022, Vance won the Republican primary for the 2022 U.S. Senate election in Ohio. He defeated multiple candidates including Josh Mandel and Matt Dolan.[42]

Political positions

Vance has been called a populist conservative candidate because he is backed by venture capitalist Peter Thiel and endorsed by Tucker Carlson.[43] Vance is influenced by fellow Senate candidate Blake Masters, conservative writer Rod Dreher, and by neoreactionary blogger Curtis Yarvin.[44] In July 2021, Vance said that the culture war is a class war against middle class and working class Americans, and he also said that it’s an economic war against conservatives.[45]


Vance opposes abortion and said a leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade “would be an amazing victory” if true.[46] When asked whether abortion laws should include exceptions for rape and incest, he stated “two wrong don’t make a right.”[47] Ohio’s largest anti-abortion group, Ohio Right to Life, endorsed Vance’s U.S. Senate campaign.[48]

Views on childlessness, divorce, and domestic abuse

In a 2021 speech to the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Vance blamed “the childless left” for America’s woes. He praised far-right Hungarian president Viktor Orban for encouraging married couples to have children, and said non-parents should not have as much of a voice as parents, and that parents should “have a bigger say in how democracy functions.”[49]

In September 2021, while speaking at Pacifica Christian High School in California, Vance said, “This is one of the great tricks that I think the sexual revolution pulled on the American populace, which is the idea that like, ‘well, OK, these marriages were fundamentally, you know, they were maybe even violent, but certainly they were unhappy. And so getting rid of them and making it easier for people to shift spouses like they change their underwear, that’s going to make people happier in the long term.'”[50] Vice wrote that Vance “seemed to suggest that in some cases, ‘even violent’ marriages should continue.” In a response to Vice, Vance claimed that rates of domestic violence had “skyrocketed” in recent years due to what Vance described as “modern society’s war on families”. In recent decades, rates of domestic violence have decreased.[51][52] A strategist for Vance called Vice’s characterization misleading and said Vance does not support individuals staying in abusive relationships.[53]

Biden administration

During his 2022 U.S. Senate campaign, Vance falsely claimed that President Biden was flooding Ohio with illegal drugs.[54][55]

Relationship with Donald Trump

During the 2016 election, Vance was an outspoken critic of Republican Party nominee Donald Trump. In a USA Today column in February 2016, Vance wrote “Trump’s actual policy proposals, such as they are, range from immoral to absurd.”[56] In a July 2016 column for The Atlantic, Vance alluded to Karl Marx by calling Trump and his campaign promises the “opioid of the masses.”[57] In October 2016, he described Trump as “reprehensible” in a post on Twitter[58] and described himself as a “never-Trump guy.”[59] In 2016, he privately told his Yale Law School roommate: “I go back and forth between thinking Trump is a cynical asshole like Nixon who wouldn’t be that bad (and might even prove useful) or that he’s America’s Hitler.”.[60][61] He also stated his intentions to vote for independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin.[58]

Vance changed his rhetoric after announcing his candidacy for the United States Senate in July 2021. He deleted posts from his Twitter account that were critical of Trump and apologized for calling Trump “reprehensible.”[62] Reversing his earlier statements on Trump, Vance said that he now thought Trump was a good president and expressed regret about his statements during the 2016 election.[58] Vance had visited Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump and Peter Thiel ahead of an official announcement.[36]

Whereas Vance had once admonished Trump for demonizing immigrants, Vance himself has repeatedly called illegal immigration “dirty”.[63][64] In October 2021, Vance reiterated Trump’s claims of election fraud, falsely stating that Trump lost the 2020 presidential election because of widespread voter fraud.[65]

In 2021, Vance told podcaster Jack Murphy, who heads a men’s group called Liminal Order, that he believed conservatives “should seize the institutions of the left. And turn them against the left. We need like a de-Baathification program, a de-woke-ification program.” If Trump were to win re-election in 2024, Vance told Murphy, Trump should “Fire every single midlevel bureaucrat, every civil servant in the administrative state, replace them with our people.”[44]

In April 2022, Vance was endorsed by Trump for U.S. Senate in Ohio.[59] That same month, Vance’s former law school roommate, Josh McLaurin, showed messages from 2016 that Vance had sent him saying that Trump could possibly become either another “cynical asshole” like Richard Nixon or “America’s Hitler” during the 2016 presidential campaign.[66]

Personal life

Vance has been married to a former law school classmate, Usha Chilukuri Vance, since 2014, and they have three children.[67] For much of his professional career, Vance and his family have lived in San Francisco, where they were active in community gardening.[57]

Vance was raised in a “conservative, evangelical” branch of Protestantism, but by September 2016, he was “thinking very seriously about converting to Catholicism“. Vance added, however, that he was “not an active participant” in any particular religious denomination.[68] In August 2019, Vance was baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church in a ceremony at St. Gertrude Priory in Cincinnati, Ohio. He chose Augustine of Hippo for his confirmation name. In a subsequent interview with Rod Dreher, Vance said he converted because he “became persuaded over time that Catholicism was true”, and described the influence of Roman Catholic theology upon his political views.[69]

Also in 2019, the first issue of The Lamp, which has since been described as “a Catholic version of The New Yorker“,[70] included an essay by Vance describing the reasons for his conversion to the Roman Catholic Church.[71]



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  5. ^ a b Rothman, Joshua (September 12, 2016). “The Lives of Poor White People”. The New Yorker. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  6. ^ Kroeger, Alix (April 18, 2021). “JD Vance: Trump whisperer turned Senate hopeful”. BBC News. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
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  10. ^ Sewell, Dan (April 16, 2021). ‘Hillbilly’ to Capitol Hill? Author eyes Senate bid in Ohio”. The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
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  13. ^ Hamel, James D. (November 2, 2005). “VMGR-252 air crews make mission possible in Iraq”. DVIDS. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
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  15. ^ Benoit, Dick (September 8, 2005). “Pentagon hosts 9/11 tours”. Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved September 1, 2022.
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  19. ^ Vance, J. D. (2017). Hillbilly Elegy. London: William Collins. p. 181. ISBN 9780008220563. OCLC 965479512. I took a job at the Ohio Statehouse, working for a remarkably kind senator from the Cincinnati area named Bob Schuler. He was a good man, and I liked his politics, so when constituents called and complained, I tried to explain his positions.
  20. ^ Kitchener, Caroline (June 7, 2016). “How the ‘Tiger Mom’ Convinced the Author of Hillbilly Elegy to Write His Story”. The Atlantic.
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  24. ^ Easterly, William (2016). “Stereotypes Are Poisoning American Politics”. Bloomberg. Retrieved November 4, 2021.
  25. ^ Hohmann, James. “The Daily 202: Why the author of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ is moving home to Ohio”. The Washington Post.
  26. ^ Heater, Brian (March 22, 2017). ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author J.D. Vance joins Revolution LLC to promote startups outside of Silicon Valley”. TechCrunch. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  27. ^ Katz, A. J. (January 17, 2017). “CNN Strengthens its Roster of Commentators and Contributors”. AdWeek. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  28. ^ Reed, Ryan (April 10, 2017). “Ron Howard to Direct, Produce ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Movie”. Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  29. ^ Vermillion, Stephanie (February 16, 2020). “J.D. Vance’s New Cincinnati-based VC Firm Excites Local Startup Leaders”. Cincy Inno. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  30. ^ Loizos, Connie (January 9, 2019). ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author J.D. Vance has raised $93 million for his own Midwestern venture fund”. TechCrunch. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
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  32. ^ Lutz, Eric (May 20, 2021). “Peter Thiel and J.D. Vance Are Propping Up a Right-Wing YouTube Alternative”. Vanity Fair. Conde Nast. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
  33. ^ Kulvi, Fizza (July 8, 2021). “Meet Rumble, Canada’s new ‘free speech’ platform — and its impact on the fight against online misinformation”. The Conversation. Retrieved August 13, 2022.
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  46. ^ J.D. Vance [@JDVance1] (May 3, 2022). “Hope the news of the leaked opinion is true” (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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  48. ^ Carr Smyth, Julie (April 7, 2022). Ohio Right to Life backs JD Vance for open US Senate seat. ABC News / AP
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  53. ^ Trau, Trau (July 28, 2022). “J.D. Vance denies supporting abusive marriages after viral comments”. WEWS.
  54. ^ Leonhardt, David (May 4, 2022). “A Trump Win in Ohio”. The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2022. he has turned into a hard-edged conspiracist who claimed President Biden was flooding Ohio with illegal drugs
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  59. ^ a b Jill, Colvin; Smyth, Julie Carr (April 15, 2022). “Trump backs GOP’s JD Vance in US Senate primary in Ohio”. abcnews.go.com. ABC. Associated Press. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  60. ^ McLaurin, Josh (April 18, 2022). “@JoshforGeorgia on April 18, 2022”. Twitter. Retrieved September 9, 2022. The screenshot below is @JDVance1’s unfiltered explanation from 2016 of the breakdown in Republican politics that he now personally is trying to exploit. The “America’s Hitler” bit is at the end. The public deserves to know the magnitude of this guy’s bad faith.
  61. ^ Chafkin, Max (May 4, 2022). “Peter Thiel and Donald Trump Win One for JD Vance in Ohio”. Bloomberg News. Retrieved September 9, 2022.
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  67. ^ “Trump-backed JD Vance with Indian connection wins Ohio Primary for US Senate”. India Post. Retrieved May 4, 2022.
  68. ^ Dallas, Kelsey (September 9, 2016). “Author J.D. Vance: Faith made me believe in a hopeful future”. The Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2021.
  69. ^ Dreher, Rod (August 11, 2019). “J.D. Vance Becomes Catholic”. The American Conservative. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  70. ^ Liedl, Jonathan (October 14, 2021). “Meditation on a magazine cover”. The Catholic Spirit. Retrieved August 10, 2022.
  71. ^ van Zuylen-Wood, Simon (January 4, 2022). “The Radicalization of J.D. Vance”. The Washington Post Magazine. Archived from the original on January 4, 2022. Retrieved August 10, 2022.

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Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Ohio
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