Top Senate Republicans have quietly reached out to J.D. Vance — the star author of “Hillbilly Elegy” — about running for Senate in Ohio after the abrupt withdrawal of GOP candidate Josh Mandel last week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has spoken with Vance about a potential bid, according to three sources familiar with the discussions. Mandel announced on Friday that he would exit from the Ohio Senate race — one of the more high-profile battles in the 2018 midterm elections — due to his wife’s health issues.
Establishment Republicans have not settled on Vance as their favored candidate to take on Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) is also still mulling a run, and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has also spoken with Renacci about a potential Senate bid.
Other Ohio Republicans, such as retiring Rep. Pat Tiberi and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, have also passed on challenging Brown, one of 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection from a state Trump carried in 2016.
The sole Republican remaining in the race to take on Brown is businessman Mike Gibbons, a self-funder who has not run for office before. Ohio's filing deadline is Feb. 7, and the primary is set for May 8.
A spokesman for Vance did not immediately return a request for comment.